Majorca is best known as a destination for families and young people seeking sunshine, sea and fabulous beaches but the Island holds another secret; thousands of birdwatchers and wildlife lovers flock to Majorca each spring and summer to explore the hidden places far away from the madding crowds. The mountains offer cool air and respite from the relentless heat of the high season, the views are breathtaking and on a clear day it is possible to see the whole Island in great detail. The incredible displays of wild flowers in the spring may have passed by but there is still much to see, especially the birdlife. Black and Griffon Vultures grace the skies looking like flying barn doors. They look enormous as they circle round close overhead on thermals searching for carrion such as a hapless goat that has lost its foothold and fallen to an untimely death. Other birds of prey are always close by like that expert fisherman, the Osprey, just waiting to plunge feet first into the water and grab an unsuspecting fish in its deadly talons. Red Kites are regular too, twisting and turning with every change in wind direction, and the Peregrine Falcon is always around looking menacing and hungry. Once prey is spotted it will close its wings and plummet towards the ground at speeds of over 200mph, it is after all the fastest creature on the planet.
Moving down to the marshes will be cooler too and there are many fine nature reserves in Majorca, the best known is the area around Albufera in Alcudia bay. Birders stream through the main gates to enjoy some of the best birdwatching in Europe. There are many species of Herons and Egrets to see and they can be watched at their breeding sites along the edges of the canal just before the main reserve. The numbers are at times truly staggering and the noise made by the young birds at the roost is one of the most unusual sounds in the bird world. The many hides offer shade from the sun but the best time to go there is the early morning and the evening when the weather is a little cooler. Moving to the edges of the reserve late in the day can be even more productive so when everyone else is headed for home or the nearest bar, take a trip around the circumference to see one of the most sought-after events in the birding world. The rare and elusive Eleanora’s Falcons scythe into view to hawk for Dragonflies and other insects just as the sun is going down. Over twenty can be seen together flying low over the reed beds, one of the most majestic and entertaining sights of the year. Eleanora’s Falcons are uncommon throughout Europe so Majorca offers a perfect opportunity to study these magnificent raptors at close quarters.
The Island has another secret too, a place where few tourists ever venture, the Central Plain, or the “White Land” as it is known. It is a vast open space in the middle of the Island, silent and shimmering in the midday sun and many very special and rare birds can be seen. Red Footed Falcons hunt over the fields, a lovely slate grey bird with brilliant orange feet and bill and definitely in every birders top ten species to see. They are often accompanied by a few Lesser Kestrels too, another exotic species which are rarely seen by the day tripper but here they can be enjoyed as they perch on the overhead telegraph wires. Larger birds of prey are present too, Marsh Harriers and on the right day, Short-toed Eagles and Buzzards. The National bird of Majorca can also be seen, the Hoopoe, a cinnamon coloured dazzler with black and white wings and large crest like a Native Americans Headgear. Multi coloured Bee-eaters also fly through this area offering unrivalled views as they dart around in search of their favourite prey. The salt pans in the south are one of the best places to see waders and in particular the impossibly long-legged Black-winged Stilts and Flamingos too which always seem to surprise the visiting birdwatchers who were previously unaware of their presence. The coastal paths and rocky areas will show the Island at its best and give some of the most spectacular and dramatic views that can be enjoyed in Majorca. A trip to the most northerly point at Formentor will provide the visitor with the most stunning vistas if rather vertiginous ones! There is a watchpoint half way along the road for the less adventurous and on a calm day there are few better places to be, it is simply an amazing experience.
So as the sun sets on yet another calm and tranquil day in Majorca, thousands of visiting birdwatchers are happy in the knowledge that they have seen some of the best birds in Europe and all set in the most incredible landscape. No wonder they return to the Island year after year.
Photos by kind permission of Daly Wildlife