Menorca 7 – 14 October 2016
A relaxed wildlife holiday on this quiet Mediterranean island.
Menorca provides the perfect setting to see birds and flowers typical of the Mediterranean. A small island, a little over 30 miles long and 13 miles wide, its quiet, unhurried atmosphere complements a relaxing wildlife holiday.
All parts of the island can be reached easily and quickly so most of the holiday can be spent in the field enjoying an array of wildlife, set within a landscape rich in archaeological sites, with excellent access to the whole of its diverse coastline along the recently established coastal path. It all has a charm rarely equalled elsewhere in Europe today.
As with any autumn holiday to the Mediterranean, some things are not guaranteed: bird migration is dependent upon the weather at the time, and the quality of the ‘second spring’ of autumn flowering depends upon the rainfall over the previous weeks.
But some things are guaranteed: a leisurely holiday in wonderful surroundings and a good chance of warm sunshine to round off your summer!
Calescoves (also known as Cales Coves), and hummingbird hawkmoth on lantana.
While small, the island holds a great variety of habitats. The rugged coasts are spectacular and off-islands provide nest sites for the scarce Audouin's gull. Views of the surrounding sea may reveal Cory's or Mediterranean shearwaters. Lagoons and fresh water lakes hold a variety of waders, plus egrets, herons and even the occasional flamingo.
Sardinian warblers skulk in bushes; Thekla and short-toed larks show themselves from drystone walls; stone-curlews stalk around rocky fields; ravens and tawny pipits are often seen.
There are often birds of prey overhead. Menorca holds concentrations of booted eagles, Egyptian vultures and red kites, the kites happily increasing after a period of decline.
The island provides a stepping stone for birds migrating across the Mediterranean – so anything can turn up. In autumn, depending on the weather, this could include thrushes, chats, flycatchers and finches. The last few bee-eaters may still be around, and hoopoes are semi-resident.
Merendera Merendera filifolia and autumn narcissus Narcissus serotinus.
Pastures, coastal rocks and sand dunes are home to a range of wild flowers, including several which are unique to the Balearics. Most are spring-flowering but, depending on when the autumn rains fall, we should see some marvellous displays of autumn bulbs, including merendera, autumn squill, sea squill and the tiny daffodil Narcissus serotinus. October is the peak time for blooming of the tree heath Erica multiflora.
Chrisomelid beetle; swallowtail on bougainvillea; spurge hawkmoth caterpillar; scarlet darter dragonfly, also known as broad scarlet.
Invertebrates and other wildlife
A great feature of early autumn is a selection of often spectacular insects: mantises, crickets, Egyptian and migratory locusts, wondrous beetles and moths. Butterflies include swallowtail and two-tailed pasha.
Other wildlife includes green toads, stripeless tree frogs and terrapins.
Mole cricket and praying mantis
The island's varied history shows well in architecture and archaeology. Strange stone monoliths, known locally as Torres, date from around 1000 BC. Of later origin are traditional stone huts called Talaiots. Access to these monuments is easy and they are often good places to see wildlife.
The small cities of Ciutadella and Mahón are both fascinating. A mix of architectural design reflects the result of dominance by Romans, Moslems and British.
Left: Torre d'en Gaumes. Right: Naveta d'es Tudons.
Matchani Gran, our holiday base, is a Menorcan farmhouse near Mahón delightfully converted for private guests or small groups. It has a swimming pool and terrace, all set in 10 acres of countryside complete with hoopoes, Thekla larks and Hermann's tortoises.
Price: £1,430 per person in twin room for a full week (Friday to Friday)
En suite facilities.
Single room supplement (four): £150
Flights: Scheduled Monarch ﬂights, Birmingham, Gatwick, Luton, Manchester or Leeds-Bradford to Mahón
Maximum number: 14, with two leaders
The stone walls that divide Menorcan fields are a distinctive landscape feature.
Middle: sea squill Urginea maritima, an autumn-flowering species.
Right: fruits of the strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo.
Chris Gibson is a conservation officer for Natural England based in north Essex, an author of several wildlife books and has led many holidays for Honeyguide. He is an outstanding all rounder, from birds through flowers to moths, recognised as a ‘naturalist of distinction’ by the British Naturalists’ Association.
Photos on these Menorca pages by Chris Gibson, unless otherwise stated.
The Grup Balear d'Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa (GOB – the Balearic Ornithological Group) is an active local organisation working to protect the Balearic Islands from overdevelopment.
A current project is 'Agronatural Farms' in Menorca - wildlife-friendly farming - and we are supporting this project in 2016. You can read more about this from GOB here.
GOB is campaigning against major 'improvements' on the main east-west road on Menorca between Mahón and Ciutadella, involving large road junctions that seem inappropriate in scale and the amount of land-take. There is more information on www.gobmenorca.com/savemenorca (scroll down to read in English). You can read Honeyguide's letter to the authorities on Menorca here.