Well, the weather keeps us all on our toes, there was some welcome rain for the crops and vegetables and now the heat is back. Nature has to adapt to the change’s day by day.
During the heat of the day, the birds will be in the shade and deep cover and not so easy to see. Butterflies and flying insects will be on the wing but also searching for some water to drink (the puddles may well dry up)?
Dragonflies and damselflies live around water anyway, and large open areas of water such as the marshes, salt pans, La Gola and Tucan Marsh will hold good numbers. It is one such dragonfly I want to mention today, spotted recently at the Albufera by my friend and visiting photographer Neil Hilton.
On Mallorca, we see a colourful array of dragonfly colours, from the blues of the Migrant Hawker, to the golden bands of the Golden Ringed Dragonfly, to the deep red of the Large Red Damselfly. But be patient, and every now and then a stunner comes along - this time in the shape of the aptly named Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata).
Also known as the Violet-marked Darter, Plum-coloured Dropwing or Purple-blushed Darter, they are found in most of Africa, in the Middle east, the Arabian Peninsula and southern Europe - with the island of Majorca included. They have a habit of immediately lowering their wings when they perch - giving them the name ‘drop wings’. The female is a more yellow-brown colour, but the male is unmistakable, being a vibrant violet-red.
Both sexes have red eyes. The wingspan is 2.4 inches with a mature male showing a dark, red head and a yellow labium with a brown central spot. The membranous wings have distinctive red veins with a large orange-brown splash at the base of the hind wings. The abdomen is fairly broad too. Females are a similar size to the males but the thorax is brownish and the abdomen yellow with dark brown patches.
The wings of the female lack the red veins of the male. As with all dragonflies, they are efficient predators, using their excellent eyesight to detect prey and once caught, they use their strong legs to hold and carry their prey off.
So, there is still time to see and enjoy the colourful dragonflies and damselflies on Majorca, and the Albufera seems to be a real stronghold for them. There are of course other good sites too, such as the Albufereta Marsh, Tucan Marsh, the salt pans at Sallinas de Llevante and around any of the waterworks’ sites on the island.
But now is the time of year when there will be more activity around ‘drop wings’, and this time from our avian migrants, dropping down to feed and rest, and for some species, spending the autumn and winter on Mallorca, taking advantage of the many habitats and abundant food. For the resident or visiting birdwatcher, migration here is an exciting time. I recall having some great sightings myself over the years such as finding Majorca’s first ever Semi-collard Flycatcher, and finding a Tundra Bean Goose at the salt pans, or seeing my first White-spotted Bluethroat at S’Illot.
Many species will have been moving through from as early as late July with the species numbers picking up in August and September especially. Any areas of water are well worth checking over, you just never know what may turn up and be mixed in with the resident species. This was true when I discovered a wintering flock of Glossy Ibis at the Albufera and over the years I have now seen them in most months of the year.
A few of the summer visitors linger into September, and over the marshes I have seen Eleanora’s Falcons, and in the mountains around Cuber Reservoir the Tawny Pipit. It is always a sad time though when I hear the ‘bubbling’ calls of the Bee Eater overhead, and see large flocks making their way back to Africa. For me, whilst the Swallow marks the arrival of spring, the Bee Eater at this time of the year marks the end of the summer.
But that doesn’t mean that the winter won’t bring its own delights. Son Real for example and other woodlands will see the winter visiting Hawfinch, the marshes will see some great waders such as Dunlin, with Turnstones along the coastal areas. Even sea watching can be good, as rough weather out at sea often pushes Shearwaters and other species close to the shore allowing for some good views, and giving the observer a chance to hone in on their identification skills.
Redwings and Fieldfares will be searching out autumn berries as they move through, and Skylarks will join our resident Thekla Larks. Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts will be present in vast numbers as will the Song Thrush - and one very special autumn visitor can be found at places such as Alburcutx Tower and around Cuber Reservoir - the Alpine Accentor, worth getting up early to venture to the tower to see on a cold autumn morning before a cup of coffee in the town.