This three day break was basically a twitch from Bournemouth to Mallorca to see Eleanora’s Falcon, and Balearic Warbler for Julia, with the bonus of a few days in the sun to celebrate the end of the academic year. This trip had been in our minds for some time, as said raptor is Simon’s commonest unseen Western Palearctic tick.
The fact that it’s a late migrant to Europe means having to brave the Med in the heat of the summer, which is unappealing if you’re not into lobster-strewn, lout-infested beaches. To make matters worse we missed it by a few days in Madagascar in 2007. Aargh! So the Med just had to be done this time, especially as we found we could fly to Palma from Bournemouth, just 20 minutes away.
Unsurprisingly, given our dislike of crowded beaches, we opted to stay inland in the middle of the old town of Alcudia close to Formentor, the favoured area for the Eleanora’s Falcon. Hotel Can Tem is a lovely old boutique hotel, which reminded us of the riads in central Marrakech. It turned out to be a good choice, as the hotel was attractively appointed and really comfortable with excellent breakfasts (an essential element for us!). The owner was helpful yet unobtrusive, and Alcudia was quite quiet and picturesque. This felt like a world away from the horrors of the beach resort of Port d’Alcudia, which is actually only a short distance away. Perfect!
Our first bird of note was at the airport – not a crow sp as usual but a stranded Balearic Shearwater probably confused by the lights. Simon helped it to take off, to the amusement of other arriving passengers, and it sped off towards the nearby coast. We ventured to the nearby Port d’Alcudia for our first meal and saw, more predictably, Pallid Swifts, House Sparrows, Night Heron and the first of numerous Spotted Flycatchers to be seen during the trip.
The first full day saw us heading to the Formentor peninsula in our tiny hire car in search of our primary target, and sure enough, we found several Eleanora’s Falcons apparently nesting colonially on the cliffs there. It was pretty crowded with ‘civilians’ and there was even a wedding dress photo-shoot blocking the narrow roads by the lighthouse; this caused Simon to get out and in true teacher-like fashion, start to organise and direct the traffic and crowds. More amusement from the tourists!
The highlight here was a couple of loafing Bottlenose Dolphins, and loads of Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters on the water along with Audouin’s Gulls overhead. Also we had good, close views of a couple of Honey Buzzards overhead here. Of course, when we returned to our hotel after a hot, sticky day thrashing around Formentor we then saw an Eleanora’s Falcon from the hotel window. Typical!
One area we visited several times in the cool of the evening was the Boquer Valley. Here, after a long search, we eventually found several skulking Balearic Warblers amongst the numerous Sardinian Warblers. There were also plenty of singing Cirl Buntings, more Eleanora’s Falcons and even an Osprey and a Booted Eagle.
Another good area was the National Park of S’Albufera, even though it was a little late in the season for the birding here, and it was searingly hot and dry. We did find Cattle & Little Egrets, Night, Purple & Grey Heron, some comical Purple Swamp-hens, one of which was feeding a juvenile, families of Red-crested Pochard and Little Ringed Plover, and several of the re-introduced Crested Coots.
Also there were Cetti’s and Fan-tailed Warblers, Common Tern & Yellow Wagtail here, along with a distant Marsh Harrier. Our drive home to Palma helped us even further with our raptor count as we managed to see both Black & Griffon Vulture and Red Kite, making it a respectable eight raptors, along with Kestrel. Mission accomplished! A successful yet comfortable, easy ‘Euro-twitch’!
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