Mallorca

Autumn in the Balearics

An 8-day, single-centre, small group birdwatching tour to Mallorca

Our autumn bird tour to Mallorca offers the perfect introduction to birdwatching in the Med. The mountains, marshes, woods and spectacular cliff coasts of this immensely varied Balearic island are attractive to a host of resident and migratory birds. October is the best time to visit for views of Eleonora’s Falcons - when the adults are busy feeding their young on passerine migrants - and Cinereous Vultures hulk over the island’s limestone hills, where skulking Sardinian and endemic Balearic Warblers can be found. Mallorca’s extensive wetlands secrete other of Europe's scarcest breeding birds, from furtive Moustached Warblers and Western Swamphens, to rare Marbled Ducks and Red-knobbed Coots. Lying across a major migration route, in October there's the added thrill of autumn passage, too!

Tour Dates & Prices

Sat 10th October 2020

Sat 17th October 2020

  • Booking Closed

Thu 7th October 2021

Thu 14th October 2021

  • Booking Closed

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1795 inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £195Land Only: £1645Group Size: 7Leaders:  Fernando Enrique
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What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Heathrow to Palma (Mallorca), nonstop with British Airways
  • 7 nights accommodation on Mallorca, at a good and comfortable hotel near Puerto Pollensa
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips (hotels, meals etc) and taxes
  • Map & Limosa Checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1795* inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £195*Land Only: £1645*Group Size: 7Leaders:  Fernando Enrique
Join the Wait List

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Heathrow to Palma (Mallorca), nonstop with British Airways
  • 7 nights accommodation on Mallorca, at a good and comfortable hotel near Puerto Pollensa
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips (hotels, meals etc) and taxes
  • Map & Limosa Checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Highlights

  • Easy autumn birding on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca
  • Great for raptors: Eleonora’s Falcon, Cinereous and Griffon Vultures, Booted and Bonelli’s Eagles
  • S’Albufera Marsh - the largest and most important wetland in the Balearics
  • Moustached Warbler, Western Swamphen, Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Duck, Audouin’s Gull
  • Scopoli’s Shearwater, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark and the endemic Balearic Warbler
  • October migrants include shorebirds, Wryneck, Bluethroat, Pied and Mediterranean Flycatchers
  • Single-centre, small group tour based near Puerto Pollensa, on the island's bird-rich northeast coast
  • Expertly led by Limosa's own English-speaking, Spanish specialist Fernando Enrique

Outline Itinerary

  • Morning flight from London Heathrow-Palma. We transfer to our hotel for the week at Puerto Pollensa, on the island's bird-rich northeast coast. Night Puerto Pollensa

  • Puerto Pollensa is well placed to visit all of the island’s key birding sites - S’Albufera Marsh, the Boquer Valley, Salinas de Levante, Cabo de Salinas, Formentor Peninsula, Tramuntanas Mountains and Cuber Reservoir. Six further nights at Puerto Pollensa

  • We return to Palma this morning and check-in for our afternoon flight back to London

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
Eleonoras Falcon Gary Elton tabbed.jpg
Eleonora’s Falcon times its breeding to hit the peak of autumn bird migration through Mallorca © Gary Elton, Limosa

Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, flanked by Menorca to the east and Ibiza to the west, and situated some 200 kms from the nearest mainland coast in Spain. It is classically 'Mediterranean' in its limestone landscape, with a range of high mountains running along the north coast, which drop sharply into the sea creating some magnificent cliffs, plus a wealth of the garrigue and maquis habitats typical of the region. In S’Albufera, it has one of the largest freshwater marshes anywhere in the western Mediterranean, and there's an area of productive saltpans near the island's southernmost tip.

Although many holidaymakers head to Mallorca in spring, in autumn the weather is warm and, for visiting birdwatchers, the southbound bird migration makes October an especially exciting time. Thousands of birds pass over and through the island, resting and feeding up before continuing to their winter quarters in Africa - almost anything can turn up here!

Mallorca’s comparative isolation from mainland Europe has resulted in a number of rare species making the varied habitats of the north their home: Cinereous (Black) and Griffon Vultures, Audouin’s Gull, Moustached Warbler and the endemic Balearic Warbler await! However, it is surely the elegant Eleonora’s Falcon that is the island’s avian jewel in the crown, this dashing bird of prey - a summer visitor to Europe from Madagascar - timing its breeding to coincide with the peak of autumn bird migration through the Mediterranean. In October, it is superb to watch both the dark and light morph adults and their recently fledged young as they sear across the cerulean skies and azure seas, picking off weary migrants as they come in off the sea!

Taking a lesson from Eleonora's Falcon, our October tour is planned to coincide with the likely peak of autumn migration. And by staying beside the northeast coast at Puerto Pollensa, we shall be within easy reach of most of the island’s best birding locations. We'll enjoy a walk along the famous Boquer Valley, watching for migrants and birds of prey; explore the island's two key wetlands - Albufereta marsh and S’Albufera de Mallorca - in search of Moustached Warbler and Marbled Duck; drive up into the Tramuntanas Mountains seeking the immense Black Vulture; and pay a visit to the coast at Cala San Vicente, where migrants arrive in the trees and Balearic Warblers skulk in the maquis.

To the east, the seacliffs of Formentor Peninsula are spectacular and, from the tip, Balearic and Scopoli’s Shearwaters may be seen passing offshore. At the opposite end of the island, we'll visit the Salinas de Levante - saltpans where Greater Flamingos strut and passage waders stop to refuel - and Cabo de Salinas, where the dry fields can be good for Stone-curlew and the headland offers another chance of shearwaters and Balearic Warbler. In October, the small clumps of pine are attractive to migrant Pied, Spotted and Mediterranean Flycatchers, noisy Wrynecks and the sentinel Woodchat Shrike.

Mallorca is an ideal destination for those that may be new to birding in southern Europe and wanting to enjoy some of the best and most exciting Mediterranean species. But this is also a terrific holiday for anyone eager to experience the thrill of autumn migration - or simply looking for a short autumn break that’s packed with good birds. The pace is gentle, with warm autumn sun and rewarding birdwatching under the excellent tutelage of our top rated, English-speaking Spanish specialist Fernando Enrique. Fernando led our October 2019 tour to Mallorca and knows the island well.

Boquer Valley Mallorca FE 1019  IMG_7876 ck card.jpg
The Boquer Valley is a beautiful place to stroll as well as being an area well known for migrant birds, which arrive over the sea from the north in autumn and funnel inland along the valley © Fernando Enrique, Limosa

Day 1
FLY PALMA, TRANSFER TO PUERTO POLLENSA
Our autumn birdwatching tour to Mallorca begins with morning departure from London Heathrow to Palma, where Fernando will be waiting to welcome us. The drive northeast along the island's new motorway will whisk us away to the coast at Puerto Pollensa in good time to settle into our comfortable - and excellently located - hotel for the week.

Having lunched and freshened up at the hotel, we will take an easy walk nearby to get a feel for the area and see our first Mallorcan birds. The Albufereta Marsh is a wonderful wetland area right behind our hotel and here we could well be treated to our first Zitting Cisticolas, Marsh Harriers and migrants - or even Audouin’s Gulls on the beach. In places, we might find flowering Autumn Narcissus and the twisting spikes of Autumn Lady's Tresses. Night Puerto Pollensa

DAYS 2-7
BIRDWATCHING ON MALLORCA

Puerto Pollensa is perfectly situated for an autumn birdwatching tour, being right on the island's bird-rich northeast coast. With fresh migrants arriving daily and a wide variety of habitats to choose from, we shall never be short of places to go - although we may make more than one visit to some sites as, in autumn, the island's birdlife changes daily. Almost anywhere on our travels about Mallorca we may come across the likes of Black Kite, Pallid and Alpine Swifts, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Crag Martin, Sardinian and Cetti's Warblers, Serin and Cirl Bunting.

BOQUER VALLEY
The Boquer Valley is a beautiful place to stroll as well as being an area well known for migrant birds, which arrive over the sea from the north and funnel inland along the valley. Highlights here might include Hoopoe, perhaps a ‘real’ Rock Dove, Wryneck, Crag Martin and Common Redstart. Keeping one eye on the sky, we'll also be looking out for Booted Eagle, the now very rare Egyptian Vulture and the dashing Eleonora's Falcon high above the peaks.

PARC NATURAL DE S’ALBUFERA & ALBUFERETA MARSH
Just to the south of nearby Alcudia, is the most important wetland habitat on Mallorca: the Parc Natural de S’Albufera, a 2200-hectare freshwater marsh with extensive reedbeds that provide a wealth of insect life (notably dragonflies) - fuel for passing migrants such as terns, Bee-eaters, hirundines and warblers. Among resident species, Marsh Harrier and Moustached Warbler are key – the latter has up to 1,000 pairs, but they are an extremely secretive species that typically feeds very low in the reeds, close to the water’s edge, and can be tricky to find.

Having taken the main track along the canal and checked the trees for roosting Night Herons, we will call in at the reserve headquarters before exploring some of the numerous tracks that give access to the reedbeds and open areas of water. In autumn, there is usually an excellent variety of herons, egrets, waterfowl and waders to watch for along with localised specialities such as the scarce Marbled Duck, Western Swamphen and rare Red-knobbed Coot. S'Albufera is also home to around 50% of the critically endangered Spanish subspecies of Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus witherbyi); notable for their thicker bills typical of southern European subspecies, there are now fewer than 100 pairs in the whole country.

Here, and at the smaller Albufereta marsh (on the north side of town), we'll seek a variety of other wetland birds. Little Egret, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Garganey, Osprey and Great Reed Warbler are often about, while October brings the possibility of rarities such as Squacco Heron, Marsh Sandpiper and Slender-billed Gull.

TRAMUNTANAS MOUNTAINS, CUBER RESERVOIR & CALA SAN VICENTE
Driving east from Puerto Pollensa, we head up into the picturesque and rugged limestone mountains of the Tramuntanas. Watching for raptors as we go, we visit the Cuber Reservoir. A small patch of pines could produce the local Balearic race of Common Crossbill, and Tawny Pipits are sometimes calling here or a little down the path to the reservoir.

Scanning the surrounding limestone peaks, we will hope to spot the huge ‘black bag’ Cinereous (or Black) Vulture coasting over one of its few remaining European haunts, and may be lucky with Egyptian Vulture, a declining species which has all but disappeared in recent years. In 2008, strong winds from the Spanish mainland carried nearly a hundred Griffon Vultures to Mallorca; these are now breeding on the island and have outnumbered its bigger cousin. This can also be a great spot for Booted Eagle and Peregrine - and the reservoir edges are always worth checking, both for Osprey and Eleonora’s Falcon (which regularly comes down to bathe). In autumn, migrant passerines often frequent the track and streamside vegetation and Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler and Blackcap are usually about.

Along the island's north coast, small secluded valleys head down to the sea. Cala San Vicente is one such place, where we will search the autumnal trees for migrants and take a track into the coastal maquis for a chance of seeing the diminutive and endemic Balearic Warbler.

CASAS VELLAS & MIRADORS, FORMENTOR & ARTA PENINSULAS
The Formentor Peninsula is an extension of the Tramuntanas range - and another area not to be missed! in autumn, this immensely scenic and northeasternmost corner of the island is a good spot for southbound migrants. Just as we wind up the hills north of Puerto Pollensa, the Mirador viewpoints at the start of the peninsula provide views back to the town as well as into the mouth of the Boquer Valley. We may be treated here to eye-to-eye views of Blue Rock Thrush, Raven, Crag Martin and - best of all - rakish Eleonora's Falcons as they enjoy the breeze and search for tired migrant birds heading south to Africa.

The road to the lighthouse is interesting and arriving at the eastern tip of the peninsula we have further chances of Eleonora’s Falcon, plus shearwaters as they coast by offshore. We will spend some time at Casas Vellas, an area of fields harbouring fig and olive groves as well as grape vines in the middle of this otherwise pine-covered peninsula. The varied vegetation is home to resident birds but also attracts many southbound migrants in autumn and amidst the many Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps we will look for flycatchers, Serin, Crossbill and Firecrest.

The Artà Peninsula lies south of Formentor and is a scenic (although not very high) mountainous area, rising to 500m (1600 feet). The habitat here is similar to the Tramuntana area, with valleys covered in Mediterranean scrub and patches of pine woodland. Mallorca's last breeding pair of Egyptian Vultures is to be found here, as are Balearic and Sardinian Warblers. Artà is a good spot for Thekla Lark, Blue Rock Thrush and Tawny Pipit, too. Ospreys are common along the coast.

SALINAS DE LEVANTE AND CABO DE SALINAS
On one day will drive south to the saltpans at Salinas de Levante - the best site on the island for shorebirds. Access is best on the southern pans and by stopping frequently we should find Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt. In the autumn, the salt pans are attractive to migrant waders and from the road that skirts the south-eastern edge, we should see Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Ruff, along with numerous Little Stints.

Numbers of Greater Flamingo have risen steadily over the years and they gather here in autumn to spend the winter feeding on the pans. Ospreys put in regular appearances during October, when butterflies to watch for include Two-tailed Pasha, Plain Tiger (African Monarch) and Swallowtail. This can also be a good place to find Bluethroat.

To the south of the salt pans, the Cabo de Salinas lighthouse marks the southernmost tip of Mallorca. Getting there involves crossing rough sheep pasture and a marvellous area of undisturbed garrigue, which is home to Eurasian Stone-curlew and Thekla Lark. Migrants such as Turtle Dove, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and Redstart may be found sheltering amidst the low stone walls and scattered bushes. Balearic Warblers also occur in the scrub - but there are Sardinian Warblers here too, so we shall need to look and listen carefully!

From the beach and headland we should see Audouin’s Gull - one of the rarest gulls in the world - and if the winds are right, Scopoli’s and Balearic Shearwaters may be passing by offshore. Six further nights Puerto Pollensa

Day 8
RETURN TO PALMA, FLY LONDON

Depending on airline schedules, we may have time to enjoy some last minute birdwatching on Mallorca today.

Leaving Puerto Pollensa, we travel back to Palma, the island's capital, and check-in for our return flight to London, where our autumn birding tour to Mallorca concludes.

black-winged stilt Thailand 2015 BS.jpg
The supremely elegant Black-winged Stilt is a common - and noisy! - resident of Mallorca's wetlands © Brian Small, Limosa

WHAT TO EXPECT
The Balearic island of Mallorca is both an ideal destination for an autumn birding getaway and the perfect introduction to birdwatching in the Med. Its mountains and marshes, woodlands and spectacular cliff coasts are attractive to a host of resident and migratory birds.

October is the best time to go for great views of Eleonora’s Falcons, the adults now busily feeding their young on migrant passeriness; 'black-bag' Cinereous Vultures hulk over the limestone hills, where Sardinian, Spectacled and the endemic Balearic Warblers can all be found. The island's extensive wetlands secrete other of Europe's scarcest breeding birds - furtive Moustached Warblers, chunky Western Swamphens, and rare Marbled Ducks and Red-knobbed Coots. Lying across a major migration route, October brings the added thrill of autumn passage, too!

Our daily routine on Mallorca will be to take a pre-breakfast walk (optional) - perhaps visiting Albufereta Marsh or the start of the Boquer Valley. After returning for breakfast, we'll travel out by minibus to one of the island's many excellent sites for our main birding of the day. The majority of Mallorca's best birdwatching spots lie within an easy drive of our hotel and we will then spend a full morning watching birds and other wildlife before thinking about lunch.

Our lunches may variously be taken as a sit down meal or as tasty picnics comprising fresh bread, local cheeses and hams, fruit and drinks, bought from a store.

After lunch on some days (particularly if the weather is very warm), we may take the chance of a short break - if possible back at the hotel - before heading out again mid-afternoon to another prime birding spot. We return to our hotel in good time to get ready for dinner and to call the day's checklist.

The weather in Mallorca during October is often warm and sunny, with daytime temperatures at Puerto Pollensa in the range of 13-23C/55-73F (average 18C/64F). It can be cool first thing, however (ground frost is possible at this season). Being near the coast, it can be breezy at times - notably on the seacliffs at Formentor - and you should expect some rain or showers in autumn (30% chance)... but of course these often bring the migrant birds!

BIRDS
90-120 species

ACCOMMODATION
7 nights accommodation at a good tourist hotel close to the coast near Puerto Pollensa. All rooms have private facilities.

MEALS
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with either lunch or dinner at our hotel on Day 1 and concluding with either breakfast or lunch on Day 8 (according to flight schedules).

Breakfasts and evening meals will be taken in the hotel. Our lunches may be taken at the hotel, a local restaurant or as picnics in the field, whichever best suits our plans for the day.

WALKING
Easy. Short walks (up to 3 km or so) over predominantly level terrain. Being on limestone, some tracks can be stony and rough underfoot at times - some participants may find a walking pole or a lightweight collapsible stool useful here.

We recommend you wear comfortable walking shoes or lightweight boots, with sturdy corrugated soles for grip.

TRAVEL
We fly London Heathrow-Palma, nonstop with British Airways.

** Flights from Gatwick and some UK regional airports may also be possible for the benefit of participants wishing to avoid London. Please ask our office for details and flight supplement at time of booking.**

Ground Transport   By minibus.

balearic warbler FE mallorca tabbled.jpg
A tough little cookie to crack... the range-restricted Balearic Warbler is endemic to the Balearic Islands, where it can be quite secretive at times and isn't always an easy bird to find © Fernando Enrique, Limosa

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