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Old Saturday 17th June 2017, 11:02   #1
wolfbirder
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In and around Fornells, MENORCA 22 May-2 June 2017

Hardly a report to compare with many of the exotic birding locations now being visited by birders around the globe, but I did find a nice little spot on the island, even in late May in constant 25-28 degrees heat, to enjoy bits of good birding on a relaxed family holiday. A total of 57 species is not great, but there were some good birds in there.

Its larger Balearic sister-island Mallorca is undoubtedly of greater ornithological interest, with a greater variety of landscapes to tempt the birder, and indeed much of Menorca (Minorca to some) is pretty birdless at this time of year.

I have visited the island in the last month of October, back in 2003, when I found 3 Alpine Accentors along its excellent northern coast, when it was dripping with migrants including Robins galore, Ring Ouzels, and many Black Redstarts. And Stone Curlews and raptors were easy to see.

But at this time of year, in hot sunny weather, it seemed much harder, and birding was inevitably better in the morning or evening rather than the heat of the day.

Fornells is situated on the north-eastern coast, and our hotel and apartments, Carema Garden Village, is at the 'Platges de Fornells', a purpose-built scheme clearly sign-posted away from the original Fornells village.

CAREMA GARDEN VILLAGE, PLATGES DE FORNELLS

Not much of interest at the hotel, except the usual House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Collared Doves, Great Tit, even hirundines were scarce, though Cetti's Warbler and Nightingale would occasionally be heard from the adjacent coastline scrub. Best of all, from about 9.30-10pm every night, the resident pair of Scop's Owls would start calling, best viewed or listened for from the main road outside, sometimes on the rooftops of the apartments and sometimes from apartment rooftops a hundred metres further up the road, that at this time of year were virtually all empty so I could use the uphill paths that criss-crossed between apartments, until I got very close to them on rooftops. I spent a few nights watching these birds and I obtained my best ever views of this species.

A few Audouin's Gulls were seen overhead and around the beautiful adjacent beach, amongst the prominent Yellow-Legged Gulls.

AROUND FORNELLS - 4 different spots

A mile out of Fornells, on the single main road leading out of the resort, you come to a traffic island with 3 large metal sculptures of men, and from this traffic island a left turn towards Mao (Mahon) took me to 'Reserva La Concepcio' (Fornells Saltpans), just a quarter of a mile along the road on the left-hand side, whilst a right turn at this island took me into pristine, traditional farmland for about five miles along a narrow, winding, tarmac road called 'Cami de Tramuntana' with tight stony-walls, that requires great care when driving (do not bird here whilst driving!!). Although opportunity to stop along this quiet lane is limited, there are '3 right turns' off it within those five miles, each signposted, that lead to the coast and which are all worth investigating. This area was easy to visit each day, sometimes twice - I would only be out a couple of hours each time at most, so I could re-join my family at the pool.

The whole area around this country lane, 'CAMI DE TRAMUNTANA', and the 3 turn-offs from it, reverberated to the calls of classic Balearic farmland birds, and it often simply paid to park up at the spots I mention shortly, and just listen, wait, and watch. Now, onto the 4 spots.............

First of all the 3 spots off the right hand turn from the traffic island, off the lane called Cami de Tramuntana.

1) CTRA. CAMIDE 'CALA TIRANT', and 'ES PRAT' POOL. 'Cala Tirant' is a wide, stone-baked track that leads to a new development by the coast, but you don't need to go further than about 1 km along it. In fact the immediate area is the most profitable (the first 200-400 metres). In early spring and in autumn there should be enough water to make viewing off this track extremely interesting, but at this time of year it was virtually dry so was of considerably less interest. In the evening a few Quail were calling from the long grass that replaced wet marsh, and there were farmland birds all around that I will highlight in the detailed list at the end. But, I often parked by a white wall at the start of this track, and walked back in the direction of Fornells along the main but usually very quiet country lane for 200 metres, to an obvious ridge in the lane, as from that point you can view across to 'ES PRAT' which is the only obvious inland pool of water in the Fornells area. Plenty of water birds are on this pool, mainly Mallard and Coot, but I also found a Purple Swamphen, Little Grebe, and a few waders, which can also be viewed if you pull off another few hundred metres along the road at 'Es Prat' villa, by the entrance to the villa. It was clearly vacant when I visited as there were no cars parked in the grounds and all the windows were shuttered, but obviously you might attract unwelcome attention if you park there when it is occupied, so the ridge in the road might be the only place to view the pool. See photographs at the end.

2) CAP DE CAVALLERIA -The second right hand-turn-off the lane is clearly sign-posted for 'Cap de Cavalleria' - this is a narrower tarmac road called 'Ctra Camides Far' all the way out to the lighthouse (about 3 miles), even going through a gate that you can always access but must open and close. It is harder to stop along this track as it is busier and also quite narrow (compared to Tirant), but there are a few pull-offs along the way. The terrain changes from trees and thick green foilage hosting many Nightingales, to more barren, stony rolling hills as you approach the lighthouse, where you can park. Raptors were often overhead on the approach, and Blue Rock Thrush often around the lighthouse. A hunting Peregrine pair were seen a few times around the lighthouse too, where the mixed Common Swift / Pallid Swift colony breeds. Stonechats and Linnets were also found in the barren scrub nearby, and a few Sardinian Warblers, but just a single Thekla Lark was seen along this track, on a fence. In the evening a few Cory's Shearwaters were seen at some distance from the light house, away to the left by a small island. Overall the road to Cap de Cavalleria looked extremely promising, but I still found birding a bit tough at this time of year, when you consider the amount of ideal habitat.

3) BINIMEL-LA - The third right-hand turn off this lane, called 'Cami de Binimel-la' is signposted, you guessed it - to 'Binimel-la'. The wonderful fields off the very early stages of this wide stony track host all the classic farmland species. Quail were often calling early evening and I found 2 Short-toed Larks whilst trying to find the blighters, and I enjoyed wonderful views of Bee-eaters further along this track, as well as the usual Corn Buntings. Around 200 metres before the car park at 'Binimel-la', where there is a restaurant and then a walk to a lovely beach, you can park safely on the left on a bend as the track is very wide, just passed a small coppice. There is a Bee-eater colony next to the coppice containing 20-40 birds, and I also had Turtle Doves, Spotted Flycatchers, Woodchat Shrike, and Sardinian Warblers in this general area, with raptors again overhead at any point, including all 3 large raptor species on the island. The Bee-eaters can be seen anywhere along this lane, especially on wires, but the main concentration is here.

Also of note, on the main country lane between the turn-offs for 'Cap de Cavalleria' and 'Binimel-la' is a small bridge over a small reed-lined river called 'Torrent de S'Alairo' on the map, which must hold good stuff, but it is hard to stop here, and the only bird of note I had was a juvenile Night Heron at dusk.

The variety of birds along this wonderful Country lane, and at the 3 right-hand turn-offs is not that great, but birds to be found here are all the classic Balearic farmland species - Tawny Pipits, Turtle Doves, Bee-eaters, Stonechats, Quail (with great luck), Hoopoes, Short-toed Larks (with luck), Corn Buntings, Nightingales, Sardinian Warblers, Woodchat Strikes, House Sparrows, and many Yellow-legged Gulls that roost in the fields. And often overhead were Booted Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, Red Kites, and Kestrels, sometimes soaring together. In autumn 2003 I also had Hen and Montagu's Harrier here. As well as various wildfowl at Es Prat pool. Early evening, with the car engine turned off and no one else around, the sound of calling Quail, 'purring' Turtle Doves, 'jangling key' Corn Buntings, the weak 'je suis' call of Tawny Pipits, occasional 'Hoo-poo-poo', and of course also the magical, 'flutey' call of the Bee-eater was evocative and wonderful.

But again, take great care on this country lane, there are some dangerous bends, over-hanging stone walls, and although the road is tarmac and in good condition, it barely has width for passing cars, which have to slow and crawl past each other at some points. You have been warned!!

Back at the main traffic island outside Fornells, a left turn in the direction of 'Mao' (Mahon) takes you to the 4th spot near Fornells.

4) 'RESERVA LA CONCEPCIO' and the FORNELLS SALTPANS, is situated on the left off this main road to Mao, after just a quarter of a mile, where there is room for a dozen cars. Having parked up, go to the large adjacent signpost for the reserve. A ten-minute walk takes you through a small dense wood which is lovely in the heat of the day, where Chaffinch, Tree Pipit, and Blackcap were added to the list, then it progresses through more open land and dry saltmarsh holding more Tawny Pipits and Stonechats, before you arrive at the saltpan buildings. And from there you can scan the dozen saltpans superbly. Not much was present upon my visit at this time of year, just a few Black-winged Stilts, Kentish Plovers, and a pair of Shelducks, as well as a single Common Sandpiper that was flushed. These pans probably hold lots more during migration. Do check the fringes as that is where I found the plovers. This reserve is as far as I am aware, a new alternative to trying to view the saltpans from the main road to Fornells, but in fact those just visible from the main road (between the traffic island and Fornells) are not the main saltpans and views are virtually impossible anyway, as there is nowhere to stop. Again, the main saltpans cannot be viewed from the main road, as is suggested in several reports.


The area around Fornells, comprising these 4 spots, was all I needed to keep me occupied, though I did also make the half-hour journey across the island to SON BOU on its opposite coast on one day, to try to find spots to check its wonderful reedbed. I spent an hour here, and managed to find a few species not seen around Fornells such as Little Egret and Marsh Harrier. But it's a huge resort, so just use common directional sense and try to find the most extreme, furthermost point from the access point to the resort, as from there a good view over a section of reedbed can be enjoyed. If you have time, you can use the boardwalk and walk its entire length. The road system is often one-way around the resort.

The huge inland lake of 'Es Grau' is not too far from Fornells, and is also good birding spot, but I did not go there this time. Worth considering though.

Monte Toto by the town of ' Es Mercadal' is also nearby, you can see it from all around as it is the prominent hill with radar masts on, where a small monastery is situated. You can drive to the top, where views of the island are good, but ornithologically there was little of interest, just a few House Sparrows at the top, with raptors a long way below.

Driving back to the airport seemed pretty birdless on departure day, which made me realise how good the area around Fornells was. So you know where to head if you are finding Menorca a bit birdless in summer!

SPECIES LIST (random order). It is hard to estimate how many raptors were seen, because sightings may involve the same birds seen repeatedly. But they were easy to see and frequently in the air here.

Scop's Owl - 2 by hotel most nights at Carema Garden Village.
Egyptian Vulture - around 12 birds seen near Fornells over agricultural land leading from right hand turn from traffic island.
Booted Eagle - around 15 birds seen over agricultural land as above.
Red Kite - around 12 birds over agricultural land as above.
Peregrine Falcon - 2 hunting birds at Cap de Cavaleira
Marsh Harrier - single juvenile over Son Bou reedbed
Kestrel - around 10 birds seen.
Woodchat Shrike - several birds seen on telegraph wires.
Bee-eater - around 50 birds seen, mainly at Binimel-la.
Hoopoe - around 6 birds seen, including 3-4 at farmhouse by Es Prat
Turtle Dove - around 12 birds seen, heard lots more
Corn Bunting - around 15 birds seen
Stonechat - around 10 birds seen, especially at Cap de Cavaleira.
Tawny Pipit - around 12 birds seen
Thekla Lark - single bird on fence on track to Cap de Cavaleira.
Short-toed Lark - 2 birds in field at Binimel-la
Linnet - 4-5 birds at Cap de Cavaleira
Tree Pipit - single bird at Reserva de Concepcio
Chaffinch - 2 birds at Reserva de Concepcio
Blackcap - single singing bird at Reserva de Concepcio
Spotted Flycatcher - 2 at Binimel-la
Nightingale - 2 birds seen in flight, lots more heard
Sardinian Warbler - around 10 birds seen
Fan-tailed Warbler - single bird glimpsed at Cap de Cavaleira approach track
Cetti's Warbler - single bird glimpsed in flight, sang on landing
Blue Rock Thrush - 4 around Cap de Cavaleira and hotel
Common Sandpiper - single bird at Fornells Saltpans, Reserva de Concepcio
Black-winged Stilt - around 10 birds, at Fornells Saltpans and Es Prat
Kentish Plover - around 4 birds on fringes of Fornells saltpans
Little Grebe - single bird at Es Prat
Purple Swamphen - single bird at Es Prat
Gadwall - a few at Es Prat
Coot - 130 at Es Prat
Moorhen - 2 seen
Mallard - 70 at Es Prat
Cattle Egret - 4 at Es Part
Little Egret - 3 at Son Bou
Night Heron - juvenile near Binimel-la
Stone Curlew - 2 seen at Tirant
Cory's Shearwater - at least 4 seen from Cap de Cavaleira
Audouin's Gull - around 3-4 seen by hotel
Yellow-legged Gull - around 400 seen
Shag - 2 of race 'desmerati' seen
Wood Pigeon -around 10
Collared Dove - around 30
Rock Dove - around 50 at Cap de Cavaleira and by hotel
Blackbird - around 30
Great Tit - single bird regularly in hotel grounds
House Sparrow - around 500
Greenfinch - around 6 birds
Goldfinch - around 8 birds
Swallow - around 10 birds seen
Red-rumped Swallow - 2 birds seen
Swift - around 100 birds seen
Pallid Swift - around 15 birds seen at Cap de Cavaleira
Feral Pigeon - hundreds inland
Quail - around 10 heard but not seen
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Last edited by wolfbirder : Sunday 18th June 2017 at 09:26.
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Old Saturday 17th June 2017, 12:01   #2
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A few photos.................

1) The classic farmland and rolling hills near Fornells around the country lane that led to Tirant, Cap de Cavaleira and Biminel-la. This area holds where classic farmland birds like Hoopoe, Turtle Dove, Tawny Pipit, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Quail, Bee-eaters, and lots of raptors overhead.

2) The turn off to Tirant - showing where I parked my car right at the start of the wide-stone baked track. The whole area behind the wall was dry when I visited, but in spring and autumn it is wet and holds good birds. Worth driving up the track at least 400 metres checking that side.

3) The view back along the main road from the same point in photo 2, showing the ridge in the road (just past the triangular road traffic sign), you can view Es Prat Pool away to the left. Or...........

4) A further few hundred metres further along the road back in the direction of Fornells is the 2nd point to view Es Prat pool - and as you can see I have parked at the entrance to the unoccupied (when I visited) Es Prat villa (holiday home). Es Prat pool is distant in the background so you really need a scope, and that is as close as you can get from here or from the ridge in the road viewpoint, as far as I know.

5) The view as you progress along the road to Cap de Cavalleria - the lighthouse can be seen in the distance.
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Last edited by wolfbirder : Sunday 18th June 2017 at 08:29.
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Old Saturday 17th June 2017, 12:16   #3
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A few more photos...................

1) A view from Cap de Cavalleria.

2) The 4th point described in my report is Reserva La Concepcio, for the Fornells saltpans. This signpost gives a lay out of the saltpans, and a separate sign provides apparent opening times or guided tour signs - not sure how this is enforced to be honest but I think the official opening times where you can get guided tours are from May - October 10am-5pm. I'm pretty sure its open to anyone all year round.

3) The wall and access gap adjacent to the sign, with an arrow telling you where to go, and a ten-minute walk leads to the saltpans, through a small wood, open area, and then through the saltpan buildings, leads to the view at photo 4.

4) An ideal bench overlooks the Saltpans. As far as I know you can walk around the saltpans.

5) Hotel Carema Garden Village, at Platges de Fornells. The Scop's Owls sometimes called from the rooftops here, or from apartments a hundred metres back up the road (in the opposite direction).Listen from 9.30-10am.
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Old Sunday 18th June 2017, 08:25   #4
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Last set of photographs............................

1) Scop's Owl territory - our hotel where they also show is about 100-200 metres along the road on the right, but they also called and showed well from 9.30pm each night on these rooftops.

2) Another view of the terrain towards Cap de Cavalleria.

3) Another extensive view of Fornells Saltpans, accessed via the 'Reserva La Concepcio'.
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Last edited by wolfbirder : Sunday 18th June 2017 at 08:29.
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Old Sunday 18th June 2017, 08:50   #5
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Thanks for the report.
Your detailed directions are very handy indeed.
Must try and get to Menorca one day-its on the list!
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Old Sunday 18th June 2017, 09:21   #6
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Thanks very much Pratincol, for your kind words. Its certainly not an ornithological hot spot, but the species mentioned can really be seen well, especially the raptors.

To be fair, I don't think people would go to Menorca purely for the birds, but I hope it is helpful to those on a family holiday with an interest in birds.
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Old Monday 19th June 2017, 12:58   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfbirder View Post
Thanks very much Pratincol, for your kind words. Its certainly not an ornithological hot spot, but the species mentioned can really be seen well, especially the raptors.

To be fair, I don't think people would go to Menorca purely for the birds, but I hope it is helpful to those on a family holiday with an interest in birds.

Helpful indeed! I am going this October (half-term), your report will be useful.
Thank you.
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Old Monday 19th June 2017, 13:01   #8
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Your very welcome Pam. Have a great holiday.

In October the island will have lots of migrants and Cala Tirant (one of the 4 places I mentioned) will almost undoubtedly hold water, and with it plenty of birds.

On the other hand, some of the summering birds such as Quail and Bee-eaters may have migrated or be on their way.
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Old Monday 19th June 2017, 13:09   #9
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Thank you and for the extra information Nick!
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Old Monday 19th June 2017, 14:34   #10
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A wonderfully detailed report Nick, well done Mate!

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Old Monday 19th June 2017, 17:34   #11
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A wonderfully detailed report Nick, well done Mate!

Chris
Hey thanks Chris .

That's the point of reporting as far as I see it, on here - helping others .
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Old Tuesday 20th June 2017, 07:38   #12
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Indeed it is, thank you Nick.
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Old Tuesday 20th June 2017, 10:38   #13
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Welcome Dave.
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Old Tuesday 20th June 2017, 11:34   #14
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Great report Nick. Brings back many happy memories of summer holidays in Menorca.

Last time we went a few years back (in August!!) I booked a day out with Javier Mendes (Walking Birds Menorca) who is a really knowledgeable local ornithologist. We spent most of the day round the wetlands at Es Grau & he added a load of species to my life list :-)

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Old Wednesday 21st June 2017, 05:20   #15
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Thanks Richard, Es Grau is the one obvious area I didn't go to this time. Just didn't fancy the walk around it in the heat.

I had Osprey there when I visited in 2003 but not a great deal else, guess you have to put the effort in there.
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Fav Birds - Hen/Pallid/Monty Harrier, Gyrfalcon, Great Grey Owl, Hobby, Golden Eagle, Merlin, SE Owl, Pom Skua, Hawfinch, Wryneck, Redstart, Shrikes, Roller, Bee-eater's, Nightjar, Smew, GN & BT Diver, Spotted Redshank, any Warblers (especially yank ones)!
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Old Wednesday 21st June 2017, 06:18   #16
rosbifs
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Luz St Sauveur, France
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Originally Posted by wolfbirder View Post
Thanks Richard, Es Grau is the one obvious area I didn't go to this time. Just didn't fancy the walk around it in the heat.

I had Osprey there when I visited in 2003 but not a great deal else, guess you have to put the effort in there.
Good work as usual Wolfman.

We also spent a bit of time around Es Grau - friends 'house' between Es Grau and Mahon. Much the same birds as yourself at Fornells I guess.

I had Blue Rock Thrush at the lighthouse at Favaritz. We played golf at the only golf course on the island. The reeds, although I wasn't great at bird song, seemed to be alive with, probably, Reed Warbler or possible Great? It was on the new section of the course...

The rubbish tip on the way out of Mahon was good for Egyptian and of course the Booted Eagle. We had an Eleanoras one evening near the wind turbines.
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Old Wednesday 21st June 2017, 06:58   #17
wolfbirder
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Wolverhampton - the true original Capital of the Black Country
Posts: 5,407
Cheers Rosbifs, I hoped to see Eleonoras at Cap de Cavalleria but no joy just the Peregrines.

It is a nice relaxing island but I still prefer Mallorca. Just it's getting very busy and overcrowded. But for views of booted eagles and Egyptian vultures Menorca is second to none.
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Fav Birds - Hen/Pallid/Monty Harrier, Gyrfalcon, Great Grey Owl, Hobby, Golden Eagle, Merlin, SE Owl, Pom Skua, Hawfinch, Wryneck, Redstart, Shrikes, Roller, Bee-eater's, Nightjar, Smew, GN & BT Diver, Spotted Redshank, any Warblers (especially yank ones)!
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