Saturday, May 07, 2011

Balearic Spring Day 2 - Searching the Garrigue

A feint glimmer of orange appeared across the crop fields that surrounded the villa, as the dawn sun approached the horizon before it would quickly arc upwards in to the clear blue skies. I was having a quick look at out my bedroom window taking in my new surroundings before getting started for the day. A Zitting Cisticola (Fantail Warbler) in bounding song flight across the grassland caught my attention with its steady monotone of 'dzip, dzip' calls. In the distance the low flutey whistle of a Hoopoe.

We headed out after breakfast down to an area of garrigue on the east coast. Garrigue is a low growing coastal scrub and provides an ideal habitat for a range of warblers. It is very attractive in the spring with a diverse range of flowers mixed in amongst the shrubs. It certainly made a change photographing birds surrounded by the pleasant aromatic scent of rosemary.

The walk in to the garrigue was quite long and through an area of pine woods which provided occasional glimpses of birds such as Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Crossbills, Serin and the electric song of Nightingale. As we approached the coast, the trees diminished and we were finally in scrub area that bordered the coast. I quickly found a Sardinian Warbler and decided to concentrate on trying to get some photographs of these birds. A bit of patience combined with the natural curiosity of the species produced a selection of images as the bird flitted between two low shrubs via a fence line.

The first clear sighting of a Sardinian Warbler, perched on a wire fence, singing with the sky and the Mediterranean sea merged in to one to form the background.

Typically for this type of warblers, they have a high curiosity for investigating visitors.

Once their inquisitive nature has been satisfied they usually return to normal operations which is singing a great deal.

After a very enjoyable encounter with the Sardinian Warbler, I moved further into the scrub and came across two larks perched on some rocky ground. By this point the heat of the day was really starting to kick-in and a visible heat haze forming. Of the few photos I managed to take of the larks only this one came out sharp due to the wobbling air between me and the bird, even at close range.

The debate then started if this was a Crested or Thekla Lark. We decided based on looks and song to identify the birds at Thekla Lark but of course at the point we did not realise that crested larks are not present on Mallorca!

By now the sun was high and harsh and the birds quietened down for a siesta. There was no sign or sound of one of the birds I was really hoping to photograph, the Balearic Warbler, so it looked like a return visit later in the week may be required. As we left the garrigue I almost literally stumbled across a Hermann's Tortoise. The first time I have ever encountered a wild tortoise and so a few photographs were required.

We decided to go and check a couple of sites near the southern end of S'Albufera marsh from a rather out of date bird watching guide. The first, a quarry, was now a woodland. Bird life in there was rather limited but there was a good number of Swallowtail butterflies. I must admit photographing insects is not really my bag but Steve pursues them and it is difficult to ignore the beauty of these large butterflies.

Time to get back to the birds and onwards to our next stop at the treatment works lagoons but the reported hide turned out to be a viewing platform and the photographic opportunities were zero. We then decided to return to S'Albufera Marsh and have a concentrated effort on the Cattle Egrets that were flying in to the colony with nesting material. The wind was still not in the ideal direction but we managed to get some photos after a while, a small selection of which are posted below.

To finish off the day, this loafing cormorant drying its feathers in the last of the sun caught my eye.

It had been a long and interesting day. We had covered a large distance on foot in hot weather along dusty tracks carrying heavy camera gear. On returning to the villa and before going through the days images, an essential need was to soak my aching feet in the pool with a cold beer in hand as the last of the light faded behind the mountains. Another moment of Mallorcan magic.


texwisgirl said...

gorgeous shots - all of them. the turtle was especially cute.

Beej said...

Lovely detail in your photos. Some of the birds are familiar to me but others like the Sardinian Warbler aren't.


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