BIRDING ABROAD MAJORCA 23 – 28 SEPTEMBER 2017 TOUR
MAJORCA 23 – 28 SEPTEMBER 2017
TOUR OVERVIEW: Majorca is the largest of the Balearic Island archipelago and is perhaps best
known for its beach resorts which have been welcoming tourists for many years. But Majorca is also
an island that has managed to preserve much of the beauty of its coastline and interior, places in
fact where it is easy to escape the crowds and where a diverse mix of habitats are home to many
typical Mediterranean birds as well as some specialities. Acclaimed birding sites, some of the best to
be found in this part of the Mediterranean, are dotted around the island. These include the Sierra de
Tramuntana occupying the north-western third of the island; the rugged and spectacular Formentor
Peninsula, the dry garrigue of the scenic Boquer Valley, the extensive marshes of S’Albufera nature
reserve and the shallow coastal Salinas de Levante. All these terrific birding locations are within easy
reach of our base. A major target is the newly assigned Balearic Warbler (a recent split from
Marmora’s Warbler) which is found only on Majorca, Ibiza and Formentera, as well as good numbers
of Eleonora’s Falcons before they leave for their wintering grounds in Madagascar. With a large
supporting cast of speciality species such as Marbled Teal, Black Vulture, Audouin’s Gull, Redknobbed Coot, Purple Swamphen, Thekla Lark and Moustached Warbler, our days will be bird filled.
The trip is also timed to coincide with autumn migration over the western Mediterranean, when the
island’s promontories and coastal valleys provide shelter for tired passage birds, adding to the daily
variety and excitement. The weather in mid-September is still very warm with lots of sunny days,
which combined with some spectacular scenery make Majorca a superb destination for a short but
seriously top notch birding break.
TOUR DESCRIPTION: A five nights and single centre tour to Majorca based throughout in a
comfortable family run hotel in Alcudia, from where we radiate out each day to the islands birding
hotspots seeking out the resident and visiting specialities amid beautiful and splendid scenery.
PHOTOGRAPHIC OPORTUNITIES: Our schedule provides for plenty of time to pause for
photography. We will visit various reserves on the island, some with good hides and pathway access
to a variety of habitats.
BIRD LIST: Included here are the resident and summer visiting specialities, but also some passage
migrants in September: Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Scopoli’s and Balearic Shearwater,
Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Greater Flamingo, Black and Griffon
Vulture, Osprey, Booted Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Red Kite, Eleonora’s Flacon, Red-knobbed Coot,
Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper,
Wood Sandpiper, Audouin’s Gull, Turtle Dove, Eurasian Scops Owl, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift,
Hoopoe, Wryneck, Thekla Lark, Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Blue Rock-thrush, warblers including
some of Sardinian, Spectacled, Moltoni’s, Balearic, Moustached, Great Reed, Melodious and
Western Bonelli’s, Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Rock Sparrow,
Serin, Common Crossbill, Cirl Bunting.
The charming Balearic Warbler –
a recent split from Marmora’s Warbler
EASE & PACE: We have six days to explore the island, plenty of time to achieve our bird watching
objectives. Full days will be spent in the field, but basic fitness is all that is required. Walks will
usually be short, just a few hundred metres from the van. A longer walk in the Boquer valley will be
undertaken early before temperatures get too high. Breaks for lunch will be either outdoors with a
picnic lunch or if the weather is hot, then we may take a more extended break at lunchtime, reconvening mid-afternoon when it cools down. Coffee breaks at other times will be taken as required.
ACCOMMODATION & FOOD: We will use a rather classy hotel in Alcudia as our base, which is well
sited allowing multiple visits to the reserves along the north coast at Depuradora, s’Albufera and
WEATHER: Majorca is hot throughout September, and daytime temperatures are likely to rise to 26
or 27 degrees, so it will be very pleasant without the overbearing heat of summer. Rain is possible,
though this is not likely to be prolonged enough to spoil the birding. Short thunderstorms are
PRICE: The price will be £800 per person to include six days bird watching excursions with expert
leader, all travel in Majorca by minibus and full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 23rd
and ending with lunch on 28th).
Not included are international flights, your drinks during the day and with evening meals, and any
personal items such as laundry. Travel insurance is compulsory.
GROUP SIZE: Six with one leader, 12 with two leaders
An exciting possibility is an encounter with Bonelli’s Eagle
Day 1 Saturday 23 September – The tour commences at Palma Airport, Majorca, at lunchtime on
Saturday 23. Your Birding Abroad leaders will be flying out from the UK on a morning flight, and after
the group assembles in the arrivals hall, we collect our hire vehicle and drive north to Alcudia and
check-in to our hotel. From here it is only a short drive to the Albufereta Marsh, a small wetland
adjacent to Pollenca Bay and an ideal place to familiarise ourselves with some typical Mediterranean
birds. We would expect to see Night Heron and Little Egret, with Marsh Harrier and Osprey
overhead, Hoopoe, Zitting Cisticola and Sardinian Warblers along the path edges and a few species
of wader including Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers and Black-winged Stilts. Night Alcudia.
Day 2 Sunday 24 September – After breakfast we will spend our first full day in the north-west of
the island, starting in the pretty Boquer Valley. The trail through this spectacular rocky valley
provides cover and shelter for tired migrants such as Turtle Dove, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Pied
and Spotted Flycatchers and Northern Wheatear, but further possibilities exist for scarcer species
such as Woodchat Shrike, Wryneck, Western Bonelli’s and Melodious Warbler, and in particular
overflying Bee-Eaters. The coastal dry garrigue vegetation is home to resident Balearic Warblers and
we will spend some time ensuring that we secure good views of this important endemic species.
Other likely birds in the vicinity will include Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Serin and Cirl Buntings.
The Boquer Valley provides a nice setting for our picnic lunch, after which we will drive to the
Formentor Peninsula, the island’s northern extension of the Tramumtana range. Here the towering
cliffs provide tremendous views across the sea (with Menorca visible on clear days) and are home to
several pairs of Eleonora’s Falcon. By the time of our visit the falcons will be feeding their young, so
many birds will be on the wing ensuring good views of this superb and distinctively shaped raptor.
We will watch the aerial manoeuvres of the birds as they swoop and soar lazily on the coastal
updrafts, seeking out and then pursuing their quarry of small migrant birds and larger insects like
Eleanora’s Falcon – it is a delight to watch these acrobatic birds
Sea breezes off the peninsula often elicit some sea bird passage, so we will spend a little time
checking out the wave crests and troughs from the lighthouse perched high at the very tip, in the
hope of finding some Scopoli’s Shearwaters. The peninsula also hosts some welcome shady pine
woodland where the Balearic sub-species of both Firecrest and Red Crossbill can be found. By late
afternoon it will be time to head back towards our accommodation, perhaps pausing if time allows,
for a further exploration of the Albufereta Marsh. Night Alcudia.
Day 3 Monday 25 September - Today we travel to the south of the island, just over one hour by
road, where during the morning we will visit the Salinas de Levante, an extensive area of worked and
disused salt pans. The combination of natural lagoons and the salt pans presents a variety of habitats
and salinity grades, appealing to a diverse range of shorebirds. Greater Flamingos often make an
appearance here, whilst waders should include Black-winged Stilts and Kentish Plovers with Eurasian
Thicknee around the edges. Scarcer waders include Little Stints, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Spotted
Redshank, Greenshank and with luck, Marsh Sandpiper.
We will see many types of wader, including this
one – the rather exotic Black-winged Stilt
Migrants will be changing day by day at this time of the year, and not just passerines. Terns such as
Whiskered, Black and Gull-billed sometimes drop in, whilst close inspection of the gulls could easily
yield the pinkish hue of a Slender-billed or a few Little Gulls dipping over the water’s surface. The
headland at Cap de Ses Salines is a good sea-watching point where with patience we might see
Audouin’s Gull and Scopoli’s Shearwater and the desmarestii sub-species of Shag.
Shearwaters breeds close-by on the islet of Cabrera, and although this species has an early breeding
cycle, small numbers linger through the autumn off Majorca, so we will have a decent chance of a
sighting. Stony terrain and dry agricultural land in this part of the island should allow us to catch up
with resident Thekla Larks, as well as any lingering Short-toed and Tawny Pipits.
By mid-afternoon we begin to head back towards Alcudia, but taking a slightly different route to
include a crossing of the Arta Massif, a quite wild and beautiful area where we will keep an eye
skyward for raptors such as Booted Eagles and also for swifts which could include both Pallid and
Alpine. The coastal scrub along the eastern edge of the Badia d’Alcudia near Betlam is good for
migrants and also provides another chance to see Balearic Warblers. Our day ends back at the hotel
for a pleasant evening meal together.
Day 4 Tuesday 26 September – Today we visit s’Albufera, the third largest marsh in the
Mediterranean which is well protected under an EU Birds Directive and a jewel in the crown of
Majorcan conservation efforts. The reserve’s reed-beds, lagoons, sand dunes and saltpans are
accessed via a network of well managed footpaths and a number of hides and viewing platforms
help to get close to the key species. Though most of the summer visiting herons will have departed,
a small number linger well into the autumn including Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Night Heron with
passage Squacco Heron a distinct possibility. S’Albufera has been chosen as a location for various
reintroduction schemes, including those for Purple Swamphen, Marbled Duck and Red-knobbed
Coot and all are doing well. S’Albufera is a stronghold for the skulking Moustached Warbler and with
patience we should be rewarded with close views of these birds, often low down in the reeds close
to the water’s surface. Somewhat more chunky is the Great Reed Warbler which breeds here too,
and a few of these linger through to mid-month. Inlets can be rewarding for Spotted Crake or a
dabbling Garganey, whilst the first returning Bluethroats which spend the winter here may reveal
themselves. Taller trees and tamarisk bushes within the marsh hold warblers and migrants, so we
should expect the unexpected. The marshland here is extensive and will absorb the major part of our
day with a visitor centre providing facilities and some shade during our picnic lunch. In the late
afternoon good numbers of hirundines begin to hawk insects over the wetlands, and we may be
fortunate to spot a Red-rumped Swallow amongst the commoner species. Attracted to this mix of
swallows and martins, Eleonora’s Falcons come in from the coastal cliffs to feed over the marsh,
often several birds in the air together giving splendid views. Late afternoon also sees the arrival of
many flava wagtails as they descend into the reed-beds for their evening roost. Night Alcudia
Red-knobbed Coot – one of a number of specialty species
Day 5 Wednesday 27 September – This morning we drive west once more, slowly winding up into
the Sierra de Tramuntana the highest areas of which are largely uninhabited, though pretty honeycoloured villages nestle quietly in the valleys; a far cry from the modern tourist resort we have just
left behind. As the morning air warms we will be looking for Black Vultures as they take to the skies,
this their last remaining breeding haunt on the island.
Black Vulture - a memorable bird indeed
Other raptors rising on the thermals should include Peregrine, Booted Eagles and Red Kites with
occasional sightings perhaps of Bonelli’s Eagle and both Egyptian and Griffon Vulture. The reservoir
at Cuber, between Lluch and Soller, provides another setting for us to take an amble and see what
we can find. Both Spectacled and Moltoni’s Warblers breed in this area in very small numbers and
with luck we may find a lingering bird still around. There is also a slight chance of a lingering Rock
Thrush which inhabits an old quarry nearby. After lunch we have the opportunity of revisiting one of
our favourite sites to consolidate our views of some of the specialities or search for more newly
arrived migrants. We will return to our hotel late in the afternoon. This will be our final evening
meal of the trip, no doubt accompanied by a few cool beers!
Please note that days 2 to 5 are interchangeable dependent upon the prevailing weather conditions
and forecasts as we aim to maximise our chances in the field of all the target species.
Day 6 Thursday 28 September – Our last day but we do not need to be at the airport until early
evening, so we have almost another full day to catch up with any species that have so far eluded us.
We can spend all morning at the impressive s’Albufera Marshes, consolidating on views and enjoying
the many species on offer. We must leave our rooms by lunchtime, thereafter taking a slow drive
south-west across the island to arrive in Palma in plenty of time for our flight back to the UK. No
doubt we will reflect on some really great birding, on the lovely scenery and surprising wilderness of
Majorca, and toasting another successful trip and the warm hospitality of our hosts.
The lighthouse at Cape Formentor
Thanks to both Peter Greaves and Mike Ashforth for use of their excellent photographs
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