Tuesday 31 October 2023

Menorca, 2023. Day 7, Son Bou.

 It was our final day and Peter and I wanted to make the most of it on the wildlife front so we headed to the birding hotspot of Son Bou. Unlike much of the south coast, which is made up of small, indented coves, Son Bou has the longest beach on Menorca: 3Km of pale golden sand. Backing this beach, however, is a precious system of dunes bound with the usual marram grass and in which can be found the expected variety of sand dune specialists such as sea holly, sea chamomile, sea bindweed, sea daffodil and sea rocket. Behind the dunes is an extensive wet reed bed and running down to this at the western end two gorges. As we arrived competitors in a 20Km trail race along the Cami de Cavalls, the long distance path around the island, were mustering. The sky was dramatic to say the least and both ourselves and the runners had barely started before the heavens opened. We received a drenching despite sheltering uncomfortably under some bushes in the dunes. After this cloudburst passed things gradually improved until it became warm and sunny. The strong winds of the previous couple of days provided some spectacular breakers on the beach. Our first sighting, before the squall, was an Auduin's gull at the beginning of the beach. At the far end of the beach we finally found another bird, A Kentish plover and a lifer for me. We managed photos on the beach and then it flew to the low cliff top beyond where we found it with several others, providing further photographic opportunities.

Leaving the coast we were warned by some other visitors that the path further on was flooded and impassable but, being adventurous (or reckless) we carried on. We passed through a field of enormous but, fortunately, slumbering pigs and then it wasn't long before we came across the flooded section of path. Undaunted Peter ploughed on through safe in the knowledge that his shoes were past it and he intended to jettison them at the end of the holiday. Mine were nearly new so there was no way I was doing the same and began to take off shoes and socks and roll up the trouserings ready to wade. Annoyingly my back went into spasm at this juncture so Peter had to leave his camera gear and wade back to help, bringing me two sticks to use as support. On his way back he cheerfully announced that he had seen a snake in the water which didn't bode well for me in bare feet. However, in the end, it turned out to be an enormous leech. Supported by the iffy poles I made my way into the murky flood waters but hadn't gone far before I was aware of something attached to my ankle. Lifting my foot out of the water I saw that the aforementioned leech had latched on to me without a by your leave. Of course, being of strong character, I accepted it manfully, knocked it off with my stick and carried on. Eventually we were united on the other side apart from one of my socks which we both decided to abandon. Once reshod we settled down for some lunch and enjoyed watching other people making decisions regarding the path. Most, I have to say, turned back although, two lady mountain bikers managed it without much fuss.

Continuing, we gained some height and were able to look out over the reed bads and lagoons. Butterflies were plentiful, one new one being Bath white. We had hoped to find two-tailed pasha this week but were to be disappointed so I include images for reference taken a few years ago in Mallorca. We did find some more scarlet darters which were easier to photograph those from a few days previously. On the lagoons we saw little egret, great egret and cattle egret doing what they should do: feeding amongst livestock and even hitching a ride on a horse's back. Cetti's warblers were calling and we caught a glimpse of a sardinian warbler and a marsh harrier gave an excellent display as it hunted over the lagoon and reedbeds.

It seemed quite a walk through the outskirts of Son Bou to get back the the car and we made just as the next shower came in.

Returning to the hotel we met up with the ladies, who had being enjoying the fleshpots of the Restaurant el Mirador, and drove the lengthy route to Cala Macarella for a late swim. Although a long drive it did afford superb views of Mallorca against the setting sun.

Time now for a preprandial before our final dinner. A fantastic last day of a wonderful holiday.

Son Bou beach
Auduin's Gull
Auduin's Gull
Auduin's Gull
Looking back to Son Bou through the dunes.
The dunes, Son Bou
The beach
The beach, west end
Kentish plover.

Kentish plover.
Kentish plover.

Kentish plover.
Scarlet darter
Olive wood gate
Bath White
Distant cattle egret
Two-tailed pasha feeding on over-ripe figs
Two-tailed pasha feeding on over-ripe figs
Two-tailed pasha

Monday 30 October 2023

Menorca, 2023. Day 6, Ciutadella, Cala en Turqueta and a Bronze Age Tomb

 A day of culture today: a city visit and a bronze age tomb. Our city was Ciutadella at the extreme west of the island and we were able to get parked in the Placa des Borns. The word born means parade ground and the square was used for jousting contests in earlier times and is still the venue for an equestrian parade during the city's annual festivities in June. At the centre of the square is an obelisk commemorating those who were killed or abducted into slavery during the Turkish raid of 1558. Much of the city was destroyed including the alcazar or palace. The crenellated town hall with its Moorish-looking row of palms was built in the 19th C. From the square are magnificent views of the harbour.

From the Placa des Born we enjoyed the narrow back streets which seem designed for strolling. The pastel colours of the buildings and lamps with wrought iron wall brackets were especially attractive.

We stopped for coffee and ensaimada at a friendly cafe outside of which were two magnificent gnarled and ancient olive trees.

A visit to the cathedral was our next objective. Ciutadella has been Menorca's religious capital sine the Spanish reconquista in 1287. Inside is an aisleless nave with side chapels and a pentagonal apse. Most of the inside of the cathedral was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and what remains is heavily restored. Our ticket for the cathedral enabled access to the nearby Convent and cloister of St Augustine. The cloister is a large, magnificent baroque work of art; a peaceful place to rest on a hot day. Again the church was destroyed during the Civil War but so far has not been restored. What remains is a poignant reminder of its former baroque splendour.

Lunch at a cafe outside the Mercat Municipal selling fruit vegetables, meat and fish was next on the agenda. As we had a large dinner at the hotel to look forward to we contented ourselves with a superb tomato sald and ham croquettas with some rehydration. We were fascinated with the street art in this area of the city, often related to the market products being sold.

Before leaving the city we couldn't resist exploring the port and enjoying a cold beer on the harbourside.

All too soon it was time to leave this beautiful city but we had two more visits we were looking forward to before returning to Cala Galdana. First a short drive and then a beautiful walk down through the Alepo pine woods to the fabulous beach of Cala Turqueta. We were just sorry that we hadn't brought swimming kit; it was perfect.

On the way home I was keen to visit the Naveta des Tudons, a Bronze Age burial chamber and the oldest roofed building in Spain. For many years it lay derelict and overgrown but was restored by archaeologists in 1959/60 and again in 1975. The word naveta describes a burial chamber, built in the shape of an upturned boat. The building has two floors. Bodies were left to decompose of the ground floor and the bones later transferred to the ossuary on the upper floor. Over 100 corpses were discovered here, some still with bronze bracelets on their arm bones.

After yet another superb day it was time to return to the hotel for some preprandial refreshment.