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Menorca 29 June to 13 July 2010 (1 Viewer)

Keith Dickinson

Well-known member
Opus Editor
This is a report of the holiday I took with my family in Menorca this year between 29 June and 13 July. It wasn’t primarily a birding trip but I managed to get out to a few locations to grab some birding time.

Tuesday 29 June.

The Jet2.com flight from Leeds Bradford was delayed due to a technical fault, not exactly the start we wanted to our holiday but as the original delay was given out as 3 hours we were happy to be airborne by 12.45pm, instead of the scheduled 11.45. After landing and the usual messing about getting the luggage and the hire car sorted, the holiday started for me with the first bird sighting of the trip, sadly nothing exotic, just a humble house sparrow on the outskirts of Mao.

We were staying at Port Addia which is about 20 kilometres north of Mao, not far from Arenal D’En Castell. The room we had was pretty nicely situated from my point of view, a decent long view over the terrain between Addia and Arenal, sadly not the sea view my wife wanted. Having a spotted flycatcher nesting in one of the pines by our room was a bonus as it enlivened our mealtimes watching the parent birds bringing food in to the recently fledged chicks that were clambering about in the pine branches, the parents were getting less and less willing to feed the youngsters and towards the end of the second week were actively repairing the nest site so I think a second brood could be on the way by now.

Wednesday 30 June

A walk down to the harbour at Port Addia mid morning gave decent views of yellow-legged gulls, great tits, turtle and collared doves along with mallard. The weather was so hot that any thought of an afternoon stroll was out of the question until turned 4.00pm. This was more or less the routine we followed for the next 2 weeks, with activity in the morning and then doing nothing until late afternoon.
We had a drive down to Es Grau, the village rather than the nature reserve, here we had a walk along the beach and one of the first birds I saw was a lone Audouin’s gull which was quite happy to allow me to get a photo using my bins, I had not brought the scope along today as this was a family trip not a birding jaunt. More yellow-legged gulls, turtle doves and the first sightings of Sardinian warbler were logged close to the beach.


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Part 2

Thursday 1 July
A trip to Fornells today, again as it was not a birding trip I was only allowed to take the bins.
The first hoopoe of the holiday was seen from the car on the journey as well as swifts, as I was driving I’ll only say swift species, no nailing them down to pallid or common on the glimpses I got.
After a stroll around the town, Sheila wanted to find the beach, which is on the other side of the headland. So we drove out of Fornells and took the right turn to the beach on the Cala Tirant, nominally Fornells beach. Here Sheila was quite happy for me to disappear with the bins for a while as she caught some sun and had a swim. I found a couple more Audouin’s gulls here but they weren’t at all photogenic as they were in constant flight and there was no way my humble compact camera could capture them.
At the far end of the beach where the people were fewer and a small stream wound down to the sea, I found a nesting pair of little ringed plovers. Their agitated behaviour and constant calling leading me to believe that the eggs must have been quite close so I didn’t attempt any photos, but made my way across the stream and I followed a car track into the dunes system. The rest of the dune system is roped off in order to allow for the regeneration of the dune system but I figured following a car track was okay.
Within a hundred yards I’d logged at least a dozen Sardinian warblers, a flock of at least 50 goldfinches and found a bee-eater emerging from its nest hole. I heard more bee-eaters but at the time couldn’t see them due to the height of the scrub I was travelling through. As I’d left the water with Sheila and the sun was by now quite high I’d to beat a retreat for a drink and give up on the birding for now.
Later in the afternoon I had my first proper birding trip, a walk from Port Addia along the Cami de Cavalls to the Salinas at Montgofre. The Cami de Cavalls is a bridle path which encircles the island. Sadly in places it is completely blocked by walls etc but the island government are working to try and open up the entire length of the bridle path to encourage walkers and riders. The section between the Port and the Salinas is well signposted and a nice easy ramble, with the bonus of some decent birding along the way.
The descent from the high ground where the path leaves the Addia area to the side of the inlet was relatively easy but, other than a couple of turtle doves, almost birdless. Things improved closer to the water side as the undergrowth here was alive with Sardinian warblers, greenfinches and goldfinches. The star bird of this area was the nightingale I surprised sunning itself. Sadly the bird was away before any attempt at getting a picture could be thought of, not that far though as I could hear its alarm call from close by in the bushes but I didn’t get another glimpse of it. It was not far from here that I found my first woodchat shrike of the trip, after having it move repeatedly from one perch to another I gave up on trying to digiscope a picture.
The Salinas are all but defunct now and are little more than shallow lagoons, which in the right season attract a fair number of waders etc, early July would seem to be the wrong season as all I could find where 2 little egrets, 3 greenshanks and a solitary redshank. Not really the glut of waders I was hoping for. Another couple of ultra mobile woodchat shrikes were here, along with my first tawny pipit of the trip. Again there were swifts above but getting to grips with them was difficult, although I’m probably correct in saying that they were all common swifts.
It here by the Salinas whilst grilling the swifts that I found my first raptor of the holiday, a distant but easily recognised booted eagle. As time was now against me I had to turn around to make my way back up the slope, there’s always a price to pay for enjoying yourself and mine today was being covered in moths every time I stopped. I managed to get picture of one of them so if any entomologists are reading could you tell me which species it is? At first I was swishing them off my arms and legs but by the end I just endured them, after all they were only after the salt from my perspiration I think as they didn’t land on anywhere dry, not that there was anywhere dry on me by that time.


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Part 3

Friday 2 July
An early morning trip today, up and out by 6.30am and a short drive to Cap Favaritx, this cape is on the East coast of the island not that far from the Salinas I was at yesterday. I’d visited here last year but not known where to go, this year I was prepared.
The road up to the cape passes several farms and then you reach a set of gate posts either side of a cattle grid across the road. One of the gateposts is plastered with private property signs; it was here that I stopped last year as I thought (wrongly) that I couldn’t go any further. This year I drove over the grid and made my way along the tarmac strip towards the cape, almost driving over a family of red-legged partridge chicks that blithely walked out of the scrub by the roadside and almost under my wheels. The mother bird had been calling them from the other side of the road.
The parking area at the cape is pretty bleak, not much vegetation, a large pool and magnificent views across the Mediterranean. Only birds there were a few yellow-legged gulls and a couple of pairs of little ringed plovers, who seemed to be having a major territorial dispute by the pool. I got a brief glimpse of a male blue rock thrush as it scuttled off amongst the rocks above the car park.
As there didn’t seem to be any other birds about I drove back stopping at regular intervals to scan the landscape. By doing this I was able to add raven, red kite, hoopoe and Audouin’s gull to my list at various points. I stopped for sometime at the entrance to a farm just by the turn-off to the Montgofre Salinas, there were several small birds milling about here so I decided to have a good look at them. I was able to quickly identify stonechats, linnets and corn buntings.
It was whilst trying to turn a small flock of corn buntings into cirl buntings that I had one of those magic moments that happen so infrequently in birding. The corn buntings were perched at the top of the hedge across the field from me; I was riveted on them sadly failing to find any cirl buntings amongst them, when a bird flew up from the field in front of the hedge to land in the field behind the hedge. Nothing unusual you may think, however the bird was a quail and it was the first time I’ve ever seen a whole one! Heard several of them and seen bits of a few birds on Menorca and Majorca as well as in Portugal but up to now never managed to see both ends and the middle so to speak. Thankfully it was early enough in the day that my shouted expletive of surprise didn’t offend anyone, and no one saw my little jig of happiness. The tree pipit and whitethroat I found a short time later further down the road just didn’t have the same appeal after the quail.
Just before setting of on the return journey to Addia I found my second booted eagle of the holiday, a nice light phase bird lazily ascending over the rocks a couple of fields away. The rest of the day was given over to family activity so no more birding done, although it was nice to see the kestrels zooming around the buildings in Mao later that afternoon.


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Part 4

Saturday 3 July
No early morning trip today but mid-morning I did have a walk along the Cami de Cavall from Arenal D’en Castell almost to Son Parc, following the cliffs. Magnificent views of yellow-legged gulls and 1 Auduoin’s gull were the sum total of the sea birds seen. The highlight was a territorial dispute between 2 pairs of kestrels, it was like a WW1 dogfight with birds wheeling and diving at and around each other, all the time their ki-ki-ki alarm calls were ringing out. More stonechats, Sardinian warblers and tawny pipits made up the rest of the species seen. Once again though the heat put paid to a prolonged ramble. I had to give up just short of Son Parc and have a rest in the shade and then ran out of time before I could explore Son Parc itself.

Sunday 4 July
Early morning again and this time I was heading west towards Cala Tirant, 6.30am really is the best time to drive as the roads are empty. Port Addia to Fornells is about 15 minutes drive, the Cala Tirant turn off is just before Fornells. The road here was a little hairy as in places there was barely enough room for 2 cars to pass, I kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t meet anyone coming the other way. Within a couple of hundred yards of the turnoff I was suddenly in the middle of a flock of bee-eaters, birds were zooming across the road as well as resting on wires across the field from the car. Luckily a found a place to park off road and had myself a really enjoyable 10 minutes just watching the birds catching the early insects and generally having fun, well it looked like that to me.

Once I was sated with them I drove on towards Cala Tirant. At one point the road took a right hand bend and dipped down so that you could see into the field to the left; imagine my surprise when I recognised the reptilian eye of a stone curlew looking almost straight at me. Thank fully there was no traffic about so I was able to slam on the anchors and get the bins on the bird. Very odd looking birds I feel, but another one for the list. It must have been aware of my presence as it, rather too quickly for my liking, scuttled off into the scrub at the edge of the field. Although I visited this area a number of times afterwards I never found another bird.

Cala Tirant was at this point just a few hundred yards away and I turned off on to the ‘road’ towards the beach looking for the small wetland that is mentioned in Graham Hearl’s book, sadly this year it was not wet, slightly damp was more the thing. I did pick up a singleton greenshank here along with several singing nightingales, as well as zitting cisticolas, kestrel and hoopoe. As this area wasn’t too good I decided to press on to visit Cap de Cavalleria which was a little further NW of Cala Tirant. I saw loads of finches from the car as I drove along, linnets, goldfinches and greenfinches as well as more stonechats and swallows. I found a car park just before a gate with a cattle grid and thought that this was where I should park up. I followed the road on foot from here to within sight of the lighthouse, maybe a couple of kilometres or so.

The birding on this walk was pretty good, I found at least 14 singing nightingales in the scrub on both sides of the road, turtle doves were flitting around all over the place and more hoopoes were seen. Got decent views of a covey of red-legged partridge, around 20 birds I think, couldn’t be sure as they were in and out of the scrubby ground cover. After passing both the entrance to the Ecomuseum (opens at 10.30am so no chance of a look in) and also the footings of what looked to be an ancient building, I reached a closed gate across the road. This wasn’t locked and a large sign asked that people shut the gate after them so I went through and walked along scanning the scrub either side of the road. I should say that at this point there was a small inlet just down to the left with a small flotilla of little boats moored in it, and a handful of shags busy fishing not too far off. Tawny pipits were everywhere and when I saw a bird on the ground with a beak full of food I almost dismissed it as another tawny. However just as I was about to turn away from it I noticed the crest on the bird… getting the bins up and focussing in gave me great views of a Thekla lark, only my second ever. This time I was equipped with a camera and scope so was able to get a couple of photos of the bird before it flew off to feed its young. Suitably heartened by the lark I ambled further along towards the lighthouse, other than a male blue rock thrush that kept popping up and eyeballing me for a few seconds at a time, there were few other species here. By now my water bottle was empty so I decided to go back to the car rather than walking any further without any liquid. The return trip was interesting as the stretch of road where I’d heard all the nightingales earlier was now almost silent, just a single bird calling was all I got. So proves that you need to get out there early sometimes. Just by the gate I managed to grab a very quick picture of the blue rock thrush, blurry as hell but you can make him out. By the time I got back to the car all I wanted to do was get back to the resort and dive in the pool.


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Part 5

Monday 5 July

A trip to Cala Galdana with the family was on the cards, but it was also my chance to explore the Algendor Gorge whilst Sheila and Reece enjoyed the beach. After leaving them on the beach and picking up my optics and small pack from the car I followed the road to the entrance to the gorge. Even before I was properly in the gorge I’d seen a sub adult Egyptian vulture flying above the houses to my left. Nice one!

The gorge has a large gate across the entrance with a hefty lock on it and a small wall to the right over which you hop to access the area. According to the books this area is good for raptors so I had my fingers crossed. It is also one of the few areas with a year round flow of water in the stream so there was also chance of waterbirds, the first seen being a mallard. Second was a cracking purple heron flying over the trees away to the right, circling to find a decent landing area in the scrub by the stream. I also heard several Cetti’s warblers during the walk along the gorge but unlike the Algarve the birds here seem to be shy as they were all in deep cover. I kept stopping and scanning the sky at the top of the gorge and was rewarded by short glimpses of at least 2 different adult Egyptian vultures, one was in wing moult and had lost a couple of secondaries the other had the full complement. A single kestrel was the only other raptor seen that morning. I did see lots of hirundines and swifts.

The heat was crippling though and I was glad to reach an obstacle that I couldn’t really get by alone. The path at one time had obviously gone between a couple of hedges but someone had blocked this off with a large metal meshwork and loads of wire, and there was a less well marked path off to the right. Following this lead me to a reasonable drop down to the stream and I could see that the path continued on but as the drop was about 6 or 7 foot onto hard packed rocks etc and I had no signal on my mobile phone I decided that I’d not risk taking a tumble here and being stuck. The scenery in the gorge is magnificent and was worth the effort in the heat but I wish there had been more birds. AS some compensation I was able to digiscope one of the grasshoppers that were abundant in the gorge.
By the time I got back to the beach all I could do was empty my pockets and dive in the sea to cool off, I was literally boiling hot!
Tuesday 6 July
Too hot so lazy day by pool


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Part 6

Wednesday 7 July
Another early trip to Cap de Cavalleria and this time I didn’t use the car park, I drove along and parked up in by the closed gate, thus saving a fair bit of walking. In Graham Hearl’s book he mentions this area and says that the inlet is a good place to find osprey, this morning was no exception. Scanning the boats I found one sat atop a mast, I managed to get a couple of pictures before it took to the wing and made its way across the water to the far shore and beyond. No Thekla lark today but loads of tawny pipit and stonechats. I think it was a blue rock thrush that I saw disappear behind some rocks on the skyline but can’t be certain. Ravens, booted eagle and Egyptian vultures were all seen on the drive back to Addia.

Thursday 8 July
Another early morning outing, this time revisiting Cap Favaritx, didn’t bother going right up to the lighthouse today just to the gates. Hoping for a Thekla lark but actually finding very little other than a couple of hoopoes. Stopping by the farm entrance on the way back again had little around but the quail were in fine voice, if not showing themselves quite as well as the other day.

Friday 9 July
A trip out to the Naveta d'es Tudon (prehistoric burial chamber) gave us plenty of opportunity to watch woodchat shrike at the site. There must have been about 5 birds in the area and all quite vocal. We had distant views of booted eagle and red kite away towards Citudella. The star birds of the day were a couple of cattle egrets living up to their name by stalking about by the cows in a field around 4 or 5 hundred yards away. Not easy birds to id with the heat haze and only having my bins but thankfully they gave good views of their yellow bills so I was able to rule out little egret immediately and their size did the same for great white egret.

Saturday 10 July
Today was largely a family day but whilst driving across the island to Citudella I did manage to get a cracking black kite, in front of us and moving across our path so I was able to drive whilst scrutinising the tail of the bird. As soon as it fanned the tail I knew it was black kite as there was almost no fork there, plus the tail was rather short another pro-black kite feature. The lack of translucent areas on the wings also favoured a black kite rather than red kite.


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Part 7 the last one!

Sunday 11 July
Last birding trip of the holiday and this time to the S’Albufera d’Es Grau, having seen a pamphlet written in Spanish about the reserve I duly went along at 9.00am to find that the reserve is open all the time, it was the visitor centre that opens at 9.00, dang! The reserve contains the largest body of fresh water on the island and was thankfully saved from mass building projects in the 1990’s.
If you visit, don’t park by the visitor centre; drive past and down to the entrance gates to the two trails, as the slog back up the hill on foot, is not pleasant on a hot day. The two trails are the Santa Madrona trail going west and the Cala de Llimpa trail going east, park rules are that you stay on the trails, no wandering about off the trails. I’ll be honest I wasn’t tempted as you’d really need GPS and a damn good map to go off trail. The scrub and the terrain are such that you’d probably loose your bearings within minutes of leaving the trail.
I tackled the Santa Madrona trail first, most of the birds here were quite vocal but shy. I lost count of the Sardinian warblers I heard but I only actually saw 1, same with the Cetti’s warbler although for these I didn’t even see one. One of the best views were of a family of dabchicks on the lake, a coot started taking a little too much interest in one of the grebe chicks. I couldn’t believe it when one of the parent dabchicks launched itself at the coot, giving the shrill alarm call of theirs and doing it’s best to cause the coot serious damage. To my surprise the coot backed off, and in some hurry as well.
More yellow-legged gulls, a couple of pairs of great crested grebes and, scattered across the lake, several dozen coot were the sum total of the water birds I could find. I did have a couple distant raptors but there was too much heat haze to properly id them. I retraced my path back to the gate and then took the Cala Llimpa trail.
This isn’t quite as difficult as the other trail and the birds were a bit more obliging. I managed to get a photo of a woodchat shrike at last from this trail. Only a zoomed up picture on the camera alone, the bird wasn’t hanging around for me to set up the scope to digiscope a shot. A nice flyover by a female kestrel was most welcome.

Whilst scanning the far shore of the lake from one of the viewpoints, I noticed that there several poles stuck up out of the mud. There should be something on one of those I thought and proceeded to have a look at them. First scan came up blank but on the return sweep I found an osprey sitting on one of the poles, I’m sure it wasn’t there when I began scanning. After getting some really crummy digiscoped pictures of the bird I had another scan of the poles and found another osprey sat a little further to the east, so two birds both of which must have flown in without me seeing them, as the raptors I’d been watching earlier were too dark and flying away from the area rather than towards it. More woodchat shrike and several turtle doves were seen on the return to the gate. As I mentioned before the walk back up the hill to the visitor centre is hellish on a hot day as I found out. However it did allow me some decent views of a Sardinian warbler.
The last two days of the holiday were family days so there was no birding done as such.

I reckon that if we’d been maybe a couple of months earlier or later the trip list would have been larger and as would the total numbers of birds seen. It was just unlucky that we had to fit things in between my son taking his GCSE exams and getting his results. I fully intend to visit the island again but at a more suitable time. The heat shot down many of the trips I’d planned, Son Bou for the reedbed habitat, Cala Morell for the shearwaters, most days by lunchtime the temperature was well into the 30’s and you just didn’t want to move. I also shouldn’t have changed scope just before the trip either as digiscoping with the new scope was a awkward due to the change in size of scope, most of all I wish I’d not taken the camcorder as I’m still struggling to get the videos of bee-eaters, spotted flycatchers and Sardinian warblers downloaded.

If you’ve got this far,thanks for reading and you deserve a medal!


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Thanks for taking the time to post this report from Menorca. I have enjoyed it and menorca has now gone on my radar for future trips. Did you not see many birders during your stay?
Hi Andrew, on most of the trips I made they were at stupid o'clock in the morning and I didn't see another person. At Es Grau there were a few other birders but my German was as good as their English so it was fun trying to communicate with them. I didn't meet any UK birders there this time. Last time I visited in 1999 there was another UK birder staying at the same hotel complex as myself so we teamed up for the week.
The island is well worth a visit, I just wish there was a more up to date guide book than the late Graham Hearl's 1996 offering, as I feel there are more birds out there if there was only some help giving locations.
That's a great report Keith. You've some good pictures with your new camera, though I think you need more practise with the digi/biniscoping;)

There seem to be a lot of nice places to visit - if it wasn't so hot. The Gorge looks lovely.

Nice report Keith - think the temperatures can affect birding considerably - happened to me in mallorca similarly when average temperature was 37C degrees for the 3 days i was there.

You just have to struggle on! The Quail is a goodie and just reward for your efforts mate.
Great report, Keith. Brings back so many memories of our times on Menorca. I will have to get back there at some point in the future & do some proper birding excursions around the island.

Very interesting report, Keith, and a fabulous selection of birds. Thank you for sharing your trip.
Thanks for posting your report, Keith: lots of satisfying species there! I've been thinking recently of planning a combined birding/family holiday to the Balearics. Mallorca seemed to be the obvious choice as we have local contacts there, but, after reading your report, perhaps Menorca deserves a closer look!
Thanks for all the nice comments. I'm going to update the OPUS pages on Menorca over the next few days so anyone planning a trip might want to look there.
When I've finished them I'll pop a link on this thread.

Just now though my fingers have had enough typing;)
Thanks for the report Keith, i was considering a trip in late september to Mallorca, but will now look seriously at Menorca as an alternative.
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