Friday, May 22, 2015

Birding Come Rain Or Shine

Well what do you know? the morning was grey, gloomy and drizzly! Just as well I completed a short trip out on Thursday morning although there’s very little to report from yet another cool, blowy and truncated session. I fear Spring migration has ended before it began and that soon it will be time to hang up the bins and let the birds get on with whatever they do in the summer. 

Conder Green proved very uninspiring, the high water levels giving little in the way of birds except for several Reed Buntings, two each of Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler and an unseasonal Goosnader. Glasson Dock was marginally better with a good selection of singing warblers as in 4 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff and singles of both Common and Lesser Whitethroat. 


Fortunately, and for regular blog readers who expect more than a couple of lines of prose and one picture from Another Bird Blog, there are more birds from Menorca 1st to 15th May. 

When exploring the area around Cap de Cavallaria in the north of Menorca I came across a very pale looking hedgehog. I managed to take one picture before the animal scuttled off into the undergrowth. By searching the Internet later I discovered the animal to be the North African or Algerian Hedgehog Atelerix algirus

North African or Algerian Hedgehog Atelerix algirus

The hedgehog is found in Algeria, France, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia and Spain. Because this hedgehog is native to Africa, it has been suggested that it was introduced by humans to the other countries where it is now found, including France, Spain and the island of Menorca. Specimens found inside a Bronze Age grave at the site of Biniai Nou in Menorca dated from the 13th century and indicated a rather recent arrival of the species on the island, probably via the Almohad invaders of that period. 

The North African Hedgehog closely resembles the European Hedgehog; however, there are several distinct differences between the two species. The North African Hedgehog tends to be smaller than its European counterpart. Its face is light in colour, usually appearing to be white, and the legs and head are brown. The underbelly varies in colour, and is often either brown or white. Its ears are highly visible on the head of the animal and are large in size. The body is covered in soft spines that are primarily white with darker banding. It was an interesting mammal find and a new one to add to my Menorca mammal list alongside the common and easily seen Hermann’s Tortoise and the less easily seen Stoat. 

Hermann's Tortoise

During the second week of our holiday there seemed to be a small influx of Red-footed Falcons, raptors which are late migrants and birds of open countryside, seen by us on overhead wires or circling recently cut fields in the areas of Cavallaria, Addaia and Es Grau. The largest group we saw was of 4 birds circling over Es Grau but a fellow hotel guest saw 10 red-foots together near Addaia just a day or two later. 

Red-footed Falcon

Red-footed Falcon

Red Kites seemed pretty plentiful this year while the normally common Booted Eagles proved scarce. Perhaps the endless sunny day kept the eagles soaring on high from where their binocular vision could easily locate prey without the birds lowering themselves to our level? 

Red Kite

Stonechats and Tawny Pipits were as common as ever alongside most highways, byways and the “camis”, the ancient bridleways and footpaths of Menorca. It’s along these routes that the three most common birds of Menorca are frequently heard but not necessarily seen - Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler and Sardinian Warbler. The adjoining fields hold good numbers of unseen but vocal Quail.

Cami de Addaia


Tawny Pipit

Nightingale-Photo credit: chapmankj75 / Foter / CC BY
Menorca farm

Menorca gate made from Wild Olive Tree (acebush) wood

This Menorcan boy and girl I met in Alaior were sheltering from the fierce sun. Either that or there’s rain on the way. 

 Alaior - Menorca

Rain or Shine there will be more birds soon with Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Anni's blog and Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Killing Time In Menorca

Wednesday began with yet more strong wind and showery spells from the north, hardly the best weather for finding later migrants arriving for the British Summer. Looks like I will have to invest in a pair of Stanfield's Canadian Thermal Long Johns for our UK summers.

So I took a day off birding until Thursday on the strength of a better forecast and set about creating a blog post about the recent Menorca holiday. 

There’s a well-worn route of ours via the ME1 and the Ronda which circumvents Ciutadella to reach Punta Nati, a rather desolate and sometimes windswept point at the north west corner of Menorca. Punta Nati is the place to see Ravens, larks, pipits, large numbers of Corn Buntings and when conditions are right, a number of raptors and other migrant birds. 

A mile before Punta Nati there’s a colony of Cattle Egrets in a pine plantation at the roadside. But the tiny stopping place leaves the car vulnerable to scraping the wing mirror on a stone wall or being hit by traffic zooming into Ciutadella a mile away. So it’s a quick point and shoot where the egrets are quite amenable as long as you don’t leave the car expecting the egrets to stay put. Many a budding photographer has discovered that should they approach on foot the egrets readily erupt into a cacophony of noise and action then depart the trees. 

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

The stone walls near the point provide lots of singing posts for Short-toed Larks, Corn Buntings, Thekla Larks and Tawny Pipits. In early May those species are well into the breeding season with much display, song and evidence of youngsters in the nest. 

Punta Nati, Menorca

Short-toed Lark

Tawny Pipit

Corn Bunting

Short-toed Lark

The Theklas proved harder to photograph this time, the only half decent pictures obtained on the single grey morning we encountered. 

Thekla Lark

The other speciality of the rocky landscape of Punta Nati is the Blue Rock Thrush, a species which like most members of the thrush family is generally shy. Here’s a somewhat distant picture of a male and female together. The Blue Rock Thrush is fairly common but not always easily seen in Menorca.

Blue Rock Thrush

Egyptian Vultures are usually about and it was here that on our second and sunny visit I came across an adult bird taking off from a rocky field and heading south, gaining height as it did so. The usual views of Egyptian Vultures consist of birds soaring over the Menorcan landscape at great height, where their almost 6ft wingspan makes them unmistakeable, even from some distance away. 

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vulture

The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), also called the white scavenger vulture or pharaoh's chicken, is a small Old World vulture and the only member of the genus Neophron. The use of the vulture as a symbol of royalty in Egyptian culture and their protection by Pharaonic law made the species common on the streets of Egypt and gave rise to the name "pharaoh's chicken". 

Egyptian Vultures feed mainly on carrion but are opportunistic and will prey on small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They also feed on the eggs of other birds, breaking larger ones by tossing a large pebble onto them. The use of tools is rare in birds and apart from the use of a pebble as a hammer, Egyptian Vultures also use twigs to roll up wool for use in their nest. Populations of this species have declined in the 20th century and some isolated island populations e.g The Canary Islands and Menorca, are endangered by hunting, accidental poisoning, and collision with power lines. 

On our sunny visit to Punta Nati we clocked up Kestrel, Red Kite, Booted Eagle, Peregrine plus a good number of Whinchats and Wheatears. We didn’t see the Stone Curlew here this year which does occur around Punta Nati, but a shy species which is not easily spotted amongst the grey rocky landscape. However we did manage to see two at Tirant on another day and another story. 

It’s the trade-off for a morning’s birding at Punta Nati, a stop off in Cutadella, Menorca’s second but far from second-rate city. Here are a few pictures which give a flavour of this most picturesque, historic, vibrant and wonderfully authentic Spanish city. 

The cathedral Ciutadella

Cafe Culture - Menorca

The fish market - Ciutadella

Market Square - Ciutadella

Coffee time in Ciutadella

Photography Exhibition - Ciutadella

The Harbour - Ciutadella

Placa Des Born - Ciutadella
Another Coffee Stop - Ciutadella

We called into one of our favourite shops where the Jamóns are displayed along the shelves and where Menorcan quesos lie slowly maturing.  Jamón ibérico or "Iberian ham", also called pata negra is a type of cured ham produced in Spain. Meanwhile the Menorcan countryside is dotted with farms which sell home-made speciality cheeses. The aromas created by these and other delicacies in delicatessens are simply heavenly making it impossible to leave such a shop without indulging in one or two samples. 

Menorcan Cheese - Ciutadella

Jamóns - Ciutadella

More from home and away soon on Another Bird Blog.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Birding Back To Normal

There’s a new header picture for the blog, an Egyptian Vulture I photographed in Menorca on the fine sunny morning of 13th May. Here’s another one for David in Canada. He’s more used to seeing Turkey Vultures. 

Egyptian Vulture

After two weeks of shirt sleeves and shorts Birding Menorca Style I’ve been itching to bird the local patch wearing similar attire but when it rained all Sunday night and into most of Monday morning I wasn’t too hopeful. Soon after lunch the sun came out although it remained cold and windy so I set off for Pilling wearing a scarf, winter jacket and a warm hat. The dashboard temperature showed 11⁰, a major reduction on the 25⁰ of the Mediterranean a week ago. 

Via the telephone Andy had told me of the failure of our two Skylark nests the previous week. One had failed at the chick stage with 3 tiny, dead youngsters in a saturated nest; the other nest reached the stage of 3 eggs before it too was abandoned, a victim of the unsettled, cool and often wet month of a not untypical UK May. Both pairs of Skylarks were still around today and showing all the signs of starting all over again very close to their original nests. But the strong wind blowing along and over the sea wall made it impossible to properly study what these two pairs and a number of others were doing. 

I found 3 Little Egrets feeding in the drainage ditch and along the fence line a single Wheatear and a couple of Linnets. 


I’d missed the highest point of the high tide but the water was still well up near the sea wall. This explained the large numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover roosting in the ploughed field, approximately 800 Dunlin and 70 Ringed Plovers, all hunkered down in the deep furrows the farmer had left for his potato crop but where the height of the furrows gave some protection against the cold wind. It was a sight I don’t think I have ever seen before during many years of birding and not one I would expect to see in the supposedly warm month of May. 

As I shaped to take a picture of this unusual spectacle the whole lot spooked and flew off over the sea wall as the reason came into sight, a male Peregrine taking a dive or two into the flock. Its attempts at a meal a failure the Peregrine flew south and out of sight. 


A number of Swallows and House Martins fed over windswept Worm Pool but no more than twenty in total with just one or two Swifts overhead. 

I moved closer to the shelter of the woodland where I clocked 2 Buzzard, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Mistle Thrush, 2 Song Thrush and any number of Blackbirds. In song - 3 Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Lesser Whitethroat together with 1 Greenfinch and a good number of Goldfinches. 

On the car park fields: 20 Shelduck, 12 Lapwing, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Pied Wagtail.  

There's more rain and wind forecast for tomorrow. Now where’s that holiday brochure?

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Birding Menorca Style

Two weeks in Menorca have flown by with just a rehash of old pictures and pre-scheduled postings for regular blog readers, a lapse for which I apologise. But blogging cannot be a priority when faced with Mediterranean sunshine, places to see and birds to find. So after returning home on Friday I found time to reinvigorate the blog with hopefully a return to near normality. Soon I’ll hit the local patch here in Lancashire again but in the meantime here are some fresh photos from Menorca 2015. 

We based ourselves on the south coast of the island at our preferred resort and favoured hotel where familiar and friendly faces gave the customary Menorcan welcome of hugs and kisses. No wonder we return year after year to this beautiful island. The early season beach was deserted, the sky as blue as can be with familiar birds around the beach and the hotel grounds. 

Menorca in May

Kestrels in Menorca seem much darker than our own, as do the Woodpigeons, Goldfinches, Linnets, Chaffinches and Greenfinches, and one or two other species. It must be something to do with all that sunshine. Taking pictures of the finches is well-nigh impossible after Mediterranean Man’s preference to see and hear the birds in cages. 



Newly arrived House Martins were busy collecting strands of sticky, wet seaweed from the beach to use in repairing last year’s nests near the hotel entrance. 

House Martin

The common lizard seen all over the island is the Italian wall lizard Podarcis siculus although they do not easily pose and run for cover if approached, even in the hotel garden. 

Italian wall lizard Podarcis siculus

From the beach bar it’s possible to make friends with one or two Audouin’s Gulls which reappear about 1st May to take advantage of the goodies on offer from the early tourists. Gulls are the same the world over in learning to adapt to man’s waste and untidiness except that this particular rare and endangered gull is especially beautiful. The gull presents something of a challenge to anyone with a camera in capturing the bill of many shades of red in the strong light of a Menorca day. 

Audouin's Gull

Audouin's Gull

Normally there are lots Spotted Flycatchers nearby, our early May visits coinciding with the species main migration time. Not this year, whereby the species seemed rather absent, perhaps early, late or just in smaller numbers from their wintering grounds in southern Africa. 

Spotted Flycatcher

Too soon our first day was all but over with just the Scop’s Owls to entertain us as they always do, regular as clockwork. It’s just a shame that Canon’s red-eye reduction system not doesn’t quite live up to the claim on the box. Not with owls anyway, but we’ll try again tomorrow night. 

Scop's Owl

There will be more from Another Bird Blog in Menorca soon when we hit the road in our little Panda.

Menorcan Panda

Also, there’s news from the local patch just as soon as I recover from Mediterranean sunstroke.

Linking today to I'd Rather-b-Birdin and Eileen's Blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Picture Menorca

Another Bird Blog is still in Menorca. Here are more Menorca birds and Menorca scenes until I’m home.

Fornells - Menorca


Audouin's Gull

Blue Rock Thrush

Spotted Flycatcher

Menorca sweets

Cap de Cavalerria


Red-backed Shrike

Tawny Pipit

Menorca Donkeys

Booted Eagle

Woodchat Shrike


Menorca Farm

Sardinian Warbler

Menorca Sunset

Many Thanks for your visit and comments. I’ll catch up with you quite soon. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails