Osprey in the rain

Osprey in the rain.

10-08-2021Neville James-Davies

Some respite has occurred from the high temperatures on Mallorca, with the recent rain bringing some much-needed water for the plants and cooling down the air as well. As lovely as it is to have sunshine, we do need some water as well. Those of you who have vegetable plots will welcome a break from watering when nature does it for you, and the farmers will welcome seeing their crops being well-watered.

Even the wildlife benefits, as some areas such as S’Illot in the north have virtually dried up as have some pools and smaller marsh areas elsewhere on the island. The rain also cools the air down and makes it less heavy and stuffy, and after a good downpour the air smells sweet as if it has been cleaned. But the rain need not put a dampener on things, pardon the pun, you can still go out and about and see wildlife, smell the air and hear the sound of the rain on the canopy above.

Plants are flourishing all over the island now, with fruit trees bearing fruit that have almost reached picking status, so the rain is a welcome respite for all the vegetation on the island, and many plants give off a sweet smell after the rain. The oaks and pines retain their different shades of green from the rains and add their characteristic look across the island. If you know where the migration hotspots are on the island, then the rain can actually be the birdwatcher’s friend.

When guiding groups or even when alone, I know that in the north, both Cap de Formentor and Cases Velles (on the way to the lighthouse) are migration hotspots, probably the best places on the island, and getting into position and waiting for the rain to stop will be a good move, as migrating birds will come down to ground and sit out the heavy rain, and once it stops, there will be movement everywhere, as warblers to buntings, finches to chats and many other species will shake off the water, preen their feathers and feed for a while before continuing with their journey.

Occasionally I get caught out by the rain, and recall a visit once to the Albufereta Marsh with grey skies overhead and some rain forecasted. I decided to chance it and managed to get a visit in to the viewing platform, but the first heavy shower saw me sheltering under the Pine copse, which was fine as I had a Firecrest feeding above me and a Wryneck calling close by and a Water Pipit on the edge of the damp field. I soon moved on to the next hide and after a while the weather seemed to improve, but as I made my way across to the second viewing platform, as if from nowhere, a second heavy shower came down.

Luckily there is an old stone building adjacent to a large Olive tree, and so I tucked myself away in there, ignoring the sheep droppings all around me. Staring out from the doorway across the tilled field ahead of me I could see movement, and scanning with my binoculars I picked out several Dunlin, a Common Redshank, numerous Kentish Plovers and surprisingly a Little Stint all feeding together between the furrows.

Male Common Pochard

I have seen some impressive rain storms here too, and one time as I travelled along the road into Cala San Vicente I had to stop and take a picture of the waterfalls cascading down the ridge. After the rains stop here, a few hours later the roads are already dry and it is hard to believe there was an earlier heavy downpour. Of course, nothing beats sitting out the rain with a cup of coffee or even a beer at a cafe somewhere, tucked under the awning where you can watch the world go by. On other occasions with the weather forecast looking very wet, I have made my way quickly to the hides at the Albufera, especially the CIM hide near to the reception or the Bishop 1 hide further over.

Here, I can hide in the hide, and have spent many an hour sat inside, with the sound of the rain pounding on the roof, and rain drops dancing in ‘tektite’ shapes on the surface of the water. I always make sure I have some water with me and of course the customary almond cakes bought from my friend who owns the Spar shop opposite the Habitat Apartments in Puerto Pollensa.

Although waterbirds in particular produce oil which they preen their feathers with to keep them waterproof (and warm), there comes a time when the rain can even dampen their moral, and when a waterbird which spends every moment out in the elements has to seek shelter that tells you that even they get fed up with the rain sometimes. From one of these hides, I once watched a pair of Black-winged Stilts huddling up close to a large rock in the water, trying to shelter from the worst of the rain, and a Common Pochard with a fed-up expression on its damp face.

A wet Albufereta Marsh

Some birds will simply carry on feeding as though it was a calm day, the Mute Swans and Greylag Geese in particular, but most birds will sit it out and take the time amongst the cover of the trees to preen their feathers back into good working order. As soon as the rain eases or stops, it is back to feeding business for them, as like them, the insects will start to emerge as they will be looking for food also.

The rains top up the water sources, from the reservoirs to the streams, woodland pools and roadside puddles, and these will be visited by birds needing a drink, or to take advantage and bathe in the fresh water. The damp fields will attract Cattle Egrets, Yellow Wagtail and waders such as the Common Sandpiper to feed, sometimes in good numbers. Sometimes it is nice to take a walk in a wooded area during the rain, as not only does the vegetation give off sweet aromas, but the sound of the rain on the canopy above is very soothing, as are the sounds as the rain drops crash through the canopy to bash on the understorey leaves below.

Waterfall in Cala San Vicente

And for those brave enough (or daft enough), then some sea watching when the winds are high are a must. I like to get myself down to Far de Cap Ses Sallines in the south when a good storm is occurring out at sea, as I know many of the seabirds will venture closer to shore, where armed with my telescope, I will be scanning just above the waves for Balearic and Cory’s Shearwaters, perhaps a Storm Petrel if I am lucky on that day, but certainly Gannets passing, with Sandwich Terns close in, and rafts of Shag sat on the bobbing waves. So, the rain in Spain doesn’t just fall on the plains, it falls on the Balearic islands too, but whilst it can be a hindrance, it also has its benefits. Enjoy!

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