Audouin’s Gull, a very scarce bird in 1982 – now rather common. Still, a truly lovely larid
We’ve just returned from a short break to Mallorca – flying EasyJet from Luton and staying at the Romantic Hotel in Port de Pollenca.
We first went to Mallorca in 1982, when our eldest was just four months old. Then, we stayed at an hotel on the outskirts of Alcudia near (well practically in!) the Albufera marsh. In those days, as I recall, access to this now internationally acclaimed wetland reserve was down a rough track to a mound, made up mostly of builders debris from the burgeoning tourist industry – from where you could overlook a few wader pools and acres of reed bed. How delightfully different things are today where, thanks to the pioneering conservation efforts of ex-pat Eddie Watkins et al, the eastward expansion of the hotels was halted and the whole area transformed into a Mediterranean wildlife haven.
Like many British birders of my generation, Mallorca was my first taste of ‘foreign birding’. Looking back through my old note book of the time, I listed new species seen as follows: Cory’s Shearwater, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Black & Red Kite, Black Vulture, Booted & Bonelli’s Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon, Montagu’s Harrier, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Gull-billed & White-winged Black Tern, Pallid & Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Short-toed & Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Tawny Pipit, Rock & Blue Rock Thrush, Fan-tailed Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Marmora’s Warbler Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike and Serin – ah those were the days! Whilst, on that occasion, we were there for a fortnight at the end of May – our recent trip consisted of just three and a half days birding, but we still managed to pick up a lot of the same species, albeit that some have been re-named or elevated to full species. Highlights of this trip certainly included good views of Balearic, Moltoni’s and Moustached Warbler, Black and Griffon Vulture, Little Bittern, Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Duck, Eleonora’s Falcon, Tawny Pipit & Pallid Swift.
In recent years we’ve done most of our European birding in mainland Spain and the eastern Med but this short break reminded us of just how good the Balearic Islands are and, being just a couple of hours flight away, how convenient for a quick getaway. Highly recommended! Here is a selection of some of the birds we saw:
Black Vulture – we saw twelve together, with six Griffon Vulture, feeding on a dead goat near Embalse de Cuber
Night Heron, Albufereta
Woodchat Shrike of the badius race, confined to the Balearic Islands – lacking white primary patches
Red-knobbed Coot, subject of a very successful re-introduction programme on the Albufera
Marbled Duck – also found on the Albufera, having recently colonised from mainland Spain
Another regular bird of the Albufera marshes – Stone-Curlew
Pallid Swift, seen in small numbers at various locations around the island
Balearic Warbler – a recent split. Found after many hours of searching coastal scrub locations across the island
Tawny Pipit – one of several seen during our stay
Another recent warbler split. This one is Moltoni’s – last seen only a few weeks ago on Blakeney Point!
To finish, a dark phase Eleonora’s Falcon, seen off Cap de Formentor on our last evening