Majorca - May, 2014
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This week in northern Majorca was intended as a walking break, and this indeed was what formed the basis of the stay. We chose Pollensa as our temporary home, due to its location near to some of the choice hill walks, and also the charm and culinary offerings. Both of the latter should not be overlooked. The town itself has some excellent weathered streets, with one of the best markets on the island each Sunday (the fresh produce is superb), and the range of restaurants provides plenty of variety for a week or more (such as tapas, local specialty paella, suckling pig, and good island white and red wines). Easyjet provided convenient flights to and from Newcastle, so we picked up a car from one of the local airport vendors - prebooked on the internet of course - and covered the distance across the island on excellent roads in less than an hour. The roads overall are in excellent condition, although those through the mountains can be narrow, winding, and crammed with cyclists! We paid for a full tank of fuel with the car, and didn't need to fill up again.
We used James Villas to book the villa on the outskirts of Pollensa. The location was ideal, being only 10 minutes walk into the centre for food, and overlooking the mountains to the North, with only orchards in between. Naturally, this resulted in a decent variety of birds without needing to leave the premises. Sardinian Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers, Serins and Blackcaps were all resident within the grounds. In the distance within the valley, Nightingales, Hoopoes and Scops Owls could be heard. Pick of all though was the array of birds over the tops, with Booted Eagle, Black Vulture, Kestrel, Raven, Buzzard and Peregrine all spotted.
The car park for here is easily found, being above a roundabout on the Formentor road past Puerto Pollensa, and overlooking a wooded avenue leading to the seafront of the resort. We didn't get here until mid morning, resulting in an already present mix of birders and in particular walkers. The guides for the site warn of the private land only metres in and to be wary of the guard dog, but the former has a small opening in the gate for easy access, and the latter is tied up behind another gate. The distance from the car park to the small yet populated beach is only one and a half miles, and the track is generally extremely obvious due to the constant pedestrian traffic, but the valley through the fells on either side make it picturesque and pleasant. Our walk kept to the main track through, but when I was last here many years ago ascended the slopes to the wall to find some Balearic Warblers, which weren't in evidence today. Many Sardinian Warblers made up for this, and were almost constantly heard. Blue Rock Thrushes in the form of males were up the slopes, and a single Crag Martin circled overhead. The tops of the mountains are always worth checking for raptors, although today's roster was only of single buzzard and a few ravens.
Cap de Formentor
The 17km drive to here from Puerto Pollensa is a tortuous one, due in part to the narrow and winding roads, and also to the plethora of cars and cyclists using this one way route to the peninsular. Whether it is worth is at this time of year is debatable. The parking at the lighthouse which is at the tip is limited, and it is too early in the year for the Eleanora's Falcons for which it specialises. But the views up along the northern rocky coast and to nearby Menorca are juicy. Take away the cafe and the people and this would be a very pleasant spot to spend some time. The aerial interest here was provided by regular Pallid Swifts, rather than the expected Crag Martins. Looking down at the sea far below, a trio of separate Cory's Shearwaters uncharacteristically flapped along in the calm air over the sea. A Blue Rock Thrush was a bonus as we were about to leave.
The drive to Lluc is not too far from Pollensa - only 20km - but this is prolonged due to the mass of cyclists who insist on populating the whole of the narrow winding roads on the ascent to this popular tourist magnet. The draw is the monastery, and that is it for most, but there are some easy and interesting rambles using the car park next to the ageing buildings as a base. We chose a 6 mile circular route which winds East of our parking spot, bring mainly in the shade of the woodland, with occasional excursions into the open. There wasn't a great variety of birds overall, but strangely the most interesting were in the vicinity of the monastery. Both Nightingales and Wrynecks were heard in the car park, with one of each being seen just outside of the boundary walls. Nightingales were heard regularly along the walk, but the most common species by far was Chaffinch, with Spotted Flycatcher a close second. A Black Vulture flew overhead, and a single Balearic Warbler was in scrub next to the track in open woodland, making up for their absence in the Boquer Valley.
Much seems to have changed at the reserve since I was last here nearly 15 years ago. Granted we didn't arrive until late morning giving the beach ball and pizza brigade plenty of time to rouse themselves from the cervezas the night before to trundle the baby buggies along to the reserve. The small car park is now a tarmac miniscule for not many cars, and then there is the 1.1km walk along the monotonous track to the visitor centre and the reserve proper. I didn't have too much time to explore, so managed to incorporate the #4 itinerary with 2 hides, and also the new lagoons with overlooks. The duck and swamphen menagerie that greeted on the central canal last visit was now non existent, in fact I didn't manage to see any of the latter at all. Cetti's Warblers and Nightingales were certainly vocal, and one or two of the former were in the open. The hides revealed the usual spread of med waders and egrets, with a good collection of Red-crested Pochard on the way. Longer here is obviously necessary to get a better overview of the offerings, but my impression was that birds were easier to see some years ago than now.