Sanderling. | Neville James-Davies


One of the reasons I visit the Albufera in May, is not just for the variety of birds on offer, but for orchids including the Bug and Giant Orchids, but also for one special species - the Marsh Orchid (Orchis robusta). The Albufera is the only place they are found on Mallorca, and I know of one spot away from the crowds, where they grow annually and in good numbers.

Recently, I was delighted to see across a damp field at my regular spot, around 200 flower spikes amongst the Buttercups and Daisies. The Latin word ‘robusta’ refers to the size and sturdiness of this gorgeous, deep, purple-coloured orchid, a real eye opener when seen. It is a slender looking plant, reaching a height of 80cm, with long, narrow leaves which are long-pointed. A real delight to see.

Marsh Orchid
Marsh Orchid.

Also a delight when seen, is a rare migrant on Mallorca, the Sanderling (Calidris alba), on the beach recently at Son Real where I was looking for plants amongst other things. The name derives from the Old English ‘sand ploughman’. The genus name is from Ancient Greek kalidris, a term used by Aristotle for some grey-coloured waterside birds.

The specific alba, is Latin for ‘white’. On my recent visit, a pair were feeding along the edge of the water, running back and forth like clockwork toys, and allowing me some close views. They have a short, straight bill and a loud ‘plitt’ flight call. Shrimps and Kelp Flies form their food especially on migration. Sanderling are great fun to watch, as they adopt their characteristic method of feeding on sandy shores by running in and out of the surf. The hind toe is missing in this species, possibly as an aid to running along the shore.