Sunday, 12 April 2015

5th April - Es Blanquer; Punta De n'Amer; Salobrar de Campos & Cap Blanc, Majorca

We had a car for two days so were able to get around the island, when you weren't stuck behind a huge peloton of cyclists.  They were everywhere, the whole island seemed either there to cycle or run, there was never a moment when you didn't see someone engaging in some form of exercise.

We set of Early from the hotel, heading east and then inland to a landscape known as Es Blanquer, (meaning "the White land") close to Maria de la Salut which consists of off white low lyingclay textured fields almost all planted to cereals such as wheat, oats or barley.  On the higher ground the cereals give way to wild olives, almond and other trees, sufficient to form small copses.

It was a lovely morning, not a cloud in the sky, and that wonderful light.  We turned on to the minor ropad and drove slowly through the fields, turning off to park by a derelict building with a male Stonechat on the roof.  As I stepped out of the car all I could hear was the sound of birds and the occasional buzz of a bee as it flew past.  It felt wonderful, and is extremely difficult to describe to allow anyone to share the experience, the best I can come up with is calming.

Wonderful lush green fields and a lovely blue sky just set the scene perfectly.

The dominant song was the jangling song of the Corn Bunting, a bird I am still hoping will return to the farms around Four Marks.  The jangling song is often likened to the shaking of a bunch of keys.  They usually deliver the song from a post or prominent position.  This one was from a tall reed.

A large bunting, and rather nondescript, but for me I love to hear them singing.

The other repeated song / call was that of the Fan-tailed Warbler, or Zitting Cisticola, a small sandy brown and dark streaked bird.

It signals its presence with a wide circulal undulating flight from which it sings a monotonous repetition of a short sharp note uttered for long periods with regular second long pauses that sounds like "dzip, dzip, dzip".  If it wasn't for that it would probably just be another difficult LBJ.

We scanned the woods away in the distance, and I found a very distant Woodchat Shrike.  I am not having much luck with this species.

A Nightingale started singing from the copse next to the farm buildings, the lovely notes adding to the calm and peaceful atmosphere.  We walked slowly along the lane watching a Kestrel on a farm building roof, and then saw it fly off as a Booted Eagle drifted across the field. 

We turned back to wards the car reluctantly, but the birds were very distant, and there were other places we wished to explore.

Back at the car we looked across towards the north east, the sun was casting a mist across the landscape, and the distant church and windmill was shrouded in a hazy sky.

The building by the car had a rustic quality with bramble that was getting a lot of attention from bees.

It really was a lovely peaceful place.

Our next stop was to be Punta de n'Amer, a headland on the east coast of the island.  The area consists of pine woods on ancient sand dunes, juniper scrub, coastal garrique, areas of foraging for cattle and a low rocky coast line.

We arrived just after 10.00 am and it was already beginning to get busy, clearly a popular spot.  We walked along the main path by the sea, lovely red bumble bees were nectaring on the trefoil like plants that were flowering low to the ground.

From the juniper bushes a male Stonechat was singing, but was also getting a lot of attention from a bee for some reason, maybe it was the colour of the bird that was attracting.  The bird was unconcerned.

Rather than follow the masses along the main path we turned in land over the dunes alongside a pine wood.  Several areas were fenced off to protect the fragile dunes.  A shape under a tree caught my eye, it was a long way off, but it looked familiar.

We were able to get a little closer, and I was able to confirm my suspicion, a Stone Curlew sitting in the shade of the pine tree.  But it was still a long way off for a good photograph.

Just to confirm for real, it called and was then joined by another a little further away.

Several butterflies could be seen, mostly the Wall Browns we had been seeing so far, but then a blue butterfly, it settled on the ground.

Was it just a Common Blue, it looked like one, then it turned and closed the wings to show the underside and confirmed it.

As we watched the butterfly another song rang out that I hadn't heard for a while, a flat trilling.  I turned and scanned through the pines, I was lucky to find the owner in an open part of the branches, a Cirl Bunting.

Like the Corn Bunting the head is thrown back in song, and the bill wide open.

The last time I had seen one was when I took my Dad on a walk around the coast of Wembury, just outside Plymouth in Devon.  They are a lovely bunting, with the bright yellow of a Yellowhammer and the russet brown and green markings.

We walked slowly close to the trees listening to the song of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.  Helen then picked up a bird close to the ground, the flickering tail unmistakable, a male Redstart.  Unfortunately it was not very cooperative and as we tried to get close it would fly off.  This was the best shot I could get.

It flew across in front of us and perched on a gate where it was joined by a Spotted Flycatcher, but both managed to evade any attempt to allow a photograph.

We followed the sandy trails through the bushes, avoiding the bikes and people, as I turned a corner I saw a white flash at the top of a bush.  It was yet another Woodchat Shrike.  It was still a fair way off, but it was close enough for a photograph to show what it was.

Then it was off and I couldn't see it.  We walked around and then I found it again.  This time it was much better.  A wonderful bird, with the magic of being a shrike.

I edged ever closer.

Continually looking around and down.

We walked on, making our way through the bushes along the small paths, in places we could see away to the south across the bay.  The blue sea contrasting with urbanization of the coast line.

At the centre of the area was an old castle that had a cafe, the main attraction for a lot of tourists, so we made our way towards it, we had not had a large breakfast, and coffee was very welcome.  As we walked towards the cafe, the area opened up into a wonderful flower meadow full of daisies and other yellow flowers.

After the very welcome coffee we made our way down the main path.  We were not alone and didn't like it so at the first opportunity took a sandy trail in the direction of the sea.  This was to be a master stroke.  Along both sides of the trail were orchids, all in bloom.  First was this lovely Sawfly Orchid.

As we looked at the flowers a butterfly passed us, it wasn't orange or blue, but in fact green.  It settled on a bush, a Green Hairstreak.

It very kindly moved to give more views.

Leaving the butterfly we found more orchids.  This is a bumble bee orchid, although to me it looks more like a plucked chicken ready for the oven.

This is a slightly different variation of the Sawfly Orchid we saw at first, but it is the same species.

This is a wonderfully detailed flower, the Mirror-bee Orchid.

Absolutely amazing detail and colour. 

Finally, a little more delicate compared to the others is this orchid, I think it is a Toothed Orchid

In total Majorca has 60 species of orchid, here we found four, and they were wonderful.

We made our way back to the car, and set off for the next port of call Salobrar de Campos, an extensive area of shallow brackish water which becomes highly saline in pools filled with sea water for salt extraction which provides plenty of acquatic invertbrates, an attraction for many birds.

We followed the small road that ran alongside the pools, this was quite busy though as it led to a beach, and there was always cars passing through.  We managed to find a place where we could pull off the road and park the car, and then walked around the edge of the pools.

The first thing to strike us was the number of Avocets, mostly paired up, for once they far outnumbered the Black-winged Stilts.

As I scanned across the open lagoons I found a pair of Ruff feeding in the water.

Then all three came together, its not often you can get these three all in one view.

There were Kentish Plovers on the sandy spits, and Serins singing from the surrounding trees.  Scanning more of the lagoons found two Spotted Redshanks.

And a single Greenshank.

Away at the back of the lagoons two Booted Eagles were circling above the trees.  They were a long way off, but the dark trailing edge to the wings against the paler body was diagnostic.

Back on the lagoons the Black-winged Stilts had woken up and had started to chase each other around the islands and water.  They seem to be able to synchronise their landing.

We left the lagoons and made our way around the round to see if we could get closer to the eagles, but the road led only to the beach and we turned around and came back.  One of the fields was full of daisies and buttercups, and looked wonderful.

From here our next destination was Cap Blanc, an area of pine woods, wild olive, heather maquis and unvegetated land.  It is known as Marina and represents low lying land.  Cap Blanc is known as the Marina de Llucmajor, and is seen as a very good example of the ecosystem.

However maybe it was the time of day, but when we arrived it was extremely quiet.  We set off walking through the barren dry area with was dominated by rocks and scrubby bushes.  A yellow butterfly flew past us, a Swallowtail but it didn't stop.  In fact we saw several, but only one stopped for me, but didn't stay long enough to get a photograph.  We made our way to the edge of the cliffs and looked out towards the west.

There were Sardinian Warblers, and Tawny Pipits, the latter never stopping of showing long enough.  I saw what I thought was a Blackbird fly from a bush, and head towards a telegraph pole.  I am not sure what made me check it, but I am glad I did it was a Blue Rock Thrush, and a lifer for me.

Unfortunately it did not allow me to get any closer, and flew off as I tried.

Sylvia warblers were flitting about in the low bushes, hiding themselves but giving away their presence with quiet calls.  Just to complicate matters there was also a few Great Tits which would send you chasing them around the bushes.  One warbler did appear, and the identification has given me a problem.  First, because when I saw it all I could see was grey I considered it to be a Marmora's Warbler, a female, but I still have a nagging feeling it may be a Balearic Warbler after looking closely at the photograph.

As we were walking around the scrub searching for more warblers we came across another group of orchids.  A slight variation on the Bumble Bee Orchid we had seen earlier in the day (istill think it looks like an oven ready chicken!)>

We were heading back to the car, and just as we reached it a blue butterfly passed us.  It, unlike the Swallowtails settled on a blade of grass and we could see it was again a Common Blue.

Just as we were about to pull away from the car park Helen spotted a Hoopoe in a pine tree, as I struggled to get the camera out once again it flew off with those lovely black and white butterfly like wings.

Our journey now would take us to Can Pastilla and Playa de Palma, it was not just a journey in distance but a journey in time, just under 33 years ago Helen and I had traveled to Majorca on different planes and met each other the first night.  We visited the hotels we stayed in on those holidays, and saw the place where we met all those years ago.  It was a very emotional time, and had a strange feel.  The hotels were still very much the same, but refurbished and modern.  But it was like you were being given the chance to look back at your life, and I could see exactly what I was doing then by the pool.  I am so glad we did this it was very moving.

After a drink in a bar on the sea front we headed back to the hotel, a very satisfying day in many different ways.

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