Although schools, shops and terraces are beginning to open up again, most travel restrictions are still in place. Tired of sitting at home during my precious holidays I researched which countries would be possible to visit with relatively little hurdles and hoops to jump through. Since recently, Spain allowes travellers to enter the country with a single negative test result. Moreover, in Germany there isn't a mandatory quarantine after a visit to Mallorca. My dear friends Wouter and Sander were keen to go abroad as well so a week before the holidays started we booked our flights, arranged corona tests and filled in the necessary forms. Despite having been to the island before, Wouter and me wanted to explore some new spots for Majorcan Midwife Toad. For Sander the entire island was new and we all wanted to enjoy the Mediterranean in springtime. Just have a relaxing trip, have a swim, do some birding and try to find as many species of amphibian and reptiles as possible. That worked out pretty well!
24th of April 2021
Our journey started on Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We all had our negative test results, health declarations and flight reservations with us and came well prepared. Sadly there was something wrong with Sanders flight which was cancelled, booked again and then again cancelled. When we called him Mr. X this seemed to work and he was allowed on the plane with us. The plane was nearly empty and we had an entire row to ourselves, something I will surely miss when Covid is over... Upon arrival the rental car was quickly collected and we searched for Green Toads at a wetland close to the airport but only found Iberian Water Frogs (Pelophylax perezi). We drove to a ghost town called Alcudia and easily found our accommodation. Apartment number 007 which was fitting for our mystery friend Mr. X. After a Zaanse Slobber it was off to bed.
25th of April 2021
We decided to do the furthest west spot and one of the biggest highlights on the first day. After a quick stop in Inca for some breakfast and lunch we arrived in the beautiful Serra de Tramuntana mountains. At the parking we immediately saw Balearic Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra balearica) foraging in the treetops. Also on the hike up we saw interesting birds such as a Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) and Wrynecks (Jynx torquilla). Especially the latter seemed common on Mallorca and we heard them calling wherever we went on the island. Also the first Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) were seen basking on the dry-stone walls. Our post-lockdown bodies struggled with the climb up but we managed to reach the old water cistern on top of the plateau. In the middle of a dry Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) forest, this cistern is isolated enough from other water bodies to provide a home to a thriving population of Majorcan Midwife Toad (Alytes muletensis). No predators or competitors can reach this place. We quickly found several very different but equally beautiful individuals. After the hike we searched for Ibiza Wall Lizard (Podarcis pityusensis) at Ses Illetes but strangely we didn't see any there. In the centre of Palma we had more luck with this species and also found nice and easy food at the Golden Arches.
26th of April 2021
Today we planned a day in the south and our first stop was Ses Salines. We first saw a dead Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus) on the road, but luckily the very first stone I flipped in the field had a pretty individual underneath. Also Moorish Geckos were seen here along with some birds such as Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) and Flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus). Afterwards we drove further south and along the way spotted a plethora of birds such as Balearic Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) and Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) but also the first tortoise of the trip. Of course we helped this little Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) to cross the road and found out the surrounding area was teeming with them. Great to see such densities!
In the meantime the sun came out in full force and we headed to the coast to try and reach one of the tiny islets where a special endemic lizard can be found. Sadly at the coast there was a very strong cold wind which was not at all enjoyable. We put all our gear in my waterproof bag and hopped in the Mediterranean Sea all the same, but a leisurely swim it was surely not! On the islet of Illot d'en Curt, the Lilford's Wall Lizards (Podarcis lilfordi jordansi) were rather common but also rather wary and secretive. Still, it was a great experience to spend some time on such an incredibly tiny islet which harbours surprisingly many lizards. Although it was cold it was well worth it, especially since we later found out that trying to arrange a boat to one of the other islands would be very hard in Covid times. In Colònia de Sant Jordi we visited the Illot des Frares and photographed some more Lilford's Wall Lizard there and didn't find the open restaurants we were hoping for. Luckily we found some food in Santanyi in the form of tasty take-away pizza at Restaurant Es Vinyet. At a coastal estuary we searched for Green Toads but didn't have any luck in that department but we did see high densities of Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) along with some more Moorish Geckos. While the latter is very common, Turkish Geckos are not so often seen on the island.
27th of April 2021
We started the morning in the nature reserve Albufera close to our accommodation. The interesting birds just kept pouring in: Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) nesting in a tree. Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata), Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) foraging along the big canals and large floodplains full of waterfowl. The biggest highlight was when a flock of seven Marbled Ducks (Marmaronetta angustirostris) flew in and landed in front of the hide where they started to display courtship behaviour. A great spectacle to see these rare birds up close and giving away such a show! We also saw many Iberian Water Frogs, Viperine Snakes (Natrix maura) crawling underneath large thistles but surprisingly few terrapins. Only two Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) were seen and not a single European Pond Terrapin. After a stop in Inca for lunch we headed towards our next stop. In the southwest of the island we hiked along the coast and relaxed a bit at a small beach. Only when the temperatures started to drop we hiked back through the open pine woodland. Here we searched for a rather rare and ancient introduction on Mallorca: after a long search Wouter found two Spur-thighed Tortoises (Testudo graeca graeca) foraging between some low shrubs. A very cool find! After dinner at the Golden Arches in Palma we searched at the east coast for Green Toads but again weren't lucky with that species.
28th of April 2021
In the morning we tried to book our Covid tests for the flight home but found out all time slots were already full for the next days. So we had to go there today already. This messed up our plans quite a bit but we tried to work our way around them. In the morning we tried to find the endemic warbler of the island along with some introduced reptiles at Son Real but didn't find either, only Hermann's Tortoises in high densities. We had to hurry a bit to get back to the car in time for our covid test but luckily all went very smoothly. In the afternoon we went into the mountains and explored several potentially new sites for Majorcan Midwife Toad. Although we found some suitable habitat we didn't get to see any of them. Nor did we get to see any of the megafauna that should occur in these mountains according to all the signs along the road warning visitors. We did see many vultures though, especially Black Vultures (Aegypius monachus) but also a Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus). Also the Wrynecks were out in full force again. We found a restaurant with a view but as might have been expected, this place lures in tourists with the nice view and not with gastronomic highlights. Also time went by quicker than we realised and for a night search in the mountains it got too late. We drove back to Alcudia to be back on time for the curfew. While searching on my phone, I incidentally found out there should be a good place for Green Toads near our apartment. We didn't have much time but decided to check it out. In the end we heard them calling nearby, from some hotel gardens but we didn't want to break and enter after the curfew. An Algerian Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus) walking across the path provided a small highlight.
29th of April 2021
After a somewhat slow day we were keen on making the last day on the island count. We first drove east to Portocolom to try and find the endemic warbler. The habitat here is the classic matorral shrubland they prefer. It took us like five minutes before we had around six individuals of Balearic Warbler (Curruca balearica) flying and singing around us. After this quick success we drove east to the Serra de Llevant. Along the way we spotted a huge Ladder Snake (Zamenis scalaris) dead on the road. A shame because we would have loved to see this big and beautiful snake alive, but then again, they are not native on the Balearics and wreak havoc among the local fauna. The scenery in the Levant was stunning and we checked out several water basins. Sadly we only found Moorish Geckos and Iberian Water Frogs but we could add a third vulture species to the list: Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). After the second covid test at the airport we didn't have much time left and had a last dip in the Mediterranean at a nearby beach. The Golden Arches in Palma provided us with a quick and easy meal before we drove north into the mountains. Around sunset we descended into a small but steep gorge and waited for nightfall. While the sky turned red from the setting sun, the walls of the cliff came to life with the calls of Majorcan Midwife Toads. They were hiding in the cracks and it was great fun to see them slowly emerge from their hiding places. The breeding water was full of larvae and it is great to see this species thrive at this spot. Also high on the slopes we found a juvenile so it is likely that this reproductive success leads to a greater dispersal of animals. Again we had to leave sooner than we wanted because of the curfew. Naturally we got lost on our climb back up to the car, as well as on the drive back to Alcudia. We arrived past curfew back at our apartment but we didn't get any trouble and could look back to a great last full day on the island.
30th of April 2021
There was one species still missing from our list and we decided to spend our last morning trying to find it. Sadly it was a very overcast day, it was not that warm and we didn't get to see any more terrapins. Still, spending time in Albufera is always nice and we enjoyed the sights, smells and sounds of the area before it was time to dive into the hustle and bustle of the airport. At the airport all went smoothly and we could look back on a fantastic little trip in good company!
Majorcan Midwife Toad (Alytes muletensis)
Green Toad (Bufotes viridis ssp. balearicus)
Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi)
Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca)
Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni)
Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta ssp. elegans)
Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)
Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
Lilford's Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi ssp. jordansi)
Ibiza Wall Lizard (Podarcis pityusensis)
Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)
Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)
Ladder Snake (Zamenis scalaris) DOR