A lazy Cattle Egret

A lazy Cattle Egret.

03-01-2020Neville James-Davies

Majorca has seen its fair share of weather this past year, including Storm Elsa and a dry spell that saw several forest fires and the Puerto Pollensa sea plane working overtime. For the nature lover, the island held some great flora and fauna, and 2019 is certainly a time to reflect on another great year. I had Orchids and other plants as lifers and a great variety of birds seen at various locations – which although may not be especially rare, they would have (at the time) got my heart racing, so on that score they are all worth a mention. 2020 will be a busy time for me on Majorca, with my new bird book out in January covering 31 sites and 340 species of birds (article to follow on this soon), to an interview on Radio 1 Majorca and a book launch and signing at La Gola.

So, some of my more memorable sightings from 2019 in no particular order have included watching 132 Greater Flamingo’s one afternoon at the Albufereta Marsh. This is a really good number for this site as was a sighting one day of not one but four Osprey’s. Two were circling together, gaining height on each turn so this pair was obviously migrating, but the other two were hunting over the marsh, and the one in particular had five failed attempts in a row at catching its dinner. Early winter gave me a good group of Boletus fungi carpeting the ground under the Pines, and it was nice to catch up with Barbary Nut – one of the more uncommon plant species. The Albufera Marsh certainly didn’t disappoint either, with Bug Orchid growing alongside the main path being a great little lifer for me. It was wonderful to see good numbers of waders, such as 12 Spotted Redshanks together in full breeding plumage. The brick-red males in particular looked absolutely stunning. A Savi’s Warbler singing from the reeds and showing well was a lovely sight, and it has been great to watch the Crested Coot and Marbled Duck increase in numbers here too.

Bee OrchidBee Orchid.

Plant lifers throughout the year included several orchid species along with Star Clover, Smilax, Italian Arum, Buttonweed and Mediterranean Cat’s Ear, and Son Real which is known as the Kingdom of Warblers featured in one of my articles for the Bulletin, entitled Kingdom of Orchids instead – where in May I was mesmerised by the abundance of orchids such as Bee, Pyramidal, Bug and Tongue Orchids. It seemed everywhere I looked had groups of orchids growing. The beach at Son Real gave me a lifer in the form of Branched Broomrape, a parasitic species. My friend Cristina Fiol-Paris who runs the great La Gola wetlands site in Puerto Pollensa was telling me about the Bee and Tongue Orchids on site, and I was kindly shown a sub-species of Tongue Orchid as well. But I was also told of another orchid species on the site which would be a lifer for me – and after searching for what seemed like forever, and a few strange looks from passers-by as I stared intently at the ground, I found my lifer – a Mirror Orchid, wow.

The year kept throwing up some great surprises. For example, after watching 50 Rock Doves (of the pure-bred form) at the Boquer Valley I found on the same day a colony breeding in the gorge at Ternelles Valley – where incidentally I enjoyed views of the endemic Balearic Foxglove too. It was also here one late afternoon on my way to the main road where I had a fly-over Ring-necked Parakeet – a bird mainly confined to the south albeit in low numbers. Dawn visits to Albercutx Tower in the spring gave me some good warblers such as Dartford, and an impressive 31 Ravens passing through from their roost site. Similarly, the winter produced good numbers of Alpine Accentors, with seven being a good number together. I found a new wintering site in Cuber for this species as well, with four feeding together from a new path I explored being well worth the effort. It was a great moment to see Moltoni’s Sub-alpine Warbler now a breeding summer visitor to Cuber, sharing similar habitats to the summer breeding Spectacled Warbler. The salt pans in the south produced some great birds throughout the year, with both Glossy Ibis and Spoonbills being some key finds there. Eleven smart Little Stints (including one colour ringed bird) were the highlights of another visit there, and finding a new site for Spotless Starlings at Ses Sallines also made my year.

SpoonbillSpoonbill.

Cala San Vicente in the north has proved a popular stop-off site for me over the years, and this year it paid dividends. This is where I had my first Italian Arum, but a regular spot I know for Roller on migration did not disappoint, and I enjoyed good views of a pair over several days. It was also the time when I discovered a site very close by off a certain section of this road where a Golden Oriole would call continually, and with patience, give me some tantalising views. In fact, this section of the valley has for the past two years now proved a reliable migration stop-off area for these species. This wonderful valley also holds fond memories one year of my first ever Genet and also some not so fond memories of swimming in the cove and getting stung by Jellyfish several times – I swam back towards the beach at a speed Tom Daly would have found hard to beat.

Hoopoe with a Corn Bunting in the backgroundHoopoe with a Corn Bunting in the background.

2019 also saw me finding that an electric fence does work, as I found out the hard way in a delicate region of the body, and much to the amusement of a group of visiting birders sat in their hire car. And even now, many years later, whenever I see my favourite bird the Hoopoe – it always commands my full attention. I never get tired of seeing this awesome resident. In my opinion, if someone is tired of Hoopoes, they must be tired of life? Suffice to say, Majorca holds something for everyone with an interest in the natural world, and it is only fitting for me to say a big thank you to those who have emailed me with positive comments, with thanks to Cristina at La Gola, Christina Buchet and Ashlee at the Bulletin and to Michael Montier for his continued support. Have a great New Year and best wishes for 2020.

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