Sunday, 20 May 2012

Mallorca 11th May 2012 Stone curlews and Eleanora's Falcons

I had intended to go to the beach to try and get some yellow billed gull pictures but in the end I couldn’t be bothered with the walk so I went to the disused old road/pine trees close to the apartment in the hope that the hoopoe I found there yesterday had returned and perhaps get a serin picture. As I started up the derelict road I spotted something moving at the top, by some rubble. I’d only seen movement but my hopes were that it was the hoopoe. I crept closer keeping behind the trees when a collared dove walked out from the rubble. I assumed that was what I had seen. However as I set up to wait for a serin to pose on some nearby weeds a stone curlew walked out then immediately disappeared into the weed bed.
I slowly moved closer and with the camera on a tripod I hid behind the last pine tree and an adjacent sapling and waited in hope.  Now normally this is where the story would end... disappointment; but not today! This was to end up being something very special, an Ashton moment in fact.
After about 10 minutes the bird started to emerge from the weeds. It was about 25 yards away but stopped and although partially concealed the head was in the open so I took a few shots hoping these wouldn’t be the last.
Stone curlew
Eventually it came right out and posed nicely before disappearing into the weeds on the other side of the track – the camera clicks didn’t seem to disturb it.
I continued to wait, not moving, when out it came again but this time it started running towards me very quickly! It got within 10 yards or so with me firing off a few shots then stopped but in the shade of my pine tree. 
It either saw me or the click of the camera were now too much of a concern because it retreated a few yards then stopped again .......but now it was in the open,  standing still and at the perfect angle. It’s a time like these that you fear the camera settings will be wrong or the card full or the battery will die but I’m glad to say none of these happened!

It was only there a few moments then moved away up the road and disappeared behind the rubble for a few minutes before re-emerging, walking back towards me and sitting down. I couldn’t get on the bird from where I was so I moved the camera very slowly a few inches to my right and got some more shots.

Again the bird disappeared into the weeds but eventually re-emerged and stood in the open some 20 yards away. I was firing away when a second came out of the scrub from the other side. They only stayed out together for a few moments when one walked off.

Eventually one bird flew over the hedge and the second moved off to the far end of the track about 50 yards off and that’s where I left it and waited for Pete to arrive. It had been a fantastic 45 minutes.
Pete arrived soon after and although we tried to relocate the birds they didn’t show. He took it well..........NOT!
After that the rest of the day seemed dull!
The plan for the morning was the Formentor peninsular to search for Eleanora’s falcons. I think it was at our second stop along the peninsula road that we saw 2 distant falcons that looked like they could be Eleanora’s but they were too far away to be sure so we moved on. At the next stop we had up to about a dozen in sight, some alongside the cliff face, some high above the ridges.
Formentor - typical view from a view point
 The falcons never came really close but we saw and photographed both pale and dark morph birds. I won’t say the birds are stunning because they are pretty drab compared to a hobby but it was great to see them and get some record shots. Needless to say this was these were the first Eleanora’s I had seen.

Eleanora's Falcon

Eleanora's Falcon - dark morph
We stopped off at another couple of places along the peninsula and although we could still see them they were always very distant.
A brief stop at the lighthouse at about 10.30 didn’t actually produce anything of note. The falcons were miles away and nothing other than very distant gulls were visible out to sea and tourist numbers were building quickly – including 50 seater coach loads.
The journey back was equally uneventful other than the delays caused by the coaches as they tried to manoeuvre round the tight hair pin bends on what is a very narrow road. Most of the view point car parks were now pretty full but where we could stop the falcons had either flown off or landed (Pete saw a couple land) so we returned to base for a late breakfast.
The afternoon was spent lazing in the sun at a little cove on the Alcudia peninsular just beyond Bonaire which just happened to have a few resident Audoin’s gulls to keep me amused!

The bay

Audouin's gull
I only really saw 3 birds on this day, the stone curlews, the falocons and the Audouin's but I was pretty happy at the end of it!

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