Monday, 15 April 2019

Balearic Spring Migration Tour.

With the first southerly winds of the spring and the warmest day of the year so far greeting the arrival of our group we headed the short distance to Ses Salinas. And what a difference a day makes, as yesterday and the preceding week had been dominated by very cool weather and gale force NW winds. So with renewed vigour and a spring in our step we began birding on the party island of Ibiza! 

Things began slowly as there wasn’t too much to see from the hide but we enjoyed views of Iberian Yellow Wagtails, including some incredibly bright individuals. Several displaying Zitting Cisticolas were pretty close and we even scoped one bird, whilst a very smart-looking Sardinian Warbler was nesting in a nearby bush. Out on the saltpans were over 50 Greater Flamingos, newly arrived from who knows where? There hadn’t been any here just 2 days ago! Common Shelduck numbers have been gradually increasing and today over 70 were present, along with GadwallMallard, and both Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers. Driving out of the site got us close to a Woodchat Shrike of the badius race and is a potential split as Iberian Woodchat Shrike, plus a couple of Red-legged Partridges. We then drove around to the other side and in no time at all were watching the endemic Balearic Warbler singing from his song perch. 

Balearic Warbler

 We enjoyed first class views of this much-wanted bird for a good 10 minutes, as well as a pair of high-flying Western Marsh Harriers and several flyby Mediterranean Shags before walking back to the car and driving to our base for the next 4 nights at the fabulous Villa Rosa. 

Over lunch and a siesta we heard some migrating European Bee-eaters somewhere in the distance and wondered if we’d ever catch up with them…? So we drove down to the nearby harbour at 4pm and spent a very enjoyable hour watching and photographing up to 30 stunning Audouin’s Gulls. This is a really fine bird whether you’re into gulls or not and when they are a mere 2 metres away from you then you can’t fail to be impressed. I don’t know of anywhere else you can get such outstanding views of this charismatic gull. 

This must be the best place to see Audouin's Gull

In my opinion this is a sexy bird and at this time of year they are getting rather frisky as breeding is imminent, combined with all sorts of other behaviour as they scavenged from a fishing boat to their raucous call we had it all. Moving on to a viewpoint looking up to Cap Negret we scoped some distant Scopoli’s Shearwaters and found a pair of Blue Rock Thrush. 

Moving on to an area of meadow, orchards and agriculture just inland from the NW coast, this is a little migrant trap in the right conditions. Our arrival in this picturesque area was greeted by a large flock of hirundines, comprising mainly of Barn Swallows but with several pretty Red-rumped Swallows and a couple of CommonHouse Martins as well, plus a calling European Turtle Dove that flew alongside one of the meadows. We stopped beside one field to look at a pair of Thekla’s Larks and in doing so found ourselves amidst a fall of northerly-bound migrants. The fields and meadows hereabouts were full of Common Redstarts and everywhere we looked there were male redstarts either in the trees or feeding on the ground. A flock of Tree Pipits were also here, along with several male Pied FlycatchersWillow WarblerCommon WhitethroatTurtle Dove and a cracking pale-phase Booted Eagle. We also heard European Bee-eaters from somewhere in the distance and then spotted them flying across the valley so decided to go and look for them. Admittedly it was a bit of divine inspiration to turn right and not left at a junction resulted in us finding the flock and watching them feed over the orchards and scoping one beautiful perched individual. Also in the area was European RobinSong Thrush, many displaying European Serins and other common birds. So a very good day on this highly underwatched island and we were all excited to see what tomorrows excursion to Formentera would bring.

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