Birds seen on my Holiday to Mallorca, October 2001
We chose to go for a week's holiday to Mallorca from October 23 to 30 to coincide with our sons' half-term break from school, and because we could fly from our local airport for a reasonable cost. I knew that the north of the island would be good for birds, and chose Las Gaviotas, Alcudia, a hotel quite close to the vast marsh, S'Albufera. We arrived at Palma late in the afternoon, and as we boarded our bus to Alcudia, I noticed lots of White Wagtails going to roost in the palm trees around the coach-park.

As this was a family holiday, I restricted my bird-watching to pre-breakfast walks to the edge of the marsh up to one hour after sunrise. The weather was sunny and dry all week, though the last morning was foggy at dawn.

One of my first sightings during a preliminary visit with the family was of a Great Egret, which became a regular. There were usually 3 on view. Scattered around were several Little Egrets, while Cattle Egrets seemed to leave their roost much later than others. They always flew well away from the marsh, though a few lingered around the local horses, standing on their back. I was very pleased to have close views of a Black-crowned Night-Heron on two mornings as I had not seen one on my previous visits to the marsh about 30 years ago. Grey Herons were common.

Western Marsh-Harriers were present in good numbers, with about 6 usually quartering the marshes though often quite distant. The only other bird of prey I saw at S'Albufera was an Osprey which was looking for its breakfast one morning and on a second morning it seemd to have caught it already.


For me, one of the star species of my visit was the Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) which I saw on every visit except for the foggy last morning. I had overlooked that this species was likely: it certainly was not on my earlier visits, so it was quite a surprise to spot my first. My best view was of one about 30 metres away as it picked up a piece of floating vegetation and proceeded to tear it up with its stout bill.

There was a spectacular sight of a flock of 29 Eurasian Thick-knees (Burhinus oedicnemus), I prefer to call them "Stone Curlews", which flew in and circled around before settling on a dry area of the reserve.

Mallard was the predominant duck in the area I watched, but a group of up to 6 Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) were usually quite close, with a few Northern Pintail and Eurasian Wigeon further away.


Passerines were obviously not so commonly observed in this habitat, but around the edges Cetti's Warblers were frequently bursting into song and regularly seen. Chiffchaffs and Fan-tailed Warblers were silent, but harsh calls usually announced the presence of a Sardinian Warbler. The other two notable passerines were Stonechat which was very common, and a fine male Serin, which I saw only once.

Two other species deserve a mention if only because they too were a complete surprise: Sacred Ibis and Yellow-billed Stork, both of which may be escapes and should be in Africa. I did not see them together but could not resist illustrating them with this stamp from Mauritania on which they both appear. I saw each in flight heading south on only one occasion. The stork appeared out of the mist on my last morning giving me the initial impression of a White Stork, but this soon changed when I could see the red face and drooping yellow bill. Subsequent searches on the web have revealed that both species have occurred previously. In fact a Yellow-billed Stork has been at a marsh near Valencia on the mainland earlier in October and at S'Albufera on 25 June 2001.


Other birds noted were
    Little Grebe
    Black-winged Stilt
    Common Sandpiper
    Greenshank
    Black-headed Gull
    Yellow-legged Gull
    Common Wood-Pigeon
    Collared Dove
    Barn Swallow
    Grey Wagtail
    Blackbird
    Robin
    Black Redstart
    Moustached Warbler
    Blackcap
    House Sparrow
    Greenfinch
    Goldfinch
    Starling
Added 1 November 2001

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