Trip Report: Mallorca, April 16-23, 2000

Dirk Raes, St.Gen.Rode, Belgium;

From 16 till 23 April I have been guiding a group of birders from the Belgian ornithological society De Wielewaal - in an organization of the tourist-agency Ro-Travel (, all over Mallorca.

After a late-evening flight, we 'dropped down' after midnight at the Hotel Cala Marsal in Porto Colom, on the east coast of Mallorca. This hotel is just perfectly situated: calm, good birding-surroundings, good food and surely a good price. Being with a group of 45 people, we could easily afford a daily coach to bring us all over the most interesting places on the island.

On the 17th of April - after only a few hours sleeping - we took a relatively calm start with a good walk starting at a point along the road Felanitx-Campos towards the Castell de Santueri. Immediately, Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus), flying and sitting, several birds just outside the bus. The walk is also wonderful: about three hours along carob, almond and fig trees. Birds enough: just right for a start. We didn't manage to go top the top to the Castell de Santueri (some 400m. high) but spotted Raven (Corvus corax) and one - of the relict population - Alpine Swift (Apus melba). Best of the half day was Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana).

By noon we went back to the hotel for an extensive buffet-lunch. In the afternoon, on the road to the Arta-Peninsula including near the depuradora - just out of the village of Arta (Northeast of the country) not that much. From this water-treatment installation you can take a good walk towards the Cala Torta. The walk brings you through the most different areas. Further on you walk along private gardens and fields with Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis). Continuing this road and climbing up, you arrive towards an impressive rock mass, which provided, after great difficulties, Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). Due to the fact that the Arta-peninsula 'took fire' during '99 - and was still charred black - no insects, no birds... quite a dead area.

During the late-afternoon a visit was paid to the old town of Arta. Superb views from the San Salvador church down onto an European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca).

The 18th of April, a day s'Albufera marshland. At the entrance we were welcomed by a Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) and later two Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), several Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and of course Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea). In the nearby salinas were two Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) and surely over 50 Red-crested Pochards (Netta rufina) and the Albufera bird, Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio, several birds with pulli) were also highlights. Cetti's Warblers (Cettia cetti) and Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) were very good to be seen. In front of one hide several waders like Dunlin (Calidris alpina), a probable Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) and top-of-the-bill two Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus). We have been permanently looking out for Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonora), but too early, only an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), a Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) and really thousands of Swifts (Apus apus) on migration were our reward.

Embalse de Cuber, the Cuber reservoir, the place to be for raptors! On the 19th. we went first to the monastery of Lluc for the cultural part of the trip. The Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus), a bird found only in this area, was not seen. From about 1pm. we visited the Cuber reservoir just at the feet of the Puig Major. No that spectacular, only some 'minor' observations were the result: Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), a Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus), a Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). The other 'minor' species were Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata), Rufous-tailed Rock Trush (Monticola saxatilis), and of course Raven (Corvus corax). Over 200 Yellow-legged Gulls (L.c. michaellis) were present on the rocks.

The return by the tunnel direction Palma provided a well-deserved rest for the birders.

On the next day, 20th of April, the Bocquer valley (extended with a view from the mirador close to Puerto Pollensa) was our target. The day started well with close views of Raven (Corvus corax), Hoopoe's (Upupa epops), a Blue Rock Trush (Monticola solitarius) from the pick-nick place. Crag Martins (Hirundo rupestris) were all over the place but no Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonora). Not really so special, apart from the migration of 5 Red Kites (Milvus milvus) and 2 Black Kites (Milvus migrans) and a resident Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus).

A short visit to the tourist area of the Mirador, close to Puerto Pollensa, provided a resident Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and some Raven (Corvus corax).

While a part of the group was having drinks in Puerto Pollensa, we went with some birders to the famous Smelly River which provided us great views of a Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides).

The evening was - as usual - the meeting with the Scops Owl (Otus scops), and the Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) was heard from the terrace of the hotel.

The next morning, a state of emergency in Porto Colom due to the fact of finding a Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus monticola). Surely an escape but very territorial, especially when he was chasing a Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator).

Friday 21th of April: Cabrera. When you are a guide of a group of about 40 birders, you can do wonders: the boat to Cabrera comes to pick you up almost at the hotel. This boat brought us to the island of Cabrera, just south-east of Mallorca. It's a great trip: despite the rough sea good view of Shag (Phalalacrocorax aristotelis Mediterranean subspecies desmarestii Calonectris diomedea) and surely several Balearic Shearwaters (Puffinus (yelkouan) mauretanicus). By feeding the gulls, some of the Cory's came very close, and between the Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus cachinnans michaellis) several Audouin's Gulls (Larus audouinii) and one Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus) were seen. Also a dolphin species was spotted. On the island we went towards the ornithological ringing station (not working) and the new museum. The surroundings provided great views of at European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) and Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator), Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe, also several on migration during the boat trip), Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and several other warblers. The place-to-be is at the pick-nick place just at the entrance of the valley. Most amazing was the observation of a very blue starling-like bird called in Spanish by the local fishermen Estorninos africanos (African Starling?). Finally an observation - first the sound, then the sight - of European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster), definitively birds on migration and the only ones of the trip.

I almost forgot an update on the observations made around the hotel. As told before it's a great place to do a lot of birding every morning and evening. You can also walk towards the old fishing harbour and further on towards the lighthouse. Some of the highlights of the daily early-morning walks and several late-evening tours are: Apart from Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) - normal day and night in the garden of the hotel - we had several different singing-posts of Scops Owls (Otus scops) and always in the evening and during the night Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus). The Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) and Red Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) - even with 3 juv. birds - were common everywhere as well as the Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala). A quick view of the Marmora's Warbler (Sylvia sarda), regular Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) and several Hoopoes (Upupa epops) are in close range of the hotel. After a walk of five minutes you can reach the Cala Marsal beach, which produced daily Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii), and towards the new building area (direction sea) we found Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus). Looking out over the sea often Cory's Shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) and several Balearic Shearwaters (Puffinus (yelkouan) mauretanicus) migrated. One day a Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) came in at 07.10am. As you see, Porto Colom is worth to stay.

On the 22nd of April, I choose to visit the Salinas de Levante in the south. This area consists of an active and a non-active salina (saltpan). Already upon arriving it was visible that we want walk that much. It was clear that the day would be over 30°C warm.

The visit started with seven Hoopoes (Upupa epops) near the old buildings and later an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). The place is well know for waders, which we found then also in abundance: Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Dunlin (Calidris alpina), several Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), and the breeding Redshank (Tringa totanus), a Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), one Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos), a lot of Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus), several Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta). Show was the passage of a Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus). Several Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) were seen. The zipping Fan-tailed Warblers (Cisticola juncidis) are everywhere. A colour-ringed Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae) turned out to be c-ringed during the month of March at the same place. In the direct area of the active salinas a good view of a Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla). A Red Kite (Milvus milvus) closed our visit. The temperature was now about 29°C, time to go towards Cala Figuera. Near the rocks and beach a great Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii) came to feed. The place is really worth a visit and a walk to the harbour.

Again Mallorca proved to be a great birding place. If more information wanted, feel free and just e-mail me.

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; Auust 10, 2000; updated May 27, 2001