Saturday, 3 March 2018

Mallorca 24th-27th February 2018 : Day Four

27th February: Day Four:

Dawn did not really arrive, so much as blearily poke its head from under the duvet and climb back under. It was grey and breezy with moisture in the air and a noticeable drop in temperature. We were packed up and on the road by 9.30 and after a provision stop at Lidls we headed for the hills with a single Swallow to remind us that March was not far away...

The dive west on the Ma10 was superb and certainly one of the best mountain roads I have driven. It was only disappointing that the weather had closed in with persistent sleet and descending cloud base.  There were almost no cars and only hardy lycra clad cyclists to negotiate on the climb. Robins, Song Thrushes, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, a couple of Redwing and even Hawfinches flew up from the verges as we passed by but there were very few places to pull over.

Eventually I found one and as we pulled into a deserted picnic area a Crossbill flew up from a puddle. The stinging sleet was teeming down now but Barry and I still had an explore amongst the boulder strewn evergreen oak woodland. Hawfinches were calling all around and occasionally showing well and a flock of 40 bounded over. Crossbills were vocal from a pine but remained out of view and Goldcrest and Blue Tit also added themselves to the trip list.

I was a little worried about the sleet turning to snow before we had reached the top and the reservoirs so we pushed on. The views were occasionally revealed and at last a layby allowed a scan around. It was a shear drop to woodland below that echoed to the sound of countless singing Song Thrushes and a single Griffon soared at eye level over the adjacent cliffs with the sea in te background fading in and out of view.

Griffon's eye view with the sea beyond



Griffon - such majestic birds

A couple of bends further on we drove under an old aqueduct and pulled over for a coffee at an otherwise deserted roadside establishment. A hot brew was most welcome as it was now bitterly cold.  Two Firecrests called and Ravens kronked overhead.  Two Vultures appeared of the next ridge – one each of Griff and Black.  There is something about distant vultures that is almost more impressive that having them close. They still look huge and command the sky and made a Red Kite closer to us look quite tiny. 

Black Vulture country just before the tunnel into Gorg Blau

Black Vulture over that distant ridge

While this one came a little closer from the west

Through a tunnel and out we popped at the Panta de Gorg Blau with a suitable car park to look along the length of the lake. Song Thrushes and Robins sung from the hillside and three Griffon and two Black Vultures cruised the escarpment. One of the Blacks even perched up and looked fine through the scope although I would not actually like to guess the distances involved!

Panta de Gorg Blau

Ummm... well...

Black Vulture

Cormorants were the only birds on the lake itself and a Grey Wagtail flitted alongside. Continuing on, we soon came to the Cuber Reservoir but the visibility was deteriorating and nothing was added but it was a fine place to sit for lunch with a view.

Cuber Reservoir

The wiggly road continued westwards with occasional stops to take in the views, albeit briefly for fear of losing an extremity. One such stop had signs up about ‘Big Game Hunting’ and the attempt to eradicate Coatimundis that have been released! The usual suite of species were encountered but once again it was the wall of sound from countless Song Thrushes that mesmerised me and yet only one or two were seen.  I presume that these are wintering birds here but with so little other sound it was spellbinding.

Narrow-leaved Mock Privet Phillyrea angustifolia looks like a tiny black olive

Asparagus albus with sharp thorns


Port de Soller

Cloud pouring down the mountain

From here we dropped down the mountains to sealevel and on hitting the Ma11 I turned north to Port de Soller.  The journey across had not taken as long as I hoped due to the inclement weather so with time to utilise we went for another coffee in this delightful harbour resort. Like everywhere else it was deserted but we found a nice cafe alongside the river into the sea and could watch the Yellow-legged Gulls and an obliging Shag from the warm interior.   

Port de Soller

Shag - Barry Jackson

Yellow-legged Gull

Some House Sparrows came mumping once we were back outside and below us on the river about 60 graceful Crag Martins were careening up and down catching invisible insects.

Three House Martins were with them too and White Wagtails and a Common Sandpiper bobbed their respective tails along the margins.  

Best I could do with the Crags in pant light!
The little park that led back to the car was full of Chiffchaffs which were grovelling in the grass and a couple of Black Redstarts and several Serins joined them. Everything looked frozen.

Black Redstart


I decided to continue along the Ma10 as it hugged the coast passing through amazing twisted ancient olive groves and the lovely hillside town of Deia with its literary links before a sign lured me to descend down to the little village of Port de Valldermossa. Let’s just say that the zig-zag road could be described as interesting, narrow and challenging or possibly just terrifying but I made it down to the quay to stretch our legs and get sprayed on by the sea and to get some superb views along the rugged coast. The drive back up was just as much fun.

Port de Valldermossa

This was to be our last stop; the weather was properly closing in and so we decided to head to the airport in Palma early for our 9pm flight home. All went well and we touched down not long before midnight and were home by one to a eight inch covering of snow with more already descending from the leaden skies after a lovely four days spent with good friends.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Mallorca 24th-27th February 2018 : Day Three

26th February: Day Three:

It dawned clear and bright but there was still a chill in the air while we breakfasted with Black Redstarts hopping around outside before making our way back to Albufera.  The walk down was as pleasant as the previous afternoon and the Night Herons were still arrayed in the Mastic bushes like ornamental decorations. 

Night Heron

Night Heron

Scanning along under the bushes produced three surprise Marbled Ducks with bills tucked away but eyes watching us warily. These were my first since seeing vast flocks distantly in Morocco several years ago and the Red-crested Pochard flock was still loafing around.

Marbled Duck

Marbled Ducks

Two smart Black Redstarts hopped around the visitor centre benches and I could hear a Moustached Warbler again but the Gallinules were not on their pool.  

Black Redstart

A quick chat in the centre pointed me in the best direction for Red-knobbed Coots but I was distracted by a superb flowerbed of local orchid species some of which were already in flower.  They had even helpfully named them for us! 

Sombre Bee-orchid Ophrys forestieri

Bumblebee Orchid Orphys bombiliflora

Naked man Orchid Orchis italica
The main bridge over the canal offered distant views of a flock of Pochard and a Gallinule and two Water Rails called from the tall reed edges. A flock of 14 duck took off from behind an island with blue forewings flashing – Garganey!  Always a joy to see and real spring sign. A Little Ringed Plover headed over just after this to kid me further.

Barry had found one of the Red-knobbed Coots and although it was one of the neck collared re-introduced bird, I was still very pleased to get to see one so close after my single distant one on La Janda back in September 2013. This red head jewels were amazing and looked like two small glossy cherries.

Red-knobbed Coot

Just up from 1NA was his un-collared partner who allowed an equally close approach. They have just over 20 pairs on the whole site now. They were quite vocal like most coots and some notes were noticeably different to the regular species.

Red-knobbed Coot

From here we climbed up a viewing mound which offered an amazing vista across the biggest reedbed I have ever seen –it quite literally stretched to the horizon with the mountains behind. Six Marsh Harriers quartered the area and a single Booted Eagle was seen. 

The muddy lagoon behind me held three Greenshank, two Black-tailed Godwits, 46 Lapwing, Green Sandpiper and eight Dunlin and a couple of Shelduck were loafing amongst the Shoveler, Mallard and Teal.  Three Glossy Ibis were a nice bonus and two Little Egrets were nearby.

Greenshank - ACV

There were some very strange sounds emanating from the lagoon, warbling and almost tropical but it took a while to find the culprits – Kentish Plovers. They were close in and mostly out of my view until I descended to the hide where an wide spread flock of 132 were present on the mud with the males running around displaying and singing at anyone who would listen. This was certainly a new sound on me.

Kentish Plover

female Kentish Plover
male Kentish Plover

A Water Pipit was seen running amongst them and a Reed Bunting flicked up off the path. Sardinian Warblers and Chiffchaffs were numerous and the odd Cetti’s sang. Back at the big bridge the Garganey were now with the Pochard but still distant and two Fan-tailed Warblers sand around us as we wandered through the Robins down to the next two viewing screens.

All the dabblers were present including two more rattling Garganey and two female Pintail and three immature Flamingos dozed amongst them. Two Avocet were the first we had seen and 17 Black-winged Stilts were trying to keep out of the chill breeze along with 12 Spotted Redshanks.

Black-winged Stilts

Black-winged Stilt

Greater Flamingos

Presumably wintering sinensis Cormorants & two Spot Reds

A nice mix...

Are these Atlantic Cormorants and one Sinensis?

Shoveler and Shelduck

Cracking male Garganey

Two more Water Pipits were being harried by the White Wagtails and Stonechats, Sards and Chiffs were feeding in the samphire clumps.
Sardinian Warbler
Chiffchaff - Barry Jackson

Sardinian Warbler - Barry Jackson

One chat caught my eye after Barry asked if it could be a distant Whinchat. It was pale and thankfully came closer. She was decked in shades of buff, cream and peach with a demarcated white throat, appeared almost unstreaked and had a plain unmarked peachy rump.  The underwing coverts were at best patchy so I am left as confused as usual regarding the wondrous world of Stonechat id.

Interesting female Stonechat

Interesting female Stonechat

Interesting female Stonechat
Normal female Stonechat also present

The walk back gave us views of four Gallinules and even better views of the Red-crested Pochard flock which now numbered 27 – I do just love those fluffy orange heads and the Marbled Ducks were still loitering on their branches. 

Red-crested Pochards

male Red-crested Pochard

Purple Gallinule

Lunch back at the car and then over the road to walk down to the sea passing a sheltered patch of yellow Cape Sorrel – Oxalis pes-caprae which was being visited by Honey Bees and two others – one a rich fluffy orange (including the hairy legs) with a black back end and the other a well marked grey white and black. Not sure of either as yet but hopefully someone can help.  Two Wall Browns and a Geranium Bronze were also seen here.

Megachile sicula on Cape Sorrel – Oxalis pes-caprae

Anthophora canescens on Cape Sorrel – Oxalis pes-caprae

Anthophora canescens  on Cape Sorrel – Oxalis pes-caprae

Two adult and a 2nd winter Audouin’s Gull entertained and a Little Egret danced with the waves on the rocky canal mouth where it met the wind ruffled sea.  There were several superb specimens of Giant Orchid Himantoglossum robertianum in the roped off dunes along with small Rosemary and a yellow Vetch.

Giant Orchid Himantoglossum robertianum

Giant Orchid Himantoglossum robertianum

Vetch - Medicago marina
Looking north to Alcudia

and south to Can Picafort

Herring-bone scum!

adult Audouin’s Gull

2nd winter Audouin’s Gull

2nd winter Audouin’s Gull

Little Egret

Little Egret

From here it was back to base for a freshen up and a coffee before hitting the road once again (avoiding a Hoopoe on the way out) for Port-de Pollenca and the windy road out to Formentor.   
Hoopoe - Barry Jackson

A driveway Black Redstart

It was another place a superlatives with a superb driving road with sheer drops and expansive views.  The miradors were full so we pushed on to the lighthouse at the end with views across to the Jackson’s beloved Menorca to the north east while Shearwaters flicked past close below us.  Both Yelkouan and Balearic were present although it took a while for me to realise that I had both species present.  Black Redstarts and Robins hopped around this migrant trap and a pair of Peregrine flew lazy circles and a pair of Ravens flew over.

Strike a pose...

The return journey gave views of a different perspective and the main mirador was empty and we had the whole view to ourselves as the sun dropped behind the incoming weather front.

We headed straight to Tolo’s for dinner again passing a flower covered chair where the derelict car had stood the evening before...