El Portitxol

El Portitxol is the name of what used to be a fishing harbour just outside of the island capital. El Portitxol forms part of El Molinar which is now a suburb of Palma. Over the last twenty years, both, El Portitxol and El Molinar have slowly but surely begun to be transformed from a down-market area where fishermen and gypsies lived, as well as workers and other people on low incomes, to a popular area with lots of bars and restaurants, some of them a little chichi and some of them catering for Palma’s yuppies.

Even though El Portitxol is near the capital city and really part of it, it seems worlds apart. If you go there early in the morning or late in the evening, it seems rather sleepy and rural. You can hear and sense the busy life going on in a distance but here, time seems to pass much slower. In fact, it is so quiet and laid back here that some wildlife can be found prospering here, such as the Corb Marí Emplomallat (Common Shag). A rather large flock gathers every late afternoon on the low rocks between Club Nàutic Portitxol and the Club Nàutic Es Molinar.

The photo (top) was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 18th, 2012. The time was 18:05:37. The photo (bottom) was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 28th, 2012. The time was 14:47:21.

El Portitxol

Dead Dolphins

First the good news. There is a surprising prevalence of dolphins in the waters surrounding the Balearic Isles. Species found around Mallorca include the Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis), Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus), the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops Truncatus) and the White-Sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus). Dolphins are often found swimming alongside fishing boats and can sometimes even be seen in coastal coves, here. Of course, you can also see dolphins at Marineland in Costa d’en Blanes and at the Palma Aquarium. Not quite the same, though, but a much safer bet if you want to be sure of a close encounter with the intelligent and friendly marine mammals.

Now the bad news. For some reasons, every now and then a dead dolphin is found on the shores of Mallorca. Yesterday, there was a beached dolphin at the Platja d’es Trenc near Colònia de Sant Jordi (shown here). I could not find any information as to why the dolphins die or beach-up. Some smaller ones may get tangled in one of those enormous fishing nets or else, they may receive injuries from boats or jet-skies. The good people at Marineland seem to have the ultimate expertise on dolphins in Mallorcan waters, if you should want to find out more on the subject.

Just to make up for the sad image (photo centre), here is a short video clip from YouTube, showing a small school of dolphins off the coast of Cabo Blanco. Enjoy.

The photo (top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr.com and miquelsalas. The photo (centre) was borrowed by my friend Lazlo Aust. It was taken near Colònia de Sant Jordi, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 29th, 2012. The time was 16:35:15. The video was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of YouTube and xatino.

Thank you very much, vielen Dank, and

muchas gracias.

Dead Dolphins

The Reserva Natural s’Albufereta

If you know Mallorca and love the island for its natural beauty you will most likely know the Parc Natural s’Albufera de Mallorca. The wetland of flooded marshes between Can Picafort and Alcúdia is certainly one of my favourite areas for peaceful outings, tranquil ambling and walks and exciting activities such as bird watching or nature studies of plants and wildlife in their natural habitat.

The Reserva Natural s’Albufereta is a smaller but similar wetland but is a bit of a poor relative of the better known and more popular s’Albufera. I somehow prefer s’Albufereta because I can watch the same bird varieties with less Hoi polloi and fewer self-important bird-spotters. The vegetation of s’Albufereta is typical of the wetlands of the Mediterranean shore, with a predominance of reeds, bulrushes and rushes. S’Albufereta holds the Balearic Islands’ most important Tamarisk grove (Tamarix gallica and Tamarix canariensis). The Reserva Natural s’Albufereta provides a nesting ground for species such as the Purple Gallinule, the Marsh Harrier, the Black-winged Stilt, the Yellow Wagtail and the Sedge Warbler. Fan-tailed Warbler, migrant Bluethroat and Green Sandpiper can also be seen here. In Winter, common visitors are Cormorants, Egrets, and various species of ducks and geese.

Although s’Albufereta is a Nature Reserve, most of it is private property, so your visit should be limited to the perimeters of the protected area. Please, do not trespass.

The photo (top) was taken near Alcúdia, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 23rd, 2012. The time was 12:40:52. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of birdinginspain.com.

Thank you very much.

The Reserva Natural s’Albufereta

Of European Shags and Eastern European Thugs

I went back to the scene of our bag-snatching robbery yesterday in Es Molinar on the off-chance of finding a stolen laptop computer or else, a sign of the culprits. Instead, I found an idyllic scene of a flock of seagulls and a covey of European Shags (Latin: Phalacrocorax aristotelis, Castellano: Cormorán Moñudo), also known as Common Shags, being members of the cormorant family. The birds were waiting for a catch of fish, I suppose, before I saw them flying away, oblivious to our plight.

For those of you who might be interested in the petty crime scene in Mallorca’s capital, we were alternatively pointed to some housing estate of gypsies, to Latino gangs, to the drug scene of Son Banya, to the Moros and the Palma gangland made up of Eastern European thugs. But so far, no luck. Today, in the very early hours, we will try our luck at the Car Boot Sale in Consell. Wish us luck.

The photo was taken in Portixol, Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 28th, 2012. The time was 14:47:21.

Of European Shags and Eastern European Thugs

Oyster Beds in Mallorca

Yesterday, my friend Lluís asked me quite nonchalantly if I liked oysters. As it happens, I do. Mind you, I did not think that now, July, was the best time to eat oysters. But, I let my friend take me to an inland site, some 25 km from the nearest coastline. There, in the middle of the island, just south of Vilafranca de Bonany he led me to a pre-historic oyster bed, dating back some 10,000,000 years, give or take a few centuries. Due south of Vilafranca there is a raised platform bank where, on close inspection, one can spot dozens, hundreds or even thousands of fossilized shells (see photo), mostly of the Ostreidae oyster variety or an ancient version thereof. An oyster bed is a place, especially on the seabed, where oysters breed and grow naturally or, nowadays, are cultivated. From the evidence of those fossils we can gather that Mallorca’s flat centre used to be below the seabed, many a moon ago. Lluís said so, and I do not doubt his word. He’s a geologist and he studied the subject long enough to know what he is talking about.

Sadly, we did not have oysters for lunch yesterday but still, the Mallorcan oyster bed is quite amazing, don’t you think? Moltes gràcies, Lluís, for showing me this hidden treasure.

The photo was taken near Vilafranca de Bonany, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 16th, 2011. The time was 14:00:32.

Oyster Beds in Mallorca

The Processionary Caterpillar

The processionary caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is out in force again now, here in Mallorca. The insect is active only during the colder times of the year, spending the warm summer months as a pupa buried in the ground. By March, the caterpillars are fully grown. Now they leave their nest, following each other in long, head to tail processions (see photo above) and seeking pupation sites in the soil.

Allow me to quote from someone who knows more about the little creature than I do:

… so-called because of their habit of walking head to tail in search of food, the processionary caterpillar is probably the most dangerous insect in the Mediterranean region. They are generally reddish-brown in colour and covered with long grey/white hairs known as setae. There may be hundreds of caterpillars seen walking nose to tail, winding along roadways, paths or golfing greens. The caterpillars are covered with brittle hairs, which cause a severe reaction when they come into contact with human skin. The hairs remain toxic even after the caterpillar has died and can also be carried in the air causing respiratory damage if breathed in. The caterpillars present a high risk during spring and are most virulent from late February. After pupation the resultant moth is an important food source for many animals including bats, birds and reptiles. The adult moths are not toxic.

The caterpillars feed on pine needles and cause devastation to pine forests. Take extra care when walking among pine trees from February onwards, especially if you have children or pets with you.

The hairs when in contact with the skin can cause severe irritation or anaphylaxis. General symptoms include severe itching, also localised pain which may spread to other parts of the body. The inhalation of hairs can cause serious respiratory problems and severe irritability of the eyes, stinging and symptoms of conjunctivitis which can lead to long-term eye damage. Children and the elderly can be more susceptible as they have a weaker resistance to the poison. Many victims show signs of shock. In serious cases, anaphylactic shock, increased heart palpitations and respiratory difficulty can lead to fatal consequences.

An ice pack will help to reduce the inflammation, take Antihistamine tablets as an early treatment. Apply antiseptic lotion topically to sooth the skin and seek medical assistance immediately. The effects can last many weeks or months. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation as well as other treatments depending on individual circumstances and antihistamine tablets for allergic reactions.

The very first rule is never to touch these caterpillars and do not burn the nests as the resulting smoke is toxic if inhaled. All pets should be kept well away from the ‘processionals’ as they may try to eat them.

The heeding is quoted from British naturalist Dr Vejay K. Singh as published on the theolivepress.es website. Many thanks for the information.

The photo (top) was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 6th, 2011. The time was 18:33:35. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of web.cortland.edu.

Thank you very much.

The Processionary Caterpillar

Going On A Bear Hunt

One of the gratifications of Mallorca is that you can actually go on a bear hunt. Of course, one should not take that in a literal manner. But, if you have the right spirit and the willingness to allow for the unexpected, and are prepared to go right through the hitches and obstacles that Mallorcan landscape may present you with, a hike in Mallorca’s countryside can be utterly rewarding, inspiring and thrilling, just like the rhyme by Michael Rosen has us believe.

We went for such a trek yesterday afternoon in sublime weather conditions. We got all huffy and puffy, sweaty, exhilarated and thrilled, at least I did. No, we did not find any bears nor did we have to struggle with snowstorms nor deep rivers. But there was long grass, there were deep forests and there was a cave or two as well as the odd obstacle, some wonderment and plenty of wildlife. We got back home all safe and sound, very pleased, rewarded and satisfied to live on this dazzling island.

There are no indigenous bears in Mallorca nor does anyone think that there have ever been. There are a couple of brown bears in La Reserva de Galatzó, over in the South Western part of the Tramuntana mountain range. But there are opportunities to go on a bear hunt everywhere on the island in all but the literal sense, and plenty of them.

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 6th, 2011. The time was 14:46:08.

Going On A Bear Hunt