Woodchat Shrike

Spring Bird Migration in Mallorca

With an approximate flight time of two hours from the UK, serviced by a number of airlines from many regional airports, Mallorca is an ideal destination for birding enthusiasts keen to watch the annual Spring migration.

Located between the Spanish mainland and North Africa, Mallorca attracts a multitude of migrants travelling from the African continent to their breeding grounds in both Europe and Asia.

The large choice of hotels and restaurants on this holiday island means that there is something to suit all tastes with the north of Mallorca being popular as a base from which to visit the famous Serra de Tramuntana mountain range and other bird sites and nature reserves. Puerto Pollensa and Alcudia are particularly favoured by visitors as many of the best reserves and breeding sites are easily accessible from these locations.

Eleonoras Falcon

Pictured above: Eleonora’s Falcon

Spring brings with it the perfect climate for birdwatching, with beautiful sunshine and pleasantly warm temperatures coupled with a wonderful array of both rare and more common migrants that appear in differing numbers every year. Examples of some of the rarer visitors are the Golden Oriole and the Honey Buzzard.

Golden Oriole

Pictured Pictured above: Golden Oriole

Whilst some of the migrating birds stop over only briefly for a rest during their journey to other breeding grounds, others stay for the summer.  Examples of the latter are the Woodchat Shrike and the relatively common Bee Eater.

Woodchat Shrike

Pictured above: Woodchat Shrike

During springtime some of the small islands surrounding Mallorca provide wonderful habitats for birds and those wishing to study them visit the excellent national park on Cabrera to the south of Mallorca. Cabrera can be reached by the twice daily ferry service which runs from the picturesque port of Colonia de Sant Jordi. Another national park, the uninhabited island of Dragonera, just off the west coast, can be reached by a short ferry ride from the small village of Sant Elm.

Cabrera Archipelago

Pictured above: Cabrera National Park

As already stated, one of the favourite areas for bird watchers has always been Puerto Pollensa in the north of Mallorca. The port is situated close to the top north east corner of the island and is a 40 minute taxi ride from Palma airport. Puerto Pollensa is also home to the island’s first bird visitors centre at La Gola. This fantastic facility is currently run by Cristina who has a wealth of bird and bird site knowledge and who is also responsible for collating important bird siting’s from around the island. Information and maps covering nearby sites and reserves are available from here. La Gola incorporates a series of lagoons which are a magnate for visiting migrants including Ospreys.

Osprey

Pictured above: Osprey

Puerto Pollensa also has the advantage of being close to the Boquer Valley and Pine Tree Avenue, both accessible within walking distance of the town. Car and bicycle hire, public transport and taxis are available from within the port and those wishing to visit the large nature reserve at s’Albufereta can catch the number 352 bus to Alcudia and get off just a short walk from the reserve. A popular restaurant on the edge of the reserve is the Can Curassa. There are regular sightings of flocks of Bee Eaters, breeding and migrating Yellow Wagtails, Shrikes and nightingales in this area and very occasionally Golden Orioles and Rollers resting on the overhead wires.

Yellow Wagtail

Pictured above: Yellow Wagtail

If you remain on the bus after passing the Can Curassa Restaurant, alight at El Gravet by the Club Blue Sol which has its own nature reserve complete with hide and a wealth of published bird information. Remain on the bus, en route back to Alcudia and you pass other interesting locations which are part of s’Albufereta but are named separately as Es Grau and sa Barcassa where you will find lagoons with a new hide which offers fantastic photo opportunities, particularly in the Spring, of Collared Pratincoles, Purple Herons, visiting waders and terns.

Travel on the same 352 bus route from Puerto Pollensa through both Alcudia and Port d’Alcudia towards Can Picafort and opposite the 5 star Grupo Hotel Natural Parc you will arrive at the main entrance to yet another natural parc, s’Albufera, not to be confused with the smaller s’Albuferata. This internationally famous park is the largest managed wetland reserve on Mallorca and attracts over 300 species of bird a year including all migrants and many birds indigenous to the island. This is normally the only area in which you can view breeding Marbled Ducks and Purple Gallinules.

Purple Gallinule

Pictured above: Purple Gallinule

Within the parc, approximately 1 Km from the main entrance, is the s’Albufera Visitors Centre which is open year-round from 9.00 am until 4.00 pm and which issues free entry permits (which are required) and maps. The parc itself closes to visitors at 6pm daily. There are four signed walking routes around the reserve with the longest being the ‘red route’ which takes in the many varied habitats and provides the best opportunity to see the largest number of migrants. A canal, which runs through the reserve, attracts migrating Night Herons in addition to Purple Herons, Cattle Egrets and Little Bitterns and the many hides located within the parc afford excellent opportunities to spot Osprey, Glossy Ibis, Eleanora’s Falcons, Booted Eagles and Marsh Harriers. In 2018 a rare visitor seen within the reserve was a passing Collared Flycatcher.

Albufera

Pictured above: s’Albufera

If you were to continue on the bus to Can Picafort and get off at the next stop, the hospital, you can walk to S’Illot which is a wonderful location from which to view both Shrikes and Bee Eaters.

A short drive from Puerto Pollensa is the iconic Cap de Formentor with amazing views back towards the port and out to sea. This is the most north eastern point on Mallorca and many species of bird can be seen soaring around the sea cliffs. Visitors are advised to contact the Tourist Information Offices in either Puerto Pollensa, Pollensa or Alcudia prior to making arrangements to visit Cap de Formentor for updated travel information, as the only road up to the lighthouse is subject to closure and/or restricted access at certain times of the year (June to September inclusive).

Cap de Formentor

Pictured above: Cap de Formentor

Albercutx tower, which is located along the route to Cap de Formentor is recognised as one of the prime sites on the island from which to view a large range of migratory birds, in particular huge numbers of Honey Buzzards, Harriers, Eagles, Red Footed Falcons along with other birds of prey.

Albercutx Tower

Pictured above: Albercutx Tower

Those wishing to follow Spring bird migration in the mountains are advised to visit the Ternelles Valley on the edge of the Serra de Tramuntana, just a short taxi ride from the old town of Pollensa. This area is only accessible with a permit available from the Tourist Information Offices in Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa. Chats, Warblers and numerous birds of prey including Black Vultures, Hobby and Red Footed Falcons, migrating Harriers and resident Eagles can be seen in the Spring as you walk along the valley towards the Castle del Rey.

Serra de Tramuntana

Pictured above: Serra de Tramuntana

The monastery at Lluc, set in the heart of the Tramuntana mountain range and accessible by car or the number 354 bus (during the tourist season only) is yet another worthwhile trip for those wanting to combine culture, history and bird watching. The area is good for migrants, Wrynecks being regular visitors and also for birds of prey and is an excellent day out.

Lluc Monastery

Pictured above: Lluc Monastery

During last Spring, Bird Migration in Mallorca recorded several rarities including the Red Backed Shrike, Red Flanked Blue Tail and Common Rosefinch (all at La Gola) in addition to the Collared Flycatcher and various warblers including Melodious and Pallas in the north of the island.

La Gola Reserve

Pictured above: La Gola Reserve

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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.

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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.

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