MallorcaR Sept 5th-19th 2003

Little Bittern

As we touched down at Luton airport, I was relieved that the holiday was over! Not because it had been a holiday from hell, but, two weeks away, during September migration!! Who knows what birds I might have missed.

The problem with having a young family is, they want so much of your time! Now don’t get me wrong I love my Wife and Son, but when it comes to getting away from it all, they will not be budged, it has to be hot, sunny and fun (for them). They don’t believe me when I tell them that two weeks in an Ecuadorian rain forest will be good or that Finland is not that cold, the great grey owls seem to like it! This year however we reached a compromise, and decided on the Balearic island of Majorca, Puerto de Alcudia to be precise, or, as I like to think of it, right slap bang in front of the Albufera nature reserve!

Now I’m not going to bore you with what the hotel was like, to be honest it could have been a shack for all I cared, I had far more important things on my mind: How far is the entrance track? And how easy are the Little Bittern? The first answer was a 15 minute walk (although there are hotels on the opposite side of the road from the track, if only I’d known), and the second answer, well that depends on who you are and how your luck holds.

On my first morning there I was a little overwhelmed by the abundance of riches I might see, and spent far too long trying to see every small bird, almost all of which turned out to be Cetti’s warblers, the place was alive with them. If you’ve ever thought “I could never tire of Cetti’s warbler song” one day at the Albufera and that will all change, what I wouldn’t have given for a gag or two! The long walk up the track is one of the most productive areas, with a, tall, reed lined stream to your left and a large canal to the right, most herons can be seen quite well from this area alone. Over the 2 weeks I had 6 heron species and 5 raptors from there including my only two flight views of Squacco heron, dropping in to roost. When you eventually arrive at the information building, and pick up your permit, you can also pick up a list of the birds seen over the previous two weeks, which is very useful as, although they had a big white board for recent sightings it was very rarely in use. The park itself is spread over an enormous area, most of which is tall reeds that cannot be accessed, the few paths that dissect it are well positioned though and allow most areas to be seen, to some extent. And the hides or viewing platforms are all within reasonable distance from the entrance. My first full day there was quite uneventful but did allow me some excellent views of Night heron, Marsh sandpiper and Zitting cisticola (that’s fan-tailed warbler to most), and was spent trying to accustom myself to the area. Hoopoe

On my second visit, things really started to pick up seeing Night heron, Little egret, Cattle egret, Purple heron, Grey heron, the aforementioned Squacco heron, 4 Glossy ibis, and finding what I thought was a major bird in the form of a Sacred Ibis which turned out to be a little like our own “Sammy” up at Titchwell and has been present since 2000. As well as getting more excellent views of Purple Gallinule and a fine view of a dark phase Eleanora’s Falcon that dropped below me whilst I was in the Tower hide.

My 3rd visit saw me adding some more nice birds including no less than 6 Marbled Duck in a small flock, these stunning little ducks put on a great but brief show and were not visible in the afternoon (there are so many small channels for them to slip down its hardly surprising) as well as excellent views of Garganey and my first ever Little Bittern that flew and landed in a tree!! Near the path I was on (I almost passed it off as a duck flying past). No one warns you how small they look. On top of this I managed to locate 8 different warblers and 10 different Herons, including a fine spoonbill.

I had to wait a further 3 days before I could visit again, but was not disappointed, as I added 2 Stone curlew in flight before I was even halfway up the entrance track. As well as seeing 11 species of Wader, 8 species of duck and the usual load of Herons. Visit 5, produced the usual suspects as well as a nice, but distant, White-headed duck an absolutely stunning Wryneck and my only Swift of the trip. Whinchat

On my final day at the park, I had what I would call a red letter day It started well, with 2 separate flocks of Serin feeding along the beach as I walked to the entrance, flocks of Little and Cattle egrets mixed with plenty of Night herons my First Moustache warblers 2 Caspian Terns a group of 7 Hoopoe in 1 field, 2 Glossy ibis and without doubt the bird of the trip in the form of a beautiful Short-Toed Eagle soaring over my head for 5 minutes!! There were many more of the usual birds plus while I watched a Great-white egret fly past the hide I was in (flushed by an Osprey), I almost missed a fine Booted Eagle that was hawking over the reeds. If I thought the day could not get any better, it did, whilst walking back to the Information centre I was alerted to a cacophony of chacks in the bushes, these turned out to be 5-6 Sardinian warblers that were less than pleased to be in the proximity of a Scops Owl which they duly chased off down the canal and into a thicket of bramble. It was the perfect end to the perfect day. And left me with a trip total in excess of 100 species and a camera full of images that I could not wait to get back and paw over.

Below is the full list of the birds I saw.

Little grebe
Black-necked grebe:
Great crested grebe
Little bittern:
Night heron:
Squacco heron
Grey heron
Purple heron
Cattle egret:
Little egret:
Great white egret
Glossy ibis:
Sacred ibis:
Red crested pochard:
Marbled duck (teal):
Ferrugious duck (escape)
White-headed duck (introduced)
Black vulture
Short-toed eagle
Marsh harrier
Booted eagle
Eleanora`s falcon
Red-legged partridge
Water rail
Purple swamphen (gallinule):
Black-winged stilt:
Stone curlew:
Ringed plover
Little ringed plover:
Kentish plover:
Curlew sandpiper
Common snipe
Spotted redshank:
Marsh sandpiper:
Green sandpiper
Wood sandpiper:
Common sandpiper
Black-headed gull
Audoin`s gull
Yellow-legged gull:
Gull-billed tern
Caspian tern
Rock dove (feral pigeon)
Stock dove
Collared dove
Scops owl
Sand martin
Crag martin
House martin
Barn Swallow
Winter wren
Northern Wheatear:
Cetti`s warbler
Zitting cisticola (Fan-tailed warbler)
Aquatic warbler
Moustached warbler
Reed warbler
Great reed warbler
Melodious warbler
Sardinian warbler:
Willow warbler
Spotted flycatcher:
Pied flycatcher:
Great tit
Woodchat shrike
House sparrow

: More pictures are available at:
Ashleys Bird Pics banner

Just follow the Mallorca link.