Sunday, 5 May 2019

S'Albufera Nature Reserve - Formentor Peninsula

With the threat of strong easterly winds we decided to pay a visit to S’Albufera Nature Reserve this morning in the forlorn hope of seeing the reported Baillon’s Crake, which we didn’t of course. However a male Eurasian Golden Oriole greeted our arrival and we also saw Great White Egret and Great Reed Warbler before the masses arrived early this morning. We visited 6 hides during the course of our visit before lunch and enjoyed seeing a good selection of species at quite close range. Highlights from this morning include Marbled DucksRed-knobbed Coots, a flock of approx. 12 summer-plumaged Spotted Redshanks, 1 or 2 Collared PratincolesCommon Terns and a couple of pairs of Garganey.

Collared Pratincole
Little Egret

Western Marsh Harrier

Spotted Redshanks (left)

Western Swamphen

Zitting Cisticola
Red-knobbed Coot

More Western Marsh Harriers

After lunch at our finca we drove to the lighthouse at the end of Formentor Peninsula in near gale-force winds and didn’t see a lot apart from some terrific scenery, a Peregrine Falcon and some Eurasian Crag-Martins

Formentor Peninsula

So we didn’t dally here and dropped into the base of the Bocquer Valley which was also quiet and a small wood opposite was similarly quiet. So we returned to our base in the rural Mallorcan countryside for an early finish, a few drinks and some time to relax and enjoy our final dinner together.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Tramuntana Mountains - Albufureta Marhes

The winding mountainous road up into the Tramuntana Mountains and on to Cuber reservoir was very scenic to say the least. We even managed to avoid the streams of cyclists to a large extent and made reasonably good time before arriving at this lovely spot. 

Cuber reservoir

We followed the path alongside the reservoir in glorious sunshine until the dam and despite failing to find any Moltoni’s Warblers enjoyed a number of excellent sightings beginning with the first of maybe 6 or 7 Eurasian Wrynecks

Eurasian Wryneck

There were others calling in the area and we estimated up to a dozen birds present in the area. An amazingly high density for what can be a pretty tricky species to find on occasions. Well, we also managed to finally track down a little group of Balearic Red Crossbills – not a species in its own right (yet) but the bill is noticeably thicker and chunkier than birds in the UK……. 

Balearic Red Crossbill

We watched the yellow-orange male for ages feeding on pine cones alongside the slightly more dowdy Mrs Crossbill and a streaky juvenile was also present. Moving on, a very inquisitive Common Firecrest came down to check us out and also gave prolonged views, even hovering over the path for a few seconds. What a photo that would have been! 

Common Firecrest

Once at the dam we sat down and scanned the crags and peaks all around for raptors, all the time serenaded by the beautiful song of a Common Nightingale in the valley below. Our scanning was worthwhile and revealed a pair of displaying Bonelli’s Eagles, several Eurasian Griffons and eventually a huge Cinereous Vulture. It was hard to drag ourselves away but we had a lunch date and drove back down to the coastal plain where we failed to avoid the hordes of cyclists!

After another delicious lunch back at the finca we drove the short distance to Albufereta Marsh where we saw an Eurasian Spoonbill and a bunch of commoner species at some distance. There didn’t seem any point in lingering so we headed to another good little site that used to be a series of old salt pans and which are now some lagoons that can often be productive. Out on the water we saw a few Red-crested Pochards, as well as Sand Martinand a singing Great Reed Warbler

Red-crested Pochards

And again we didn’t linger as there was one more site I wanted to visit and as it was early evening I was hoping our timing was going to be perfect.  So we found ourselves on the other side of S’Albufera Marshes and our walk certainly produced the goods as we followed a trail past some lagoons and headed out into a vast reedbed. Sure enough we soon heard the distinctive refrain of a singing Moustached Warbler and after a bit of searching managed to get several views of this much-wanted species from its reedy songpost. Also in the area were 3 pairs of Marbled Duck, plenty of singing Cetti’s Warblers, and a pair of Garganey amongst others.

Marbled Duck

This evening we finally saw a pair of Eurasian Scops Owls perched and in my spotlight, as well as a Western Barn Owl flying over to round of a really good day.

Eurasian Scops Owl

Friday, 26 April 2019

Mallorca at Last

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Ibiza this morning and after a short flight we arrived in Palma on the beautiful island of Mallorca. Pretty soon we were of on the 45 minute drive to the top of the island and had lunch in a small restaurant near Alcudia where we planned our first birding excursion of our time here. Just a few kilometres away along a lane surrounded by a beautiful pastoral scene of flower-filled meadows was an area known as Depuradora de S’Illot. 

It's a good view from the viewing tower...

Our arrival was greeted by a singing Common Nightingale and a good omen indeed! A viewing tower overlooks a few man-made lagoons and the surrounding meadows. A pair of Eurasian Stone-Curlews were scoped in one such field as they did a change-over at their nest and was a great sight to see. Around the pools were numerous Common Shelducks, Gadwall, Mallard, Green Sandpiper,Little Ringed Plovers and other common birds. Over the vast reedbed several Western Marsh Harriers were patrolling, but a Collared Pratincole flying around above us was a bit special. 

Collared Pratincole

Moving on to S’Albufera Nature Reserve we visited a couple of hides overlooking the Sa Roca lagoon and spent  couple of enjoyable hours watching all of the activity. 


There were a couple of stunning Glossy Ibis present, at least 8 Wood Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper, another Collared Pratincole, fly away view of Great Bittern, Purple Heron, Red-crested Pochards and a Western Swamphen amongst others.

Glossy Ibis

Moving on to the other side the hide we visited was really good for views of Pied Avocets with chicks, and we watched in horror as a pair of Black-headed Gulls had to be continually fought off by the adults as Avocet chicks were on their menu! 

We witnessed a constant aerial battle to save the Avocet chicks

Pied Avocet and Kentish Plovers

Pied Avocet chick

There were 18+ Wood Sandpipers here too, along with 2 summer-plumaged Spotted Redshanks, Dunlin, 2 Marbled Ducks, a Western Osprey eating a fish on a post, Eurasian Spoonbill, and on the main channel were numerous Red-crested Pochards and a Red-knobbed Coot.

Red-crested Pochard

Walking back to the car, a pair of Black-crowned Night-Herons were spotted in the bushes, breeding plumaged Little Egret was seen with red feet and blue skin around the eye and lots of the usual finches were flying around.

After dinner we enjoyed some views of Eurasian Scops Owl in the grounds of our finca and a Western Barn Owl flew over us giving its eerie screech call.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Ses Salines

Spent the morning at Ses Salines which turned out to be a rather chilly affair with light to moderate easterly winds and cloud making a huge change from the warm sunshine we’d become accustomed to. 

Hide at Ses Salines

From the hide we encountered a number of scarce and uncommon birds for Ibiza with Purple Heron, Great White Egret and a drake Common Pochard being most notable and very good records here. But it was the superb Marbled Duck feeding with a Gadwall that drew most attention and certainly got our pulses racing. This a rarity on this island and a bird I was personally very pleased to find here. 

Marbled Duck - a rare bird in Ibiza

There were also more Greater Flamingos than on our previous visit, at least 7 Pied Avocets, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers and as we drove around the other side we had really great close looks at a stonking breeding-plumaged Common Greenshank.

Common Greenshank
Greater Flamingo

At the beach a Common Cuckoo was perched on a gate, a couple of European Turtle Doves were nice to see and hear and we also saw Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and European Pied Flycatcher. Returning to the hide a stonking male Common Stonechat got us all excited for a bit as it looked for all the world like an Eastern Stonechat, but the west Mediterranean birds look superficially similar…… My thanks to Daniel Lopez-Velasco for info on this.

West Mediterranean Stonechat

So by now it was getting late and we returned to the villa for lunch and had a leisurely afternoon and an early finish.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Ibiza: Sa Talaia - Es Vedra

We had a bit of a later start this morning before venturing over to Sa Talaia. It’s just a short 15 minute drive firstly on paved road and then after the turn-off up and along a dirt track through the forest. Our first stop beside some fields was good for views of another Balearic Warbler and Balearic Woodchat Shrike before driving up the steepest section and into some really good forest. 

Balearic Warbler

Balearic Woodchat Shrike

Unfortunately there weren’t any Balearic Crossbills present, but we had maybe 3 different Eurasian Hobbies flying over on their way north. A spritely Common Firecrest gave superb views here and showed nice and close before we drove on further to the end of the road. 

Common Firecrest

The panoramic views here are always a crowd pleaser and that included the noisy gang of Spanish hikers! But you can see both east and west coasts from here and today the weather was so clear that the Spanish mainland was on view. 

I love the views from up here...

So, after pending some time admiring the scenery we headed back down and decided to go towards the coast.

Another dirt track took us to a look-out opposite the mightily impressive towering cliffs of Es Vedra, and what a view this is. It’s a tricky, bumpy drive down to this point but definitely worth the effort when you see something as impressive as this and the sea was a stunning deep blue this morning. 

The towering cliffs of Es Vedra

Watching Pallid Swift...

Scoping the island revealed the first of a steady stream of Booted Eagles that had made the crossing from North Africa and were heading to the mainland. At first we had a group of 14, followed by smaller groups of 6, another 6, 7, and 4 crossing the sea towards the Spanish mainland. Then thermalling kettles of 10 at a time beside the tall cliffs made for an impressive site. It was whilst scoping one such ‘kettle’ that an Eleanora’s Falcon was spotted amongst them. Showing a long tail and swept-back scimitar-shaped wings we enjoyed repeated views of this truly awesome falcon flying around the eagles. This was a pretty early record of this species as they usually arrive a touch later in the month. An Eurasian Crag-Martin swept past us along the cliff top a few times, there was a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes, at least a single Pallid Swift was present in a newly arrived flock of Common Swifts and a Northern Raven was seen.

So by now it was early afternoon (where had the time gone?) so we returned to the villa for lunch and a siesta before heading to the north-west side of the island. Returning to Estabell again we found a few Spotted Flycatchers with a group of European Pied FlycatchersWhinchatTree PipitsCommon Redstart and Thekla’s Larks, oh and a calling Common Cuckoo but not much else. A drive along the north coast was quiet so we returned to San Antonio de Portmany for dinner and a few well deserved drinks!