Balearic Warblers

Article written by: Michael Montier

Many visiting birders have Balearic warbler on the top of their list of most wanted birds to see here in Mallorca but some visitors go away empty handed having failed to see this enigmatic little skulker.

They are indeed difficult to see but with patience and some inside information, good views can be obtained and therefore this endemic member of the Sylvia family can be added to your trip list without too much difficulty.

The truth is, they are not rare and they can be found pretty much anywhere near the coast in their favoured habitat, the low coastal scrub, known here as “garrigue”. Many birders are directed to the Bóquer Valley, they can be seen there but it is not the best place, it being quite exposed and often windy, conditions that the Balearic warbler doesn’t like. They will rarely show on days like this and all you will see is the rear end disappearing into the foliage.

Balearic warblers are never seen in scrub anything taller than knee-high, they frequent the really low bushes. March and April are obviously the best months when the male birds can be seen singing from on top of the bushes but they do show in any month. The hottest days in August are probably the worst times but even then they are around and will show after a wait.

They are not hard to identify and the only real difficulty could be when the young are out of the nest when immature birds may be confused with Dartford warblers which also breed here and always in the same locations as the Balearics. The adult birds are very grey overall but it is the legs which really stand out and appear very orange, contrasting with the subtle grey underparts, they really are a little gem and will give immense pleasure once located.

Patience is the key to obtaining satisfactory views, there is a temptation to move on and look elsewhere, but staking out a known location is much better. Three-quarters of the way down the Bóquer Valley looking to the right hand side of the path is a good place to stop for a while and makes a welcome break.

They are also seen at Son Real, there is a viewing platform near the beach which is a good place but Porto Colom in the south-east is now one of the best places. It is quite a trip from the north but is worth it for the coastal views, nesting Pallid swift, Blue Rock thrush and Dartford warblers too.

Good luck, and do please report any sightings, new information is always welcome.

Read More

Birding Mallorca – Introduction

Article written by: Michael Montier

Mallorca is an Island full of surprises and this year has not disappointed. Migration begins super-early with the usual candidates, House Martin and both Barn and Red-rumped Swallow, but this year there was one species that got the jump on them all, a fine Great Spotted Cuckoo, although sadly only one local got to the bird before it departed.

There is only one place to be during spring raptor migration at that is the tower at Albercutx, just off the road to Formentor. Huge numbers of Marsh Harrier came through at the beginning of the season with a record breaking 137 in a single day. This cheered us all up and we waited impatiently for the main event of Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and other assorted goodies. It just didn’t happen, constant easterly winds kept the raptors at bay and all us keen migration watchers were left frozen, often soaked and frustrated.

Tucan Marsh compensated marvellously with a Greater Scaup, a real mega here, quickly followed by a pair of Little Crake. It is a super reserve to visit but seems sadly neglected these days although such sightings will no doubt put it rightfully back on the map.

Although the fig trees at Cases Vellas have recently been removed it did not stop a stunning male Collared Flycatcher putting in an appearance. Sub-alpine Warblers also joined the party there among many other more common species.

Also, there are now organised boat trips from Colonia San Jordi where a slow chug round the Island of Cabrera “chumming” as we went, produced magnificent close ups of Great Skua and all three species of Shearwater; Scopoli’s, Balearic and Yelkouan. The Shearwaters were so close that you could reach out and touch the wing-tips. Later in spring a special trip was organised to find the elusive Storm Petrel and we were rewarded with fine views of four birds.

The mountains always provide a good day out and the focus is often on the reservoir at Cúber for views of Moltoni’s Warbler and possible Spectacled Warbler. Rock Thrush puts in an occasional appearance for the lucky few but there is always a supporting cast of both Black and Griffon Vultures to keep all visitors happy. It is possible to see ten species of raptor here and many, like the super-sleek Eleanora’s Falcons, come to drink and bathe.

The fields around the central plain are worth a visit at any time but spring would be the best with good numbers of Red-throated Pipit this year which were joined by Lesser Kestrels and few days later. In line with most of Western Europe, there has been a very recent invasion of Red-footed Falcons with up to 20 birds being seen together. Most birders agree that they are one of the best species of raptor to encounter.

The main reserve at s’Albufera is always a must and most visiting birders rightly concentrate on this superb reed marsh, one of the largest in Europe. Roosting Night Heron line the bushes on the approach road and the variety of species seen there is too long to list but expect a few surprises too.

Pallid Harrier have been a recent addition to the regular spring migrant list, there were fewer this year but still sufficient sightings to keep birders on their toes.

The approach road to the Depuradora at s’Albufera is very productive with Bee-eater, Tawny Pipit and Short-toed Lark guaranteed. The display of wild flowers is simply breathtaking earlier in the year and a good showing of other scarce migrants is always on the cards.

Albufereta should be on any birders itinerary too with regular Short-eared Owl, Montagu’s and Hen Harrier sightings this year. Nearby Can Curassa is a must as it is far and away the most reliable site for the dazzling European Roller which sit motionless on the overhead cables much of the time. Spotless Starling also breed nearby which are hard to see elsewhere on the Island and this is also a top spot for Tern species passing through.

Read More