Monday 24th June
Off the leash today, down at S’albufera for 08.00 and it’s hot. Shoot – even arriving at this time I’m taking one of the last spaces in the car park. On the yomp from the car park I worked out why I got it wrong about the roost the other day, I’d been looking in the wrong place on Gran Canal due to my remembering things as they were last time. Vegetation grows over time and the open area I remember is now full of reeds and trees. Got good views of both cattle and little egret at the roost but couldn’t find any night herons. Once more had good, though brief, views of Cetti’s from the path to the Visitor Centre.
I started my exploration of the reserve by following the Sa Roca loop this took in a couple of hides and an observation hill. The first hide, Sa Roca overlooks what should have been a decent wetland but with all the hot dry weather now looked like a desert in places. First holiday tick of the day, purple gallinule (they are not swamp-hens – end of!) a nice adult plodding across one of the few bits of open water. A moorhen that swam by really gave you a sense of the size of the gallinule.
There was a constant stream of egrets flying over, both cattle and little along with an occasional purple heron. The black-winged stilts were pretty vocal, then I saw the chick and realised why they were giving all the other birds grief. Even the Kentish plovers were getting flown at. There a couple of common terns in the area occasionally landing on a dead bough. Plus all the usual suspects, spot fly, house spuggy, Sardinian warbler and wood pigeons. After about thirty minutes here I moved on to the next hide, Es Ras, this looked out over the same area but from 1/4 past rather than 1/2 past (clock face).
So much the same sort of birds again or so I thought until I caught sight of a brown blob across the other side of the dustbowl, a curlew I guessed. Getting the scope on it proved me almost right, it was a stone curlew! The bird was pretty relaxed and I was able to watch it for almost 10 minutes before it disappeared in to the scrub. I even remembered to get some pictures of it as strutted through the vegetation. I took my cue from the bird and quit the hide shortly after it disappeared.
Following the path around I was hearing nightingales in several places but could not get as much as a fleeting glimpse of one. The observation hill, basically a mound giving views over the lagoon and reedbed, was the next stopping place but sadly there was nothing to see from the top. However in a dyke at the bottom of the mound I found my first lifer of the trip, red-knobbed (crested) coot, a couple of tagged birds which seemed to be a pair. Wandered a bit further along the path and heard great reed warbler singing, couldn’t at first locate the bird but then found it across the water of a small pool and almost at the top of a reed, not where I’m used to seeing ordinary reed warblers. Managed a couple of record shots of the bird.
Arriving back at the visitor centre, the choice now was whether to head off North or South, North won and I started the walk to the Es Colombar hide, there were a couple of viewing platforms on the way but there was naff all to view unfortunately. No major sightings anywhere along the path unless you count a swallowtail butterfly that just wouldn’t stop still for a moment. The approach to the hide is via raised decking and health and safety went out the window when it was built, the wooden slats of the deck are various widths / thicknesses and it makes for interesting walking. Once in the hide I was looking out on a landscape that at first was difficult to understand, then I realised that the white stuff stuck in the bushes was probably Izal or the local equivalent. So that was where the smell came from the other night…
However there were birds here, egrets and ducks and little ringed plovers! Was not expecting them, and not breeders. There were also little grebe in abundance. Way over at the back of the area were a couple of ducks that took some time to id, one was a female red-crested pochard which was a mere trip tick, but the other was another life tick, a marbled duck. Sadly the marble was too far away to get even a rubbish record shot, I was only able to id after prolonged views with my scope up at 40x and second guessing the heat haze.
After the lifer there really wasn’t anything to keep me in the hide so I meandered back towards the visitor centre, calling in at the Es Cibollar hides on the way. The first one was good, shelduck, common tern and chicks, more black-winged stilts and another stone curlew, this time not very far away. I prepared myself for a long wait and sure enough the bird started ambling towards the hide.
I took several photos over the course of the next few minutes and then it all went wrong. A family entered the hide, 3 generations youngest in backpack on its Dad’s shoulders, none of them birders (no bins). They were quiet enough and the stone curlew kept coming closer, then the middle generation committed the cardinal sin of sticking a camera out the hide window to capture a view. I quickly got through to them that this was not good but the damage was done the stone curlew was spooked and it beat a hasty retreat to further away than when I first saw it.
I managed to stay calm and tried my best with my schoolboy german to explain that putting hands out the hide was not good as it frightened the birds. I’d forgotten the words for go, now, before, I, murder, you so couldn’t quite explain how narked I was. I stayed in the hide for a while longer in the hope that the stone curlew would return but sadly it was not to be. Another couple came into the hide, this time at least one of them were birders as he had bins, the chap got onto the stone curlew but was having difficulty getting through to his other half what she should be looking for. I offered her my camera to look at to see the pictures I’d taken of the bird. We managed to communicate successfully and she got a decent view of the bird eventually. At this point I left the first hide and made my way to the second one, a mistake as there was less to see from this hide. In fact no birds at all so I decided to head back to the visitor centre and plan my next move.
So where next, I hadn’t a clue, so after looking at the map and reviewing the water bottle I decided to go clockwise as that would mean a shorter journey to the car if I had to cut things short. The path here overlooks Ses Puntes to the left and Es Ras to the right, or it would do if the reeds weren’t so high. The walking wasn’t the best as the path although not tarmac was just as bloody hard. I had plenty of fan-tailed warblers, Sardinian warblers and goldfinches but no new species over the first half of the path. As I approached the Ses Puntes Deck observation platform I saw a large raptor with a small bird harassing it away to the left, at first I thought it was something like a marsh harrier with a thrush or something doing the harassing. After getting the bins on the smaller bird I realised it was an Eleonora’s falcon, which meant that the other bird had to be huge! Thankfully a common buzzard also started getting annoyed about the big birds presence and came up to dispute things, this gave me a good size indicator, the big bird was roughly twice the size of the buzzard. Turns out that it isn’t a mega-tick, rather an escapee golden eagle that hangs about down there so not a tick by any stretch of imagination BOO!
Consolation was achieved quite quickly with my first bee-eater of the trip and also my first in Majorca so a double tick. Followed up by a woodchat shrike and another Cetti’s warbler. At this point my water bottle was looking a little bit lean so discretion being the better part of valour I thought it prudent to turn back. I’d reached the corner by the depuradora gates by this time but as the sun was pretty hot I didn’t want to get into difficulties any further into the reserve so turned back to walk to the car. I was rewarded by a fairly close in osprey that sadly didn’t hang around long enough to get a picture but I did manage to get a shot of a yellow wagtail, one of the subspecies rather than the all yellow bird.
It was just short of 3.00pm when I got back to the car, so my 2 litres of water had lasted me 7 hours in the field, not bad but I was wishing I’d taken 2 bottles. A bite to eat wouldn’t have gone amiss either. I’d meant to stop and get a sarnie but in my rush to get a parking space I had forgotten all about food. Those who know me will find that last sentence hard to believe.