Birds of Paradise: Family fun spotting Mallorca’s feathered friends

By Georgette Hayter

 

Many of us would easily think that a Purple Gallinule or a Goldeneye was an exotic cocktail when they are, in fact, species of birds that have been spotted at Mallorca’s Albufera Nature Reserve. Birdwatching does, however, have the unfortunate reputation of being one of those hobbies that are right up there with stamp collecting and train-spotting; something a great uncle did in his anorak on a weekend, armed with a thermos flask and soggy sandwiches; but “Birding” is now one of the fastest growing and dynamic outdoor pursuits in the world and Mallorca one of the top destinations, which somewhat dispels the myth that many of us held true, that birding is boring.

A hike or drive through Mallorca’s spectacular Tramontana mountains is an adventure in itself. Add to that, the sight of an endangered Black Vulture or Red Kite, soaring above, and the day is anything but dull. A mere drive around the country lanes on the outskirts of Pollensa and Alcudia will bring you into contact with some of the islands most beautiful feathered friends without having to look particularly hard; the Hoopoe with its distinctive feathered crown is an exotic looking creature and as commonly seen here as the house sparrow.

Mallorca’s varying landscapes are home to more than 300 endemic and migratory birds and springtime, in particular, April and May, is the best time to visit to perhaps catch sight of the best of them. Whether you come alone with guidebook and binoculars at the ready, or with children or elderly relatives, there are endless options and everyone can participate. From mountains to marshlands, you can walk, bike or drive and not be disappointed.

 

Bee-eaters ( Merops Apiaster ) Picture by Manuel Martín

Bee-eaters ( Merops Apiaster ) Picture by Manuel Martín

A good starting point is at La Gola in Puerto Pollensa, a small wetland area with an exhibition centre that provides visitors with information on birds you might see in the north. It is a great place to visit with small children and there is a paved walkway running through the area. For a taste of what flies over the Tramontana mountains, the short hike down to Cala Boquer, at the back of Puerto Pollensa, can provide you with glimpses of migrating birds such as the Honey Buzzard, plus sightings of numerous local visitors such as Crag Martins and Warblers.

On foot or by bike is the best way to explore Mallorca’s largest marshland at the Albufera Nature Reserve at Playa Muro. Covering an area of more than 1600 hectares and designated a special protection zone for birds, it is home to a grand variety of ducks, herons, waders, terns and warblers and is open all year round. Given that over two thirds of all birds in the Balearic Islands have been spotted here at some time or another, it should not be missed. There is a visitors centre and several, well signposted walking or biking itineraries of up to 10km with numerous viewpoints and photographers hides. A great place to bring a picnic and spend the day, at one with nature.

Drive up to the Cap de Formentor and you may well see Eleanora’s Falcons; go past Lluc and on to the Cuber reservoir to see up to ten different birds of prey, including Booted and Golden Eagles and Black and Egyptian Vultures, not to mention some of the most spectacular scenery in the Mediterranean.

So, although it might be advisable to pack that anorak in case you get caught out in an April shower, the soggy sandwiches can be easily substituted with some freshly baked Mallorcan bread, serrano ham and local cheese and the thermos flask for a hip flask filled with local wine for a truly great day of twitching!

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