Thursday 6 June 2019

Birding press trip- Pollensa, Mallorca.

Earlier this year I was very fortunate and privileged to be invited to Pollensa as part of a group of birders from Northern European countries in order to explore and promote the birding potential of this wonderful island. Although Pollensa and Mallorca in general, are relatively well known as a tourist and birding destination, most visitors arrive during the traditional, summer, high season. The objective of our visit was to promote the birding potential during the much quieter (and cooler) 'off season'. Palma has excellent flight connections from a variety of European hub airports and following minimal formalities and a meet and greet at Palma airport we were whisked to our accommodation in Pollensa. I stayed at the superb Azul Puerto where everything from early breakfast options, helpful, friendly staff and superb, clean, spacious accommodation was perfect for a birding break- and so close to the Boquer Valley!

Early evening saw us enjoying an escorted walk around the 'old town' with a very professional tour guide. Whilst enjoying the ambiance, culture, history and architecture of this wonderful town we were treated to the spectacular sight of Swifts screaming overhead and the 'ticking' of Sub-Alpine warblers feeding in the vegetation. The birding highlight during our stroll was undoubtedly an Alpine Swift that flew past the church tower in glorious evening light- superb! 
Pollensa- a delightful town full of history -and birds! 
A short time later we were whisked to the La Braseria restaurant in Pollensa, This is quite possibly one of the nicest restaurants I have ever been in- lovely atmosphere, delightful decor, superb food and perhaps, most importantly, wonderful, smiling, helpful staff. My Spanish is very basic but the staff seemed to appreciate my trying a few phrases, but they also happily reverted to English when I got out of my depth. It was good to see a cross section of people in the restaurant and although the restaurant was very smart it was not overly formal and we enjoyed a very relaxed evening. 
La Braseria, Pollensa.
Following a good rest, we were up early the following day to start our birding in earnest. The first visit was a short drive to the wetlands of S'Albufereta
The scenery was gorgeous- expansive wetlands with a distant, mountainous back drop and patches of scrub and woodland- birds were everywhere and I found it tricky to stay on top of all the species that were quickly added to our 'trip list'. Our local Mallorcan guide 'Pep', quickly got us onto a range of goodies and initial highlights included Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Marsh Harrier, and Black-Winged Stilts. The woodland areas held a variety of warblers and flycatchers and so I was kept on my toes, checking out the LBJ's (little brown jobs for the uninitiated) as they flicked through the foliage. 

Black-winged Stilts
We enjoyed a casual stroll back to our transport in the surprisingly hot sunshine- shirt sleeve birding- what a bonus! The tracks held singing Cettis and Sedge warblers and the butterfly action was impressive too with a lovely Swallowtail being my favourite. 

Swallowtail Butterfly
A short time later we made a brief stop on the local coast near Pollensa. We enjoyed superb views of a number of species although my personal highlights were Audouin's Gulls and Kentish Plovers.
Audouin's Gull
Kentish Plover
I had often heard of the famous Boquer Valley just outside of Pollensa as a prime birding destination and I was not disappointed. The  woodland on the lower slopes offer a prime habitat for migrants in addition to a dazzling array of resident species. We were soon met with an impressive vista from the lower access path and there were plenty of birds in the foliage- Willow warblers, Mediterranean flycatchers and Redstarts to name a few. 
Stunning vista from the access path to the Boquer Valley.
As we climbed higher, the scenery became increasingly dramatic with towering rocky walls on either side of the scrub filled valley floor. Sub-Alpine warblers sang, Crag Martins hunted for insects overhead, we heard Bee-Eaters bubbling high up the escarpment and saw Peregrine and a migrant Honey Buzzard flying over our heads. Blue Rock Thrushes could be seen on the rocks too- a wonderful selection of birds so close to the town of Pollensa! 
Boquer Valley- a birding mecca!
Honey Buzzard on passage.

Walking and birding was hungry work so we headed for the superb restaurant Cala Barques in nearby Cala San Vincente. I think this is another restaurant where all the superlatives have been used previously but it was really hard not to be impressed- a fantastic location, friendly and helpful staff, a glorious menu and probably the best Paella ever! To cap the stunning views, as we left the restaurant we saw and heard a flock of 15 migrant Bee-eaters overhead- delightful! 

Back in the minibus and we headed excitedly up the high, winding road that leads to the high hills of Cap Formentor. Long regarded as an excellent migration watch point, we were not disappointed seeing Osprey and Montagu's Harrier. The scenery and views were spectacular but most of our party were here for a chance of seeing Balearic Warblers. As if on cue the birds showed well and we had fantastic views of two singing males! 
Balearic Warbler
Very happy birders on the Cap Formentor peninsula- stunning location and top birding!!
By now we had seen so many good birds and visited so many stunning locations that my day was blurring into a kaleidoscope of highlights- but there was more to come as we headed high into the Serra de Tramuntana to go birding around the estate of the Mortitx vineyard and winery. The vineyard is located over 400 metres above sea level in a natural amphitheatre of impressive rocky ridges and surrounded by ancient olive groves. I am lucky to have seen a fair bit of the world on my travels but this location was one of the best I have ever seen. For the next hour or so I enjoyed some very special birding moments- A pair of Bonnellis eagles were scoped whilst sat on the rocks above the vineyard, two vultures- a Griffon and a Cinerous (Black) soared together over the high ridges, a flock of 3 Hobbies hawked for insects, a multitude of Crag Martins and Swallows chased insects, a Woodchat Shrike sat in the olive grove whilst a Cirl Bunting provided excellent views on the vines and a pair of Firecrests were seen displaying with their magnificent crests raised! To further add to the thrill, a Wryneck and a Nightingale sang as we walked around the vines! 

Vinyes Mortitx- a stunning location for wine and birds!

Following the excellent birding, wine tasting tour and traditional Mallorcan food we headed for our accommodation. The following morning we were up early in anticipation of visiting the coast of Cap Formentor- for a vessel charter that would allow us to look for some very special birds! Before boarding the vessel I walked to the harbour in the cool, still air, picking up a number of common passage migrants en-route. 

Early morning stroll through the port of Pollensa

Having boarded our vessel we set off for the impressive rocky peninsula of Cap Formentor- the impressive craggy headlands were even more impressive when viewed from sea level. As we steamed further from the port we got increasingly close to rafts of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater. Although I have seen these birds at various locations previously it was impressive to get such good views of these birds- settled on the sea and also in flight. We were also treated to marvellous views of Scopoli's Shearwaters in addition to several species of the larger gulls. 
Balearic Shearwater
Scopoli's Shearwater

After a rigorous sea-birding session we enjoyed a lavish lunch of traditional Mallorcan food and some wonderfully chilled white wine under the awning of our charter vessel. Refreshed we continued birding and soon encountered our prime target bird of the session- a really smart Eleonora's Falcon! The bird was initially seen under an overhang of a small cliff above the sea but the bird also made several short flights allowing us to get excellent views. 

Eleonora's Falcon

We finished our birding trip with a brief visit to La Gola- a wonderful wetland reserve in Pollensa. There is an excellent visitor centre with friendly and enthusiastic staff and a great selection of birds.  As well as fly-over Egyptian Vultures and Booted Eagle I enjoyed fabulous views of Little Egret and Little-Ringed Plover. Amazingly, this small reserve is right next to the promenade and beach in Pollensa and provides a wonderful, peaceful haven. An ideal spot for a touch of birding during a busy family holiday perhaps! 

La Gola reserve, Pollensa

Little Ringed Plover

I enjoyed a very relaxed birding trip to Pollensa, Mallorca and in two days saw over 70 species. This total could have been much higher had we put in more field time but it was also necessary to explore the dining and accommodation possibilities for visiting birders. If you have a chance to visit Pollensa you will not be disappointed! The Winter and early Spring months provide wonderful birding opportunities, the climate is agreeable, hotels and flights are cheaper than during peak season and there are far less crowds! 

My press visit was at the invitation of the Pollensa town council and the Pollensa Hotels association- I am indebted to both organisations for their friendship, and assistance during the trip. A special word of thanks should go to Alessia Comis at Pidelaluna who worked tirelessly before and during my visit to ensure all the logistical planning ran smoothly. I made many new friends on Mallorca, enjoyed wonderful birding and really can't wait to return! Please see and and  for more information. 


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