Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Mallorca and Menorca 1 of 2

Hi folks,

I have just returned from a 10 day sailing holiday in the Balearics on my dad’s boat. Considering it wasn’t necessarily a wildlife holiday I really made the most of the opportunities and encountered some fantastic nature across the unspoilt Calas of Mallorca and Menorca. Even caught up with some great stuff out at sea whilst travelling between stop-offs.

We flew into Palma Mallorca late on Aug 2nd and spent the next day stocking up on food and more importantly drink for the holiday and as the cash register continued to toll up it was like a scene at the beginning of deadliest catch – though the Med is much friendlier than the Bering Sea!! …Still some big seas were experienced….

Even just in the marina in Palma I saw the odd Audouin’s gull, plenty of yellow legged gulls and one sprawk!

Early on the 4th we sailed for 4 hours across Palma bay and north to anchor at a little place called Cala Pi. This is one of my favourite places on Mallorca and the wildlife here is great!!

Every year there is one Audouin’s gull that hangs about there and exploring the Cala in the dingy meant getting quite close to him…

Also here there is a stagnant river that you can access from the beach and walking up there I found a lovely pair of spotted flycatchers. They followed me catching all the rush veneers (a moth that was very common on the trip) that I disturbed from the undergrowth, sometimes flying within a few metres of me! All this happened in the shade of cliffs so my preferred style of action/flight shots was hard with the light but needless to say smoke was pouring off the shutters!!...
Also here I heard serin and saw lots of Sardinian warblers. The flash of a blue rock thrush across the anchored boat when I was snorkelling was nice but a closer encounter was to come on this holiday ;-).

I spend a lot of time snorkelling and generally the Med isn’t that great but I did manage to catch an octopus this time after failing with one before that bit me!!This year due to the rush of leaving I forgot my waterproof housing for my compact digital camera which was a shame but here are a few shots I took last year in Cala Pi…

Also here there were 2 humming bird hawkmoths:

At 6pm on the 5th we decided to sail over night to the south coast of Menorca and as the sun set behind us we had a long journey ahead of us.

This 14 hour trip meant arriving at 8am the following day but was not in anyway boring, only very tiring as my dad and I were up all through the night.

We had a full moon so visibility was rather good and the odd rush veener was attracted to the lights on the boat adding a little bit of nature interest to the trip. I thought this was going to be it for wildlife on our over night sail. However in the early hours of the morning whilst I was helming and sipping a green tea (yes I needed warming up in Mallorca!) there was a massive SPLASH by the side of the boat. We had woken a sleeping dolphin and I think I was as startled as it was as we watched it disappear into the moonlight (I know, a syrupy and cliché description but that is actually what happened!!).

As Menorca grew on the horizon and the sun began to peak over the hills we were greeted by the sight of several Cory’s shearwaters flying past low to the water. This was an unexpected and lovely surprise!

As we powered into Cala Trebaluger the welcoming party of pallid swifts nesting in the cliffs screamed chasing each other through the skies.

At this spot there was a small sand bank that you could pull the dingy over and travel up a narrowing river into some inaccessible (other than by small boat) wetlands. This was great for wildlife.

As we rounded a corner I noticed a purple gallinule in the reeds and cut the engine so not to scare it away. I fired off 2 record shots then used the oar to try and sneak closer but to no avail as it flew across the river and disappeared into thicker reeds on the other side of the river. Still, I have never seen one before and this was a great start to our time on Menorca!!

more to come below...

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