My wife and I booked a flight-only deal to Mallorca at short notice with a hire car for the first few days, planning to arrange accommodation later. This was a family holiday: I was then new to birding, having only taken up the hobby in May 1989 – so this was my first foreign birding trip.
Given that this was my first foreign birding trip, I was looking to learn and see what I could.
If memory serves, I booked a Thomas Square Deal flight only and we paid £49 return for each adult and our 18-month-old son came free.
First three nights in an apartment in Puerto de Alcudia then the rest of the time in a mobile home at the Sun Club Picafort next to S’Albufera. N.B this campsite has not existed for a number of years; it is now a bungalow park of some sort.
Can’t remember what I did about car-hire – I think I fixed up 4 days in the UK before we left.
Field, Travel and Site Guides used: I think back then we were using Shell Guide and still Heinzel, Fitter & Parsloe (hereafter HFP). Site guides were probably provided by Steve Whitehouse’ reports.
It was generally warm or hot & sunny with a couple of rain storms.
Tuesday, 22nd May 1990
Landed at Palma de Mallorca Airport, picked up hire car and drive to Puerto de Alcudia.
Birds en route were House Sparrow, Common Swift, Feral Pigeon, Corn Bunting, House Martin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch. Arriving at Puerto de Alcudia I saw my first Yellow-legged Gull and Serin, the latter being common in the right habitat. We found accommodation in an apartment in Puerto de Alcudia. Overnight heard a pair of Scops Owl calling to each other but could not see the birds.
Wednesday, 23rd May 1990
Awoke early and drove to the edge of Albufera Marshes where I began birding at 06.35. Immediately heard Cetti’s Warbler calling loudly and noted that the birds seem to be less skulking than in Britain and to have broader habitat tastes. Onto the marshes had more Yellow-legged Gulls, then Kestrel, Coot, Stonechat, Goldfinch, Mallard. The clear song of Nightingale rang out and I noted that contrary to comments in HFP these birds do sing from very dense cover in the Mediterranean! After this I got clear views of my first Sardinian Warbler, then heard a Reed Warbler. Black-winged Stilt were very evident, I saw further Swifts and then the conspicuous sights and sounds of Zitting Cisticola (at that time more often called Fan-tailed Warbler) were observed. I recognised the bird by its size, call and jizz and after getting several close views I noted that the HFP illustrations were of little use. The next birds seen were Spanish Yellow Wagtail, Moorhen, Little Ringed Plover and Swallow. Having originally noted Sedge Warbler on checking field guides and notes later I realised I had seen and heard my first Moustached Warbler. Brief flight views were my first of Hoopoe, followed by the clear call of a Cuckoo. Next a Grey Heron followed by spending a long time looking at larks, which I eventually identified as Short-toed Lark. Left at 08.55 to return to Puerto de Alcudia.
Early in the afternoon, headed to the beach around El Arenal in west Alcudia Bay. There was a fresh northerly breeze and the weather was cloudy and warm. A walk to a lagoon on the beach produced Kentish Plover. Later, back on the beach with the family, a star bird landed 20 yards away – Audouin’s Gull with its blood red bill circled with a black ring. I also noted the bird’s elegance and its size as intermediate between Common and Yellow-legged Gulls; it’s long wings with only one or two mirrors on the black tips. I also had further Audouin’s in flight. Soon after, and again from the comfort of the beach towel, came the chance to tick Cory’s Shearwater. I noted around 8 in the bay. The birds were shearing ‘more vertically’ than a Gannet, and around the size of Yellow-legged Gull with a clear light/dark contrast on lower/upper bodies. I later found another wooded lagoon in which I noted 12+ Nightingales, 4 Cetti’s Warbler, 2 pairs of Sardinian Warblers, 12 Kentish Plovers and 2 or 3 more Audouin’s Gulls. I heard a Blackcap singing and noted a kinglet singing (but didn’t tick as I didn’t see it). Next, I heard Chiffchaff in song, saw Blackbird, Blue Tit, Linnet, a pair of Wheatear and then the final lifer of the day, Woodchat Shrike.
Thursday, 24th May 1990
Weather was fine and still and I set off early for Bocquer Valley and called into S’Albufereta at 06.20 en route. There I noted 6 Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Spanish Wagtail, Swifts and House Sparrow.
I arrived at the Bocquer Valley at 07.00 where I saw Goldfinch and House Sparrows. I noted originally a Whitethroat, but on reflection this song could have been Sardinian or Balearic Warbler – I wasn’t too hot on such things back in 1990! There were Corn Bunting and Woodchats around as well as a Spotted Flycatcher. Then Linnet, a species of gull (that I noted as Common but since found that this would be rare for the location), Stonechat and Wren, Blackbird, Kestrel and Chaffinch. Then the first lifer of the site and one I greatly enjoyed, Cirl Bunting. Thereafter I saw Greenfinch, Great Tit, then the highlight of the morning, an active Wryneck. Left the valley at 09.00 and called back into S’Albufereta briefly where the weather was still fine and with a light SW wind. This site produced my very first Osprey, circling low over the marsh with an enormous fish in its talons.
Later at Alcudia Marina I found 3 Cormorant roosting. In the afternoon we headed out towards the Formentor Peninsular. I noticed what looked like a Chough on the windy road to the first viewpoint (although in retrospect I wonder if it was a Raven). However, no doubt from the excellent and close views I had of 3 Crag Martin from the viewpoint. Onto Cabo Formentor hoping for raptors or Rock Thrush but nothing doing. Did not have time to look for Marmora’s Warbler so will have to return for this! A nesting colony of Swifts were present and no shearwaters were to be seen. Finally at 6pm we went to Formentor beach where noted 4/5 kinglets as well as Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff.
Friday, 25th May 1990
Relocated this morning from our apartments in Alcudia to a caravan on the campsite Sun Club Picafort. This is right next to Albufera Marshes and it proved a great place to stay from a birding perspective. From the edge of the campsite I noted 8/10 Black-winged Stilts and they soon mobbed me! Also 4 Little Egrets, a Greater Flamingo (no i.d. problems here!) and singing Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola and probable Moustached and possible Great Reed Warbler. At 21.30 in the evening I noted a pair of falcons hawking insects over the campsite. Silhouettes superficially similar to Kestrel but bigger birds with shorter head and longer tail. Main distinctive was strong flight with broader, slightly less pointed wings, with no hovering. Some flap and glide in flight, the birds appeared very dark. No question that these were Eleonora’s Falcon.
Saturday, 26th May 1990
After four days with a car, today I was driving it back to Palma, then catching a bus back to C’an Picafort. Decided to drive via Cuber Reservoir in the hope of picking up Black Vultures. When I arrived at the woods at the entrance to the area I noted Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Nightingale. On the stony slopes I noted Stonechat and then found a Tawny Pipit together with Goldfinch, female Blackbird (which I originally thought was a Rock Thrush), a further Tawny Pipit and Wren. Down by the dam I noted House Martin and Greenfinch. Another Nightingale was actually quite conspicuous, I also noted female House Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher and Serin. Finally, I got the real target of Cinereous Vulture (aka European Black Vulture). Noted as ‘massive: Golden Eagle-sized; very pointed fingers on broad wings.’ The bird was unmistakable. Also saw 3 Eleonora’s Falcons clearly.
Back at Sun Club Picafort at 20.30 a large group of more than 100 Swifts over the campsite and at 21.00 2 Eleonora’s Falcons were hawking insects for about 25 minutes.
Sunday, 27th May 1990
Weather was drizzly, clearing at lunchtime. On the campsite I had Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Swallow, then Woodchat as we walked to the beach.
At 16.00 I took a walk to a new site, Albufera Saltpans (on the edge of the marshes). Here I had Cetti’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, then a great of a Great Reed Warbler. Also Yellow-legged Gull, Little Egret, Coot, Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Mallard and two Sanderling (noted as Dunlin-sized wader with black bill, white underparts, black legs, purplish on head with a mottled rufous back) feeding with two Little Ringed Plovers. Delighted to see four Bee-eaters at a sandpit, also nearby 3 Cormorants, a Linnet, a Short-toed Lark and a group of House Sparrows. Finally, picked up a Hoopoe, 2 Spanish Wagtails, many Greenfinch and cracking views of Woodchat before heavy rain came at 17.00.
Monday, 28th May 1990
A cloudy and damp morning followed by a sunny afternoon with a fresh westerly wind. Took a walk along the dunes at C’an Picafort and saw Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Woodchat Shrike, Greenfinch, Corn Bunting, Linnet, Serin, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler and House Sparrow. Moving on the Salinas I saw Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Kestrel, Little Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Little Egret and Woodchat Shrike. Back at the campsite at 14.15 there was another Woodchat Shrike, a Blackbird and Serin. Also 20+ Sand Martin were flying over the back of the campsite.
Between 14.40 and 18.15 walked from Albufera road onto the reserve with Lotty & Sam. Weather was clear with strong force 5-6 wind. There were numerous Purple Heron flying over, Great Reed and Moustached and Cetti’s Warblers singing, House Sparrow, and Audouin’s Gull. As I had hoped, I managed to see a pair of Marsh Harrier and noted it was flying low over reeds, slowly wheeling, rising and falling. Brown medium-sized with long wings less broad than Buzzard. Less more flapply than I expected. One bird brown above and below, the other showered a lighter colour (not distinctly grey) in broad bars towards outer wing and some white on head. Mainly hunting together.
At 21.15 over the campsite a single Eleonora’s Falcon hawking insects as before. At 21.40 I noted what I am now convinced was a Long-eared Owl (flat facial disc, medium-longish rounded wings, medium-short tail; similar in size to Eleonora’s Falcon; flight was fast and buoyant; twisting and wheeling, rising and falling) flying south over the campsite.
Tuesday, 29th May 1990
A fine and mild morning with a light NW wind (2-3). Between 06.15 & 08.15 I walked to the Albufera Saltpans and sandpits. Good variety of birds, particularly waders (with some mysteries for me as I was new to the game back in 1990). Certainly saw a couple of Eleonora’s Falcon, a Common Sandpiper, 3 Redshank, 3 summer plumage Sanderling, 5 Little Ringed Plover, and 10 or more Kentish Plover. Saw a pair of Greenshank when a Marsh Harrier flew over. On the second salina was a winter plumage Grey Plover and then a mystery gull which looked a bit Slender-billed but in the end seems more likely as Black-headed Gull. Next I had my first Night Heron, observed both in flight and then again with a group of Little Egret and also the Flamingo is still there. Other birds seen were Black-winged Stilt another Black-headed Gull, 30 Mallard, Great Reed & Moustached Warblers, Serin, 3 Hoopoe, Cisticolas, 2 Woodchat Shrike, Greenfinch, 3 Bee-eater, House Sparrow, 5 Corn Bunting, Goldfinch and a Stonechat.
Wednesday, 30th May 1990
Fine and warm with cloudy spells. Wind westerly (2-3). Between 07.15 & 08.15 I birded the Albufera Salt Pans and woods to the sea. Most birds I saw were similar to yesterday. Again, couldn’t positively identify Firecrest. Highlights were great views of Audouin’s Gull feeding up and down Playa de Muro. Nice Kestrel flew over woods by camp to compare with heavier Eleanora’s Falcon.
Thursday, 31st May 1990
Fine and very hot. No birding.
Friday, 1st June 1990
Fine and hot again. Between 06.40 and 08.10 birded the wood north-east of campsite and Albufera Salt Pans. Took me ages, but I eventually got decent site of Firecrest. Also Turtle Doves on wires opposite campsite. I noted regular birds seen in the area as I was then month-listing (!)
At 21.30 the highest count of 8 Eleonora’s Falcon.
Saturday, 2nd June 1990
Fine, clear and hot. No birding (perhaps in part because this was our 5th wedding anniversary!)
Sunday, 3rd June 1990
Fine, clear and hot. A Woodchat Shrike was on the campsite in the morning.
12.30-14.00. Can’t remember how we got there (by bus perhaps) but birded the Bocquer Valley with Lotty and Sam. First a Hoopoe seen at the development site and Sardinian Warblers were around a farmyard. Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Serin and Linnets were everywhere in the valley. Then found a Blue Rock Thrush (which I might well have dismissed as a Blackbird on a previous visit). The only raptors around were a pair of Kestrel breeding on the rocks. Also noted Rock Dove (which I wondered were my first ‘non-feral’ Rock Doves) along with Crag Martin.
Monday, 4th June 1990
Final full day was again fine and hot with no birding. 4 attractive Eleonora’s Falcon feeding for 20 minutes from 21.25.
Tuesday, 5th June 1990
Early start, taking the bus back to Palma Airport and home.
Mallard - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 & 29 May 1990
Cory’s Shearwater - El Arenal, 23 May 1990
Great Cormorant - Alcudia Marina, 24 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May 1990
Black-crowned Night Heron - Albufera Salt Pans, 29 May 1990
Little Egret - Sun Club Picafort, 25 May; May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27, 28 & 29 May 1990
Grey Heron - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; S’Albufereta, 24 May 1990
Purple Heron - S’Albufereta, 24 May; Albufera Marshes, 28 May 1990
Greater Flamingo - Sun Club Picafort, 25 May; May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27, 28 & 29 May 1990
Cinereous Vulture - Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
Western Marsh Harrier - Albufera Marshes, 28 May and Salt Pans, 29 May 1990
Osprey - S’Albufereta, 24 May 1990
Common Kestrel - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 28 May 1990
Eleonara’s Falcon - Sun Club Picafort, 25 May and 26 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 29 May
Common Moorhen - Albufera Marshes, 23 May 1990
Eurasian Coot - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May 1990
Black-winged Stilt - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; Sun Club Picafort, 25 May; May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27, 28 & 29 May 1990
Little Ringed Plover - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27, 28 & 29 May 1990
Kentish Plover - El Arenal, 23 May 1990; Albufera Salt Pans, 29 May 1990
Grey Plover - Albufera Salt Pans, 29 May 1990
Sanderling - Albufera Salt Pans, 27, 28 & 29 May 1990
Common Sandpiper - Albufera Salt Pans, 29 May 1990
Common Greenshank - Albufera Salt Pans, 29 May 1990
Common Redshank - Albufera Salt Pans, 29 May 1990
Black-headed Gull - Albufera Salt Pans, 29 May 1990
Audouin’s Gull - El Arenal, 23 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May; ; C’an Picafort, 28 May 1990
Mew Gull - Puerto de Alcudia, 22 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May 1990]
Yellow-legged Gull - Puerto de Alcudia, 22 May; Albufera Marshes, 23 May; S’Albufereta, 24 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May; C’an Picafort, 28 May 1990
Rock Dove - en route to airport to Alcudia, 22 May 1990
Common Cuckoo - heard Albufera Marshes, 23 May 1990
?European Scops Owl? - heard only at Puerto de Alcudia, 22 May 1990
Long-eared Owl - Albufera Marshes, 28 May 1990
Common Swift - en route to airport to Alcudia, 22 May; Albufera Marshes, 23 May; S’Albufereta and Cabo Formentor, 24 May; Sun Club Picafort, 25 May
European Bee-eater - Albufera Sandpits, 27 & 29 May 1990
Hoopoe - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 & 29 May 1990
Eurasian Wryneck - Bocquer Valley, 24 May 1990
Greater Short-toed Lark - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May 1990
Sand Martin - Sun Club Picafort, 28 May 1990
Crag Martin - Formentor Peninsular, 24 May 1990
Barn Swallow - Albufera Marshes, 23 May 1990
Common House Martin - en route to airport to Alcudia, 22 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
Tawny Pipit - Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
Yellow Wagtail - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; S’Albufereta, 24 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May 1990
Winter Wren - Bocquer Valley, 24 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
Common Nightingale - Albufera Marshes; El Arenal, 23 May; Sun Club Picafort, 25 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
European Stonechat - Albufera Marshes, 23 & 29 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
Northern Wheatear - El Arenal, 23 May 1990
Blue Rock Thrush - Bocquer Valley, 2 June 1990
Common Blackbird - El Arenal, 23 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May; Sun Club Picafort, 28 May 1990
Cetti’s Warbler - Albufera Marshes; El Arenal, 23 May; Sun Club Picafort, 25 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May; Albufera Marshes, 28 May 1990
Zitting Cisticola - Albufera Marshes, 23 May; Sun Club Picafort, 25 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 & 29 May 1990
Moustached Warbler - Albufera Marshes, 23 May 1990
Eurasian Reed Warbler - Albufera Marshes, 23, 28 & 29 May
Great Reed Warbler - Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May; Albufera Marshes, 28 & 29 May 1990
Sardinian Warbler - Albufera Marshes; El Arenal, 23 May; C’an Picafort, 28 May 1990
Eurasian Blackcap - El Arenal, 23 May; C’an Picafort, 28 May 1990
Common Chiffchaff - El Arenal, 23 May; Formentor Beach, 24 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
Common Firecrest - Caan Picafort, 1 June 1990
Spotted Flycatcher - Bocquer Valley and Formentor Beach, 24 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
Eurasian Blue Tit - El Arenal, 23 May 1990
Great Tit - Bocquer Valley, 24 May 1990
Woodchat Shrike - El Arenal, 23 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May; ; C’an Picafort, 28 May 1990; Albufera Salt Pans, 28 & 29 May 1990
House Sparrow - en route to airport to Alcudia, 22 May; S’Albufereta and Bocquer Valley, 24 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May; Albufera Marshes, 28 & 29 May 1990
European Greenfinch - en route to airport to Alcudia, 22 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May; ; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 & 29 May; C’an Picafort, 28 May 1990
Serin - Puerto de Alcudia, 22 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May; C’an Picafort, 28 May; Albufera Marshes, 29 May 1990
Common Chaffinch - near Alcudia, 22 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
European Goldfinch - Albufera Marshes, 23 & 29 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May; Cuber Reservoir, 26 May 1990
Common Linnet - El Arenal, 23 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May; Albufera Salt Pans, 27 May; C’an Picafort, 28 May 1990
Cirl Bunting - Bocquer Valley, 24 May 1990
Corn Bunting - en route to airport to Alcudia, 22 May; Bocquer Valley, 24 May; C’an Picafort, 28 May 1990; Albufera Marshes, 29 May 1990
68 Mallorca ticks
68 Spanish ticks
26 WP ticks
Star-bird: Audouin’s Gull
22 May 1990 10 day ticks 2 lifers
23 May 1990 32 day ticks 9 lifers
24 May 1990 24 day ticks 5 lifers
25 May 1990 7 day ticks 2 lifers
26 May 1990 17 day ticks 2 lifers
27 May 1990 21 day ticks 2 lifers
28 May 1990 25 day ticks 1 lifer
29 May 1990 27 day ticks 1 lifer
30 May-4 June 1990 No full day listing noted.