I had hoped to make sufficient time to spend the late afternoon on S’Albufera but the usual delays in picking up a hire car, finding my way to Alcudia etc meant I arrived later than hoped. En route I had little other than a couple of Red Kites, a Buzzard, a Booted Eagle and the usual Collared Doves, Serin, etc. Not going straight to the reserve with my baggage in the boot and booking in later proved a costly error as it meant I arrived at 16.30 after the reserve information centre had closed (16.00). Technically, this meant I couldn’t go on the s’Albufera reserve as you have to pick up a (free) permit at the centre but reserve staff on the gate took pity on me and let me in for a 90 minute reconnoitre. However, the biggest drawback to my late arrival was that I didn’t discover that the centre had copies of the excellent “A Birding Tourist’s Guide to Mallorca” (3rd edition) until I visited again Friday. This would have been extremely useful in finding the birds I wanted to see.
With birding to be done and a daughter to see, I was up early and off to the Boquer valley asap. Arriving not long after 07.00 I quickly had Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet & Kestrel but lost little time walking up to where the path drops down to the sea (c2 km) which I’d been tipped off was the place to look for Balearic Warbler. Happily, when I arrived I quickly found one singing so close to the path that even I could hear it and then another a little further off. Both birds performed superbly allowing me to get even better views than I’d hoped. (I later met several birders who tried their luck here later in the day without success suggesting that an early start makes a huge difference for this skulking species). Having had problems with my Nikon P900 the previous month in mainland Spain, I was delighted with the photos I was able to get of the Balearic Warbler. The reach of the 2000mm equivalent lens was quite extraordinary and although the auto-focus could sometimes be frustrating when working well it produced first rate photos. Contrary to what may appear to be the case the birds in the shots here weren’t nearly as close as they may seem.
Being agnostic about its status as a genuine ‘tick’ and with two and a half days to see Moltoni’s Warbler, I was fairly relaxed about my plans for the next day. Instead of the planned very early start to drive up to the Cuber reservoir for Moltoni’s I started later so I could pick up Gemma en route at 08.00 as she was very keen to explore the mountains (which, despite two previous visits to the island, she’d never managed as she doesn’t drive). So today demanded a more relaxed approach than originally intended. A brief look at Albufereta before picking up Gemma produced nothing I hadn’t already seen other than Little-Ringed Plover so we were soon driving up the serpentine road into the mountains. Any concerns about starting (relatively) late were blown away by seeing a Pine Marten trotting along the side of the road not far from Lluc. A much desired mammal tick, this was quite unexpected. Both Gemma and I were absolutely ecstatic about seeing this iconic mammal. Interestingly, despite being recognised as a subspecies (Martes martes minoricensis), it’s thought to be an ancient introduction to the area. A little later I was pleased to show my non-birding daughter Blue Rockthrush since it was one of the few birds she’d expressed an interest in seeing!
The one thing that I hadn’t factored into my plans was that, despite the warm sunshine of the previous days, the mountains might be enveloped in clouds and rain which turned out to be the case. Accordingly when I got up just after 06.30 and found that the mountains were engulfed in clouds I had to do a quick re-think of my itinerary for the day. I opted to look at the Son Real area which, as it wasn’t covered in Hearl & King, I knew very little about other than access was possible via Can Picafort and that Subalpine Warbler (senso lato) had been reported from here in the past.
Saturday 25th Cuber Reservoir – the last roll of the dice
With my flight not leaving until the late afternoon, I had much of the day to go birding so decided to wait and see what the weather held for my last day on the island. When I awoke, having been laid back about seeing Moltoni’s thanks to my agnosticism about its specific status, my impending departure suddenly made me anxious to see one. The omens weren’t good as the weather seemed worse than it had been on Friday. Although it was a few minutes longer than going via Pollença I decided to take the route via Inca and Selva as it promised an easier initial drive (via the fast Ma 13), a chance to better judge the conditions in the mountains and, if all else failed, time for some sight seeing in La Palma. It was still miserable weather as I approached Inca but not quite as bad as I feared so I opted to try for Moltoni’s again. Driving up into the hills this seemed like a foolish move as the light mist turned to drizzle and the drizzle episodically became heavier rain. It was still raining when I reached my destination but least this meant there was plenty of room to park!
Walking around Cuber the reservoir the rain began to lighten and I was cheered by the sight of a new bird for the trip Crossbill (presumably of the local race balearica). However, I was seeing little more that the ubiquitous Chaffinch, the odd Linnet and, of course, Sardinian Warblers but the odd glimpse of uncooperative smaller Sylvia warblers and brief snatches of song gave some hope. Crossing the dam the rain began to relent and Crag Martins showed well, a Little-Ringed Plover lifted off the path in front of me and the nearby quarry had a couple of squabbling Blue Rock Thrush. Finally, the rain actually stopped and not long afterwards up popped a Moltoni’s Warbler – being a nice male relieved any anxiety about distinguishing it from Western Subalpine as made the taxon's diagnostic Wren-like call. Perhaps that ‘Wren’ I’d heard earlier had actually been something rather more exciting! Not long afterwards the rain returned and by the time I got back to the car it was raining steadily. With all of my three targets now ‘in the bag’ I drove down into La Palma to meet Gemma (who was now staying there before flying home on Monday) for lunch and then the flight back to the UK.