Mallorca 23rd to 28th of March 2006

This was a very short trip to Mallorca quite early in the season and the main focus was vacation rather than twitching. Anyway I saw five species of herptiles and two of them were among the four unique to the Baleares in Europe. In total there are around fifteen species to be seen on the islands and some turtles in the sea.

The most famous species is the Majorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis) also called Ferreret which first was found in 1979 high up in the mountains of Tramuntana. The other three species are lizards; Lilford's Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi) has originally had a much wider distribution on the islands but predators introduced by man have exterminated it from the mainland Mallorca and Menorca and now they can only be found on the smaller islands around the two main ones, Ibiza Wall Lizard (Podarcis pityusensis) can mainly be found on Ibiza but has been introduced to some places on Mallorca and finally Moroccan Rock Lizard (Scelarcis perspicillata) can only be found on Menorca and is originally introduced from Africa.

Friday the 24th of March
During the first day in Palma de Mallorca I saw the Ibiza Wall Lizard (Podarcis pityusensis) 10 meters NW the cathedral on a pile of rocks being the fundament for a big cross. It was sunbathing in the chilly wind and did not mind much all people walking by closely. A second animal was observed down by the water along the town wall about 200 meters NW the cathedral. I guess there must be much more individuals when the weather is warmer. This was quite early in the morning.
For visiting Palma I can recommend the Apuntadores hotel, just a short walk from the cathedral and with a magnificent view from the roof terrace on the eight floor. An excellent café is the Bosch café at plaza Rey Juan Carlos where the locals meet for breakfast before the tourists wake up.

Cross near cathedral, © Per Blomberg View from Apuntadores hotel, © Per Blomberg
Podarcis pityuensis, © Per Blomberg

Saturday the 25th of March
We picked up a rental car at the airport and went for a three day trip around the Tramuntana Mountains in the north of Mallorca. The first stop was the small village Sant Elm at the very west point. Here you can normally catch boats for the Nature Park Sa Dragonera, a very good place to see Lilford's Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi). This day we were not lucky as there were no boat running and we continued along the wonderfully dramatic north coast. In the afternoon we reached the higher mountains between Sollér and Lluc where the Ferreret can be found in small ponds in deep canyons. The mating season starts in April and continues until late summer. We made a walk in the mountains but did not find any locality. You should have a guide and permission to walk on private property to be successful. At the information centre in Lluc they have a nice little exhibition about the Ferreret. Thank's to a recovery programme the population in 2004 was estimated to 34 populations with 5000 adults. Many of these localities are constructed to save the species. We stayed at the Lluc monastery which is a very good base for excursions in the area. A lot of trails are made in the mountains and the hotel is very nice and cheap (just 36 Euro for a big room with three big beds and space for the double.) Thera are also camping facilities close to the monastery.

Tramuntana, © Per Blomberg

Tramuntana, © Per Blomberg Tramuntana, © Per Blomberg
Tramuntana, © Per Blomberg

Sunday the 26th of March
This day we made a nice drive up to Cap de Formentor which is the northern point on the island. The landscape is very dramatic and the road is twisting around the rocks. We then continued to the s'Albufera Nature Park south of Alcúdia. This is the most important wetland on the islands and home for many rare birds. The site provided good birdwatching from the many trails and hides they have arranged. I also saw a dead Viperine Snake (Natrix maura) and (as usual) my wife saw a full size living animal on the path, two meters away, when I was busy taking photos of a European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis). She always sees snakes which I miss. During the whole visit the Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi) was singing from the wetlands. I am sure that if we had stayed longer we could have heard Green Toad (Epidalea viridis) too. There is a nice information centre where I bought the book Reptils I amfibis de les Balears. I thought it was in Spanish but it turned out to be catalan/mallorqin (If I had read the title carefully I would have known). Anyway it is a good presentation of the herpetofauna of the islands and updated in 2003. Epidalea viridis is found on most of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza but not Formentera, Hyla meridionalis on Menorca, Pelophylax perezi, Tarentola mauritanica (except Formentura) and Hemidactylus turcicus on all the islands. Podarcis lilfordi are living on islands around the national park Cabrera in the south and some islands along the west side of Mallorca and the north side of Menorca. The lizards on the different islands have a variety of patterns and colours. Podarcis pityusensis lives on Ibiza and Formentera but has also introduced itself (or by help of man) to Palma and Cala Rajada on Mallorca. Podarcis siculus is also found on most of Menorca where Teira perspicillata is more sparse. Natrix maura is introduced and the main threat to the Ferreret and other frogs and lizards on Mallorca and Menorca. Macroprotodon cucullatus has the same distribution but the third snake Rhinechis scalaris is limited to Menorca. There are some poulations of Eurotestudo hermanni on southern and eastern Mallorca and in many places on Menorca. Testudo graeca is restricted to the area west of Palma and one site on Formentera. Emys orbicularis lives in wetlands but is threatened by the introduced Red-eared Terrapin, Trachemys scripta.

Albufera, © Per Blomberg

Albufera, © Per Blomberg Formentor, © Per Blomberg
Dead Natrix maura, © Per Blomberg

Monday the 27th of March
Finally we got a positive answer when we phoned the boat company that takes tourists to Sa Dragonera. The drive down from Lluc in the mountains through Inca and Palma to Sant Elm just took one hour and forty-five minutes. This was the hottest day so far with over 25 degrees and a hazy sky. The boat just takes 15 minutes over and as soon we came on land there were almost a razzling sound of lizards running around. There are thousands of them everywhere and in some places 10-15 waere lying sunbathing together. On some paths it is almost difficult not to put your foot on one! We had a nice walk up the mountain side and then started to walk north to the cape when we saw the boat coming for the last catch! We had forgotten to change the clock for summertime that started almost 36 hours earlier. We ran back to the boat and just made it for 3 o'clock. Another couple did not show up and probably had to spend the night on the island (forbidden!). The hostal Dragonera can be recommended with nice view over the bay.

SaDragonera, © Per Blomberg

SaDragonera, © Per Blomberg Podarcis lilfordi, © Per Blomberg

Tuesday the 28th of March
We drove early (7.15) from Sant Elm to the airport outside Palma (a one hour drive). I was surprised that it was this hot already in late March. We had between 20-25 degrees C all five days and a little wind the first day. For exploring the nature on Mallorca April and May are probably better for herpetofauna as for birds and flowers. The short distances are convenient and make it very easy to se the whole island in a short time by car.

Sant Elm, © Per Blomberg

28/3 2006 / Per Blomberg

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