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A Report from

Menorca Aug 26th - Sept 9th,

Ray & June Thorneycroft.

A late booking holiday, for my wife and myself, to Menorca, staying at the Victoria Playa hotel, in Sant Tomas on a half board basis, for 14 days. The hotel and the food was great, on the downside for us this was a Thompson's "Super-families", hotel dedicated to families with small children.

Sant Tomas, was a small place, which you could circuit in 30 minutes. 5 hotels, a few shops and restaurants, and some nice little walks. It was situated almost central on the south coast.

We did not realize just how small the island was, being about 40k, east to west, and, 20k, north to south. A car was hired, costing, about £71 for three days, plus fuel. We did one trip to the west of the Island, one to the north, and one to the southeast.

The Victoria Playa, was the most easterly building in Sant Tomas, and our room was on the third floor overlooking a pine covered hillside on our left. On the right was the sea, and in the center was scrubland. About two kilometres along the coast to the east, was the resort of Son Bou. In front of Son Bou was a large reed bed, with no open water, and a line of sand dunes, between it and the sea. On the landward side of the reed bed, was a large gorge, with high cliffs, known as the Son Bou Gorge. Most of the birds seen were in this area, and most of the raptors were seen from the hotel balcony.

On picking up the car, we were en route to one of the eleven petrol stations on the island. June spotted a leather outlet off the road. Against my better judgment I stopped, and a Booted Eagle flew low over us giving best ever views.

We visited Cala Galdana, a beautiful resort, which is almost a lagoon. A river runs into the sea here, and this flows out of a gorge where Egyptian Vultures breed. I left the wife settled by a restaurant, and headed into the gorge. I met a family party coming out. Yes, they had seen some large white birds, halfway up the cliff side, in a pine tree. This was about 30 minutes ago-" you can't miss them they are opposite a clearing with a donkey in it". Altogether, I traveled for one hour into the gorge before turning back. After 30mins I came across a pile of fresh horse muck.  Can't be far now, I says. I never did see the donkey. (I think I was tracking Shergar), never saw the vultures either.

The gorge was a wonderful place. It must be magic in spring. Many Spotted and female Pied Flycatchers were about. Cetti Warblers were calling and a nightingale was heard. A pair of Blue Rock-thrushes, were on the cliff face. Lots of Butterflies, Damselflies, and Dragonflies. I wish I could have spent more time there. The time I was in the gorge was around midday, and I reckon the vultures were in the air.

 Driving out from Cala Galdana a pair of Ravens flew across the road in front of us heading in the direction of the gorge.

We drove to the most southwesterly point of the Island, to a lighthouse that can be seen from Sant Tomas. Beautiful views, but the sea was bare-no Shearwaters. On the return journey, near the town of Ferries, a pair of Egyptian Vultures, were circling high in the sky.

On the second day with the car, we headed north to the Cap De Cavelleria. We seem to be drawn towards lighthouses. The area was similar to moorland. Again, not enough time was spent here. I had to remember it was also someone else's holiday. Birds seen were, Northern Wheatear, Stonechat, Turtle Dove, 2 Kestrels, and a party of Europepean-bee eaters.

We drove east, following the coast, calling in at Fornells,, Port Addaia, and finishing up at S'Albufera. This was a large steep-sided lake, and a telescope would be needed to cover it. A few Little Egrets were seen, and a wader and a tern, both too far to be recognized. At three o'clock in the afternoon, I didn't expect to see a great deal.

On the third day out in the car we covered the southeast coast with little success bird wise. We called in at Son Bou to the see the other side of the reed bed. The resort development was right up against it.

Twice I walked along the coast to the west of Sant Tomas.  The first time, I was toddling along minding my own business, when I realized I was walking through a nudist beach. Not exactly the place to be with a pair of binoculars. Anyway my attention was focused on a Yellow-legged Gull, sat on a rock. Six Pallied Swifts were also seen here, along with a couple of Turtle Doves, Blue Rock thrush, Barn Swallows, Whinchat, Stonechats, Goldfinches, and Spotted Flycatchers.

Five times during the holiday, I walked eastwards towards the Son Bou reed bed, along the coast at various times of the day. In the fields were huge charms of Goldfinches about 200 birds strong. Sardinian Warblers were flitting about the scrub. Two adult, and one juv, Audouins gulls, were on a rock off shore. They were greeting each other, and sounded more like a pack of dogs barking. At the base of the same rock a Mediterranean Shag, (desmaresii) was perched. At the reed bed, five European Bee-eaters were on station on a dead tree. A Woodchat Shrike was spotted every time I came, in different parts of his territory. Each time I made the walk, there was something different. A pair of Fan-tailed Warblers, Thelka Lark, Tawney Pipit, Raven.  I had Very good views of a Cettis Warbler, although it only lasted about five seconds.

Off shore from Son Bou is a small island where the Shags spend their time. An  Osprey was sat on the seaward side one afternoon.

Behind the reed bed was the Son Bou Gorge. To the left of the reed bed, and sat squarely in the middle of the first field was a farmhouse. This made it impossible to cross the field, and there were private signs everywhere. I did eventually cross the fields nearer the Victoria Playa, and into the pine forested hillside. Battling up to the summit, I came up to a wall. Looking over this, I was staring straight down into the gorge. Nearly died of fright. Alas on this afternoon there was nothing to be seen. I stumbled back down through the forest, flushing a covey of Red-legged Partridges.

Each evening a number of Yellow-legged Gulls gathered on the beach usually with a couple of the Audouins, after the sun bathers had departed.

Without a doubt the best birds were spotted from the hotel balcony. We were on the third floor.  The first day an Egyptian Vulture at tree top height was heading towards the gorge. On two other occasions one was spotted high over Son Bou.  Booted Eagle was spotted most days over the gorge, above the pine trees.  One morning, a Black Kite was spotted coming in off the sea, and heading over the pine trees. Three Little Egrets were spotted flying west along the coast. On the last evening while waiting for the wife to get ready for dinner, I was sat on the balcony watching a Booted Eagle over the gorge when three Alpine Swifts showed over the pines above the gorge.

After dinner, I doubled back up to the balcony, and watched a Peregrine over the gorge, slowly circling and gaining height . I was rewarded with the best "stoop" I have ever witnessed. It obviously missed as it was back up above the trees five minutes later.

Sant Tomas turned out to be a good base for a Menorca holiday. The Victoria Playa would suit  birdwatchers with  small families, with limited time to spare. I can thoroughly recommend room 356 at the back.  Cala Galdana would also make an ideal base, with good walking into the gorge.

Birds seen. (in adhoc order)

House sparrow.   common
Sardinian Warbler.   where ever there is scrub
Stonchat.   pretty common
House Martin.   a pair at Sant Tomas.
Spotted Flycatcher.   Sant Tomas and Cala Galdana gorge.
Pied Flycatcher.   Females Cala Galdana gorge
Pallied Swift.   6 at Sant Tomas east.
Turtle Dove.   Sant Tomas, Cap De Cavelleria, and Es Migiorn Gran
Hoopoe.   1 at Sant Tomas
Kestrel.  3 at Sant Tomas others at various places.
Rock Doves.   Sant Tomas.
Mediterranean Shag.  desmarestii coast walk Sant Tomas east.
European Bee-eater.   5 at Son Bou reed bed. 8 at Cap De Cavelleria. 15 on wires, Es Migiorn Gran.
Fan-tailed Warbler.   2,  coast walk Sant Tomas east
Wood Pidgeon.   common
Little Egret.   3 Sant Tomas, 1 Cap De Cavelleria. 3, S'Albufera
Woodchat Shrike.   coast walk, Sant Tomas east.
Blue-rock Thrush.   Cala Galdana gorge, and Sant Tomas
Cettis Warbler.   1 Son Bou reed bed, on call Cala Galdana.
Nightingale.   on call, Cala Galdana gorge
Raven.  2 Cala Galdana, 1 Sant Tomas coast walk.
Grey Heron.   1 Cala Galdana gorge. 1 at Addaia
Egyptian Vulture.   2 near Ferries,-odd birds from Hotel balcony over Son Bou gorge.
Booted Eagle.   1 over Es Mercadal, quite a few times from hotel balcony.
Northern Wheatear.   1 at Cap De Cavelleria.
Coot.   many,  S'Albufera
Little Grebe  2 at S'Albufera.
Barn Swallow.   3 Sant Tomas west.
Whinchat.   1 Sant Tomas west, 1 Sant Tomas east
Osprey.   1 sat on the large rock off Son Bou.
Sand Martin.   small group over Son Bou reed bed
Thelka Lark.   1 coastal walk Sant Tomas east.
Red-legged Partridge.   covey in pine wood, Sant Tomas. 2 Es Migiorn Gran.
Tawney Pipit.   1 coastal walk Sant Tomas east.
Blackbird. 1 on walk from Es Migiorn Gran.
Black Kite.   1 coming in off sea, Sant Tomas.
Alpine Swift.  3 above treeline over Son Bou gorge.
Peregrine Falcon.  1 over Son Bou gorge.
Audouins Gull.  2 adults on Sant Tomas beach, 2 adults, 1 juv coast walk Sant Tomas east.
Yellow-legged Gull.   up to 8  Sant Tomas beach.

Painted Ladies
Clouded yellows
Small Blues

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