The Hoopoe. | Neville James-Davies

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Having recently visited all of the birdwatching sites on Mallorca, it was evident this time that the species numbers were not as numerous as in previous years. However, one species I always love to see is the Hoopoe (Upupa epops), and I have not been disappointed recently, with a good number seen, especially at Son Real.

I love listening to the ‘hoopooopoop’ call which is so familiar. The first syllable of the name ‘epi’ means ‘over’ (or above), and ‘ops’ is the Greek word for an ‘eye’. Despite their character and beautiful plumage, they do have a sinister past, where the Greek playwright Aristophanes (446-386 BC) states King Tereus was transformed into a Hoopoe by the Gods as punishment for his crimes. An association with the occult is found in Aristotle and Pliny’s works.

But for me, if I saw a hundred in a day, I would stop to look at each one, they are magical birds. Anti-predatory defences are used at the nest site, with the female producing a foul-smelling liquid which can be directed at an intruder. This secretion smells like rotting fish. Young birds in the nest can direct their faeces at unwanted visitors.

The Tolpis
The Tolpis.

Another species worth keeping an eye out for is the Tolpis (Tolpis barbata), flowering April to June, and standing out in the sand and coastal regions, where it always reminds me of miniature Sunflowers. Belonging to the Daisy family, the striking yellow flowers are only 5cm across, with a pale centre at first that matures to a dark chocolate colour, surrounded by yellow petals.

Reaching no more than 30cm high, this slender annual is a real eye opener when seen. Once you see these little plants, it inspires you to want to explore the coastal areas further, and at this time of year, another eye-catching yellow plant to look for is Yellow-horned Poppy - especially prevalent along the coast road between Puerto Pollensa and old Alcudia.