Mallorca (Spain), May 8-15, 1998

Dirk Raes, St. Gen. Rode (just south of Brussels), Belgium;

From 08 till 15 May 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 greatly situated: calm, good birding-surroundings, good food and sure a good price. Being with a group of 40 people, we could easy afford daily a coach to bring us all over the most interesting places on the island.

On the 9th of May -- after only 4 hours sleeping -- we took a relatively calm start with a good walk starting at the depuradora -- just out of the village of Arta (Northeast of the country). From this water-treatment installation you can make a good walk towards the Cala Torta. The walk brings you through the most different areas. Amazing was a Grey Heron (Ardea cinera) near the depuradora. Also a Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) and a Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos) were at the depuradora. Further on you walk along private gardens and fields in which we had great views of Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) and Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis). Continuing this road and climbing up, you arrive towards an impressive rock mass, which provided Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), Crag Martin (Hirundo rupestris), Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) and a Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator).

During the picnic another Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) passed by. Continuing towards the coast line, during the afternoon, Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) and Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) were spotted regularly. Very good was a Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) at some 15m. distance. The beach of Cala Torta had only two pair of red tits (note: this place is a nude-beach).

During the late-afternoon a visit was paid to the old town of Arta. Apart from the first beers, a flock of over 200 Swifts (Apus apus) and one Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) came over. Mea culpa, we were lazy and didn't check the swifts for pallid ones.

The 10th of May, I choose to visit the Salinas de Levante in the south. This area consists of an active and a non-active salina -- or saltpan. Already on arriving it was visible that we wanted walk that much. During over two hours an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was hanging around and only after he caught a fish we were happy he was gone ;-) The place is well know for waders, which we found then also in abundance: Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus -- a colour-ringed couple with one pulli), Little Stint (Calidris minuta), a bunch of 16 -- very good to see -- Curlew Sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea), some Sanderling (Calidris alba), a few Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), and the breeding Redshank (Tringa totanus), a Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), several Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola), Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos), a -- most special -- Curlew (Numenius arquata), and of course a lot of Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus -- of which one colour-ringed, ha-ha), and a couple of Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta). Near the Salinas is probably a Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) breeding. Also some Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) were seen. The Fan-tailed Warblers (Cisticola juncidis) started, with their zipping, slowly but surely to work on our nerves. A Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) was good to see and -- of course -- hear. Some discussion was going on about a Yellow Wagtail/iberica (Motacilla flava iberiae).

The direct area of the active salinas provided -- due to the fact that a field was just ploughed -- extremely good views of a sunbathing Hoopoe (Upupa epops), some Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe), Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) and Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra).

The day was again hot, and during the late afternoon our coach was ordered to go towards Cala Figuera. Just only out of the bus and an Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii) passed over. To my personal great horror the bird was colour-ringed and it was impossible -- during the flight -- to read the ring. Apart from cervessa (=beer) time, some Cory's Shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) and several Balearic Shearwaters (Puffinus (yelkouan) mauretanicus) over the sea and a Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) were seen. The pleasure for some members of our group was, having a sangria in front of them, a superb view of an Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii).

In fact I should give an up-date on the observations made around the hotel. As told it's a great place to do a lot of birding every morning and evening. The last day (15th) we also made a walk towards the old fishing harbour and further on towards the lighthouse. Here are some of the highlights of five early-morning walks, two late-evening tours and a morning close to the lighthouse: Apart from Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) -- which are terrorizing you from the hotel garden during the night -- we had three different singing-posts of Scops Owls (Otus scops) and almost daily at 10.30pm a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) and -- as well during the day as during the night -- several Stone Curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus). The Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) was everywhere common as well as the Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala). Only one Marmora's Warbler (Sylvia sarda), a Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) and several Hoopoe's (Upupa epops) are in close range of the hotel. After a walk of five minutes you can reach the Cala Marsal beach, which produced on the 14th two colour-ringed Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii), and towards the new building area (direction sea) we found Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), and from the rocks close to the sea daily Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) Mediterranean subspecies desmarestii, Cory's Shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) and several Balearic Shearwaters (Puffinus (yelkouan) mauretanicus), and one day a Grey Heron (Ardea cinera) on migration low over the water. The morning of the 11th produced an incoming flight of 16 Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster). The morning of the 15th a walk from the fishing-village of Porto Colom towards the light-house brought us a Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) and a Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla), with close to a fig-orchard an Icterine Warbler (Hippolais icterina). Finally, a closer look at the swifts gave us Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus).

As you see Porto Colom worth to stay.

The Cuber reservoir, the place to be for raptors!

On the 11th we went first to the monastery of Lluc for the cultural part of the trip. The Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) was new for the list as these birds only occur from a certain altitude. From about 15 min. past twelve till at least 4 pm we visited the Cuber reservoir just at the feet of the Puig Major. Eight species of raptor and some 'minor' observations were the result: Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) (note: one of the two birds on Mallorca), at least seven Black Vultures (Aegypius monachus), a Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) (note: the only bird on Mallorca), a Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) and a Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). The 'minor' species were Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata), Rock Trush (Monticola saxatilis), Raven (Corvus corax) and Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli).

Time for a beer or two !

The Bocquer valley -- extended with a view from the mirador close to Puerto Pollensa -- was the target of the 12th. The day started well with close views of Raven (Corvus corax), Hoopoes (Upupa epops), a Blue Rock Trush (Monticola solitarius) and a Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus). Crag Martins (Hirundo rupestris) were all over the place, as well as the famous Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonora) -- up to 16 maximum counted. The observation of the day was a Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) and a Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) together during about 5 min. in a dead tree and also together in a 20xW scope view! Reason: a cat under the tree. 'Minors' were a Quail (Coturnix coturnix), a Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) and a Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus).

You probably can imagine that evening was a celebration one, especially when the call of the Scops Owl (Otus scops) was heard from the terrace of the hotel.

On the 13th we were able to rent a boat for the whole group. This boat brought us to the island of Cabrera, just south-east of Mallorca. This great trip -- on the sea as well as on the land -- provided us with even greater views of Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) Mediterranean subspecies desmarestii, Cory's Shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) and Balearic Shearwaters (Puffinus (yelkouan) mauretanicus). The Cory's were following the boat at about 20m together with Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus cachinnans) and Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii).

On the island we could visit the ornithological ringing station and its surroundings which allowed us to have a close look at Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) and Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) and a Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius). In the harbour an Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonora) and an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) passed by. From the boat -- close to Porto Colom -- a pair a Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) was sitting on the rocks. Probably a breeding territory.

The morning of the 14th: rain, rain and rain.

I managed to convince people, by telling that reed-birds don't care about this weather, to go to the s'Albufera marshland. Anyway most of them live already in the water.

The result of the day was just startling: close looks at Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus), Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides -- for sure 3 ex., maybe 5 ex.), one Great White Egret (Egretta alba), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and of course Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea). In the nearby salinas were three Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber), and several Red-crested Pochards (Netta rufina) and the Albufera-bird Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio -- one bird with pulli) were also highlights. Cetti's Warblers (Cettia cetti), Fan-tailed Warblers (Cisticola juncidis) and Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) were in full swing. In front of one hide several waders like Little Stint (Calidris minuta), Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) and Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), were well visible. Despite the rain, a very good birding day.

During the afternoon of the last day -- sunny weather again -- we undertook a great walk (5.2 km one way) starting at a point along the road Felanitx-Campos towards the Castell de Santueri. I will always remember this day as the Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) day. Flying, sitting, or breeding, take your choice. Just great was a field with 5 ex. The total could be easy 15 different birds. The walk is also wonderful: about three hours along carob, almond and fig trees. Birds enough: just right for a last day. The walk stops at the Castell de Santueri (some 400m. high), which -- apart from a great view -- provided Crag Martin (Hirundo rupestris), Raven (Corvus corax) and one of the relict population Alpine Swift (Apus melba).

As you see, a great birding time on an island not so far away. The mystery of the trip were several observations of the -- free flying -- Ringed Turtle Dove or Barbary Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea risoria). It seems that these birds were originally near the Drach Cave, and later on they have been chased by the Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto).

If more information wanted, feel free and just mail me.

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; May 26, 1998; updated May 27, 2001