Birdwatching in Mondragó, Mallorca

More than Birdwatching in Mondragó, I guess the title should really be Bird-counting in Mondragó.

Yes, I spent last Saturday birdwatching (or counting) in the natural park of Mondragó in Mallorca with our ‘Winter Activities‘. We were participating in the official bird count that takes place all over Spain on the same day providing an accurate record of migratory bird species and numbers in the country for conservation and research purposes.

Mallorca is a splendid place for birdwatchers, as we receive a lot of migratory birds to-ing and fro-ing between Europe and Africa who just love our cosy and comfy marshlands, that they don’t have to book in advance and are very economical!

There are several parts of Mallorca that have these marshlands. Natural Parks have been created around them, providing a safe and peaceful rest stop for these migratory birds. The park where were birdwatching this weekend was Mondragó in the municipal area of Santanyí.

In this post I’m going to tell you all about this special birdwatching event in Mallorca that only takes place a couple of times a year, as well as why a birdwatching visit to Mondragó is a must if you are part of the binoculars brigade (and why it’s not if you are not)…

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Biel the park ranger at Mondragó. Photo by Lisa-Marie Sykes

A new Experience for me in Mallorca (or anywhere)

The alarm clock went off at 0645am on Saturday morning. It was dark. It was cold. I didn’t want to get out of bed.

But I’d made a commitment to go help count birds in Mondragó at the other side of the island and the clock was ticking.

The journey from Alcudia to Mondragó Natural Park takes nearly an hour and a half.

Toni, Catiana and I set off from Alcudia at 0730am and met up with Txema and Teresa at Mondragó Natural Park car park. This was something that had been planned for Winter Activities but today there were only five of us: a poor show.

It was a beautiful clear morning, we’d enjoyed a gorgeous hazy sunrise during the journey over, and Txema was unscrewing a flask of rich-smelling Nespresso right there in the car park. Birdwatching in Mondragó looked promising so far.

The truth is, I hadn’t been very enthusiastic about going birdwatching in Mondragó Natural Park for a few reasons:

  • I don’t particularly like birds;
  • I can never see anything through binoculars;
  • and I knew that it was a long, early morning drive.

However, I had my zoom-lens fixed on, the weather couldn’t have been clearer and I was in good company.

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Setting off in good company

We went into the visitor centre and met Jordi and Biel, the sweet and enthusiastic park rangers at Mondragó Natural Park and the people we would be working for today.

They hooked a pair of binoculars around our necks and gave us a brief description of what would be expected of us as we waited for another group of people who would be joining us. And who were late.

As I was imagining what sort of bird geeks would be joining us, Jordi was telling us what we had to look for… “So you all know the Agró blanc, the Ànec Coll blau, the Fotja and the Corb Mari gros, don’t you?” He said, smiling as though it was obvious that we would know these bird species, otherwise why would we be here? Good question. Our faces must have indicated that we were most certainly not familiar with these birds.

“Do you maybe have the names of the birds in English?” I ventured, knowing that it wouldn’t make the slightest difference. “Or even Castellano?”

Jordi smiled indulgently and rolled his eyes slightly. Then he got out some large photos of several birds that all looked the same and passed them around. “These are the birds that you have to count,” he said. “Now we are going to split into two groups in order to cover two areas. One group will go with me and the other will go with Biel…”

Arrival of the Binoculars Brigade

Just then the door opened and four people breezed in looking much cooler than any of us ever could with binoculars casually swung around their necks. This group was exactly as I thought it would be:

The bird geeks were here.

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

The bird-geeks getting themselves organised

Jordi rattled off a few bird names in Mallorquin along with some other jargon and the bird geeks just smiled and nodded, comprehending everything. They looked excited to be there.

Our group just looked apprehensive, and some of us downright scared. This was the national bird-counting day for the whole of Spain. If we messed it up we would mess up the records FOREVER. And here we were barely able to tell a wing from a tail. Why had they allowed us to go, again? Were they that desperate?

Birdwatching in Mondragó

For those interested in birdwatching in Mondragó, this is a perfect opportunity to really join in and do something positive for the conservation of migratory birds in Mallorca.

To join in the national bird count at Mondragó, you have to make a reservation for your group by calling ahead, but it is free and is a unique experience. Then you just turn up at the time they tell you and set off with one of the park rangers to record what you find.

Great fun for those who are part of the binocular brigade.

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

We saw an egret before we’d even got to our pond

Beautiful Landscape at Mondragó Natural Park

We set off in our two groups: Txema, Teresa and Catiana went with Jordi in the “those who have no clue” group and Toni and I somehow ended up with Biel and the bird geeks in the advanced Mondragó bird-counting 2015 group. Oh shit!

Mondragó Natural Park is split into different areas, and different routes have been created for visitors to walk around. There are two main wet areas where the migratory aquatic birds are usually found.

Our group was going to the area of Estany de S’Amarador (Amarador Pond) and the others were going to Estany de Ses Fonts de n’Alis (Font de n’Alis Pond).

Map of Mondragó Natural Park

Map of Mondragó Natural Park

This meant that our group had to cross one of the coves: Cala d’en Garrot.

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Crossing Cala d’en Garrot

This short walk around the edge of the cove was one of the highlights of my day: the view was splendid, with the white sand, blue sea and spooky-looking mist rising off the water due to condensation as night ended and day dawned.

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Misty Morning in Mondragó

I would like to remind you that all the photos used on InMyShoesTravel.com are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see more of my photos from the day here.

I stumbled after the group trying to keep up and understand what they were talking about as well as see birds, take photos and not strangle myself with the binoculars. And all that was before we even got to our hunting ground – I mean birdwatching ground.

Birdwatching at Estany de S’Amarador in Mondragó

No sooner had we arrived at the pond and the bird geeks started whispering excitedly about a white seagull flying over our heads. “No no, that’s not a seagull,” I was told. “It’s an Agró blanc.” Ah, my mistake. (Agró blanc is the little egret or small white heron).

The bird geeks were huddled around a book whispering and pointing up at the bird. The egret had stopped in a tree and they were beside themselves with excitement. All was silent and then there was a loud CLICK from the shutter on my camera. They all turned to scowl at me as the bird flew off. What? I had to take photos!

We continued around the lake on a narrow dirt path, everyone walking with exaggeratedly slow and silent steps so as not to disturb the birds. I was trudging behind them crunching over rocks and leaves trying not to sound like a herd of elephants bringing up the rear.

Every now and then they’d stop, binoculars glued to their eyes. They’d point and ooh and ahh. Each time I’d point my binoculars in the same direction desperately straining to see what they were seeing. Were they making it up? Was it like when a prankster stops on a busy city street and points up at nothing and jumps up and down as though it’s a UFO or something until others stop and point too and say that they can see it?

We saw a few wild ducks while birdwatching in Mondragó

birdwatching in mondrago

The Mallard takes flight

Toni was not much better than me but he had seen the duck that everyone got very excited about.

“Quick, take a picture,” he told me. I just looked at him. Take a picture of a duck? Really? Was it a special duck or something? Turned out it was! It was an Ànec Coll blau (mallard or wild duck). Ah, that explained the excitement of the group then. That explained why they were acting as if they had just seen Santa Claus.

Anyway, moving on…

Biel was a great guide

We traipsed around after Biel, who knew where to look and what to look for. The bird geeks followed him, making a note of everything we saw, including the time and the place.

Biel, himself being an enthusiast, would spot something and then careen off the footpath, down the embankment, followed by the bird-geeks who would skid after him, followed by me and Toni hanging on to our binoculars and cameras, trying not to fly down the side of the hill ourselves.

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Biel would dive off the path without warning when he saw something move

They would all pause and ooh and aah. I would desperately peer through my binoculars in the same direction as them and see absolutely nothing.

Wild rabbits

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

How many wild rabbits can you count?

I think that after a good hour or so of seeing nothing every time we stopped, Toni and I pretty much gave in.

Toni got more excited about seeing a few rabbits hopping and playing in a field nearby and I was happy to jump onboard. This I could see, so I happily clicked away while the others strained to see some water chicken or something (that was me translating it literally at the time. In fact it was a swamp chicken or common moorhen).

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

This is a common moorhen. You’ll just have to take my word for it!

We finally got back to our starting point at nearly 12:00pm. We were exhausted. And exhilarated. At least the binocular bunch was!

Actually, don’t tell anyone but I was feeling pretty lucky to have been able to take part in this unique activity birdwatching in Mondragó: the location could not have been more ideal or natural. It was great to experience and learn about the area’s biodiversity and about how the visiting birds benefit from all that Mallorca has to offer.

We compared notes and it seemed that between the two groups we had seen nine species:

  • 1 Egretta garzetta
  • 1 Ardea cinérea
  • 5 Anas platyrhynchos
  • 1 Alcedo atthis
  • 1 Phalacrocorax carbo
  • 5 Fulica atras
  • 8 Gallinula chloropus
  • 2 Tachybaptus ruficollis
  • 1 Actitis hypoleucos

Exploring Mondragó

After we set our binoculars down and thanked our hosts for their patience, the five of us headed out to explore the park on our own.

There are four short routes to follow, plus three gorgeous coves, a cave or two and several geo-caches. We amused ourselves for hours and wore ourselves out completely.

If you speak Spanish (or even if you don’t) click below for a great video that Txema made of the day, complete with interviews with each one of us about our experience:

Parc Natural de Mondragó by Txema Alvarez

I also recommend that you check out Teresa’s post on her blog about the experience. It’s written in Spanish but it’s well worth translating, to get a different perspective on the same experience:

Recuento de Aves Acuaticas Invernantes en el Parque Natural de Mondrago by Teresa Jimenez

And here are a few photos from me of the landscape that we encountered while we were enjoying Mondragó Natural Park later that day:

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

End of the bird count – exhausted!

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Exploring Cala des Burgit

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Winter Activities enjoying winter!

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Wonder what’s down here…

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Gorgeous coastline around Mondragó

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Scenic routes around Mondragó

Bird-Count in Mondragó 2015

Txema interviews Catiana for his video

If you would like to see more of what we get up to in Mallorca in winter click here.

If you would like to find out more about walking in Mallorca click here.

I would like to remind you that all the photos used on InMyShoesTravel.com are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.

Filed Under: featuredmallorcaspainWalking in MallorcaWildlifeWinter Activities

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About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....

RSSComments (4)

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  1. Toni says:

    Great post and funny!We had a great time and it was good fun!This is the stroll we did after: http://www.balearsnatura.com/parc-natural-de-mondrago/itinerarios_itinerari-de-la-volta-a-sa-guardia-d-en-garrot.html

  2. Jan Edwards says:

    Hi Lisa,I’ve nominated your blog for a Liebster Award. See my blog for more details please!

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Jan,
      I have been travelling and I didn’t see this comment until just now. As you know, I did see your post and your very welcome and unexpected nomination. So thanks again and sorry for not replying here sooner. x

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