Monday, January 11, 2016

a short break in Majorca - part 2

Thursday started cloudy and breezy but still unseasonably warm.   We headed to Son Real another location supposedly good for the local Warbler.  At the visitors centre however we were pointed back to the wind tunnel, which given the prevailing conditions, we decided to pass on.

Having arrived too early to go in via the main entrance we passed on the edge of the town and then walked along the beach into the Finca Publica:

Sandwich Terns patrolled the shoreline:

At one point there is an archaeologically revealed burial site, dating back some 3,000 to 3,500 years, with a view between two peninsulas, out to the Mediterranean:

 One commonish bird along the shoreline, in the low scrub was the Thekla Lark:

Son Real was a nice spot but because of its status as a public park and not a refuge, the birds were scarce and terrified and therefore overall it was a disappointment.

From Son Real we drove through the town of Arta to the Arta Mountains, the driving is an experience in itself.   This is a town of narrow streets built before the car which made navigation and passage tricky.   It was made more so on the turn trip by a large lorry completely blocking the only signposted exit from the the town, which led to a guessing game of position and direction as we tried to navigate the tiny roads in the middle of town.

It was worth the hassle though.  The lady at the visitors centre was helpful and given the time helped us pick a circular route that would help us see some of the raptors and explore the mountains.

At the start of route 4, having ascended on route 3 we saw these ruins of a former prison used to house over 700 inmates, all losing combatants in the Spanish Civil War:

The view from the highest point we reached was spectacular.   Given more time (and indeed energy) you can walk all the way to the sea, which also provides stunning views apparently:

By now Helen's plan of getting me walking more and more was paying off, we averaged more than five miles a day including some quite step ascents and descents, though by the end of the trip i needed a rest from all the walking!

For our penultimate day we decided to start back at the wetlands.  It was a beautiful day, 21c to 22c and sunny clear blue skies.

From the hides around the centre we enjoyed seeing Common Snipe:

Green Sandpiper:

Sardinian Warbler:

We really enjoyed visiting the wetlands and would recommend it to any birder visiting Majorca, though do remember the initial out and back walk to get to the hub area.

From S'Albufera we decided to head to Punta de n'Amer.  The sky was a deep blue, the white sands and the forest ahead provided a lovely start to our walk (behind is the traditional view of Majorca, enormous hotels and resorts stretching as far the eye can see.    Majorca in January is very quiet with whole towns shut and most of the facilities also shut.   The population must grow by 20x or something during the peak of the April to October season):

An Adouin's Gull sailed past:

Further along the shore the limestone that makes up most of Majorca is very much in evidence;

In the forest and along the trails we saw more Common Stonechat (if you see a bird it's a chat became our refrain on this trip):

Spring is definitely coming:

At one relatively secluded spot we encountered Cirl Buntings feeding on the grass.  We stayed quiet and approached slowly to try and capture a relatively decent image of one:

We also saw a few species of butterfly, this one settled for long enough for me to photograph.  It looks similar to a Wall Brown but even with a guidebook I've yet to identify it:

For our final day, Saturday, we'd saved a visit to the mountains along the North Coast of Majorca.

It's a fairly long drive up from Alcudia, ninety minutes, but the views merited the trip, this is the Cubar reservoir.    

The lack of a rainy season this winter means the water levels in the reservoir are seriously low.  I wonder how that will pan out this year...

Although it's a pleasant enough spot to visit the near complete absence of birds meant we wanted to move on, so we decided to visit Mortitix, our last stop on this trip.

Mortitx is another Finca Publica but accessed via the roads and paths around a working winery and vineyard.   This seems to put people off, which is great as finally we were in somewhere that truly felt alive.   Birds flitted, sung and zoomed around.    The Thrushes in particular still assumed we meant their death so fled at our approach, however the smaller birds were less scared so even with a light rain shower, we really enjoyed our brief visit our only regret was that we hadn't started the day there.

The vineyard appears to be an update to an old olive grove:

And was definitely one of our favourite places on the island.

We really enjoyed our visit to Majorca and did indeed aid my recuperation and got us back into regular walking and exercise.   Time then to head home to the leaden skies of England.

a short break in Majorca - part 1

After a three week long pre-Christmas bout of antibiotic resistant pneumonia we decided we needed both a morale boost and to get some dry air, a snap choice of Majorca, based on the prevailing weather and convenience (we could fly from Bristol).

Some quick research got us a book on birding locations around Majorca (helpful and reasonably reliable) which we used to choose our area to stay in Alcudia, thereby avoiding tourist central.

The logistics were straightforward and we arrived in Alcudia on a cloudy but warm Tuesday lunchtime, checked-in and decided to have a wander around the last walled town in Majorca.

One of the many churches (with bells ringing out on the hour every hour, every day):

We walked on down to a bay just over a mile from the town.  Very few birds to be seen but a pleasant view, we were just enjoying the lack of rain and the warmth.

That evening we found an Italian restaurant which we then used for the duration of our stay varying across their range of pizzas and pastas.    It's always good to find reliable vegetarian food when staying in Europe hence we didn't bother looking around further, that and the 5 euro for any pizza or pasta dish helped!

On Wednesday morning we visited the Formentor Peninsula, starting with a walk at Cala Boquer:

This is supposed to be one of the best spots in Winter to see the endemic Balearic Warbler, however this location as in fact at all locations except one the birds appear terrified of humans and hide and stay hidden until they are sure we're long gone.    This proved a frustrating theme of our visit to Majorca but also reminded us of a similar experience in mainland Spain a few years ago.  It has to be the relentless persecution of birds through hunting, shooting, mist-netting and every other method devised to catch and kill them, including the small songbirds.   At one spot we were told that the people doing this are old and ageing and the youngsters are generally not interested, i really hope this is true.

Anyway the walk got quite tough as there were strong winds blowing across the Island, gusting to 50 mph and the walk was through a narrow valley to a cove:

The net effect of this was like walking in a wind tunnel.   Only a few hardy locals were out and about too and the return trip was something else.   We actually struggled to move forward at times the wind was so fierce.

The next stop was somewhere we felt more confident of, the extensive wetlands at S'Albufera.   It feels like a different place as you enter (though it was closed for a public holiday we weren't alone in climbing the low side wall and walking in).

There's an initial 1.1 km walk to the visitors, centre and then trails and hides radiate out from there.

We saw Common Stonechat:

 Black-crowned Night-heron:

 Greater Flamingos, an unusual bird for here:

Lots and lots of Kentish Plovers:

and many other birds including Sardinian and Cetti's Warblers, Coots, Herons, Ducks and waders.   It really was a lovely spot to visit and one we knew we'd return to on the trip.