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Not just a smaller version of Mallorca,Menorca is the most easterly, andthe greenest of the Balearic Islands.It may not have mountains on a Mallorcanscale, but it is a rugged, very rocky island,has comparatively little flat land, andconsequently remains largely uncultivated.The southern coast is a series of low cliffsbroken by sandy coves, usually backedwith woodland and damp gorges. Thenorthern coast is more rugged, withspectacular headlands and a specialisedcoastal flora that includes many of thelocal endemic plants. The island is alsoblessed with several wetland areas whichare of particular importance for birds.Menorca in spring offers a most intricatemosaic of wild flowers. White and mauveCistusbushes, yellow Crown Daisies,purple gladioli, plus a great assortment ofvetches, hawkweeds, bugloss and Alyssumamong the dunes, ensure ubiquitouscolour. Asphodels grow almosteverywhere, and a wide variety of orchidsoccur, withOphrysand Serapiasspeciesbeing most numerous. Ophrys lutea, sorare on Mallorca, is common here, whilstthe Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptispyramidalis) is extraordinarily abundant,with flowers varying from pink to white. Weshould also find some of the Balearicspecialities, such as the sweetly-scentedHippocrepis balearica, the delightfulCyclamen balearicum, several sea-lavenders (Limonium spp.), and some ofMenorca's endemics, such as the rareCentaurea balearicawhich occurs amongstthe interesting and specialised plantcommunities of the northern coast; thelatter are usually low-growing, oftenforming dense, spiny mounds, or areclothed with white or silver hairs towithstand salt-laden winds.Birds of prey are one of the avianhighlights on any natural history tour tothis little island. Europe's only sedentarypopulation of Egyptian Vultures occurs onMenorca (with about 40 breeding pairs),Booted Eagles and Red Kites - thoughthe latter are declining - are seen withpleasing frequency, and a few pairs ofOspreys also breed on Menorca. Otherraptors which we may see includePeregrine, Eleonora's and Red-footedFalcons.One of the most spectacularmigrants, which also nests in severalcolonies on Menorca, is the Bee-eater. Atthe time of our visit, some of the breedingbirds should be arriving and largenumbers passing through. Another specialbird is Audouin's Gull, one of the world'srarest gulls, which wanders the coasts ofnorth-west Africa in winter but returns inspring to breed on the island. There areusually a few around the spectacular portof Mahon (arguably the best naturalharbour in the Mediterranean) butsightings can also be expected at severalother points on the coast.The marshes at Son Bou and Tirant, and thefine wetland area of Es Grau support avariety of wetland birds. Little and CattleEgrets, and Purple Herons are common;Night and Squacco Herons are moreelusive but are often present. These areasand the old saltpans at several other sitesare also excellent for waders, whilst theisland's woodland and scrub abound withwarblers, both resident species such asCetti's, Dartford, and Sardinian Warblers,plus the more numerous and activemigrants and summer visitors. Wrynecks,Hoopoes, Woodchat Shrikes, and abundantsinging Nightingales abound throughout theisland and add to the variety.One of the most exciting aspects ofbirding in Menorca is the constantpossibility of seeing somethingunexpected. White Storks, the occasionalBlack Stork, and Gull-billed Terns have allbeen recorded quite frequently in recentyears, whilst Moustached Warblers, whichhad not been recorded breeding on theisland before 1982, may now be seen atmore than two breeding sites. Indeed,almost anything can turn up here in spring,and the chance of finding a real rarity,perhaps even a bird previously unrecordedfrom the island, is very real!Our accommodation for the week is asplendid, and lovingly restored, 18thcentury Menorcan farmhouse. Set in 10hectares of unspoilt countryside, with alarge outdoor pool, this is a most relaxedsetting. From this delightful base it will beeasy to explore many of the most excitingareas of the island, using our minibus toaccess the best sites which we will thenexplore on foot. We will enjoy gentle walksalong the coasts, through woodland andaround the edges of wetlands where wewill have plentiful opportunities to see avariety of birds and at least some of theisland's flowers. Another fascinatingaspect of this island is the large number ofprehistoric human sites - standingstones, towers, stone dwellings, caves andother relics. We will see a number of theseduring our excursions, as well as gaining afeel for Menorca's more recent, butnonetheless long and very interestinghistory. It was, for example, held by theBritish as a naval base during much of the18th century, and as a consequence, eventoday, gin is still produced on the island!At the time of our visit - before the busysummer period - Menorca has relativelyfew tourists, and we will be able to explorethe island in comparative peace. It is in anycase a far less developed holiday islandthan Mallorca and many otherMediterranean islands. Indeed, most of thecoast can only be reached on foot (or byboat) and there are some beautiful, isolatedcoves and beaches. We should find nodifficulty in enjoying the history and, moreimportantly, the natural history of thisdelightful island away from the crowds!CAP DE CAVALLERIAFORNELSES PRATDE TIRANTCAP DE FAVARITXES GRAUMAHONMATCHANISON BOUGRANCALA MACARELLACIUTADELLAMENORCA98Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Mahon and transferto Matchani Gran.Day 2/7Daily birdwatching andbotanical excursions allover Menorca from ourbase near Mahon.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA beautifully restored 18th centuryMenorcan farmhouse set in 10hectares of tranquil countryside, allrooms with private facilities.Food and wineAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only, all straightforward(and optional). Grade A/B. FocusBirds and plants.LeaderIan Nicholson.Single room supplement£150.ExtensionsExtra week(s) in Menorca, with orwithout car rental, available onrequest.Web quick search: ESP04MenorcaAn 8-day holiday on this beautiful Mediterranean island in search of both its birds and flowers.Friday 26th April - Friday 3rd May Cost: £1,295Audouin's GullMacarelleta cove

Norway is often referred to as 'TheLand of the Midnight Sun' and,indeed, during the summer itsseemingly endless daylight is entrancing.However, during late winter Norway istransformed; at this time of year it offers adifferent kind of illumination across itssweeping skyscapes - one of nature'smost captivating phenomena, the NorthernLights. On this new tour we travel north ofthe Arctic Circle at a special time of year,when daylight lengthens once again toeight hours, to enjoy the birds, wildlandscapes and Aurora Borealis on landbefore boarding one of the celebrated'Hurtigruten' passenger ships to enjoy oneof the world's most scenic coastalvoyages.We begin this holiday with a 2-night stay ata comfortable hotel in the attractive town ofTromsø, which lies 200 miles inside theArctic Circle and is Norway's gateway tothe Arctic Ocean. In defiance of thelatitude, the warming influence of the GulfStream results in ice-free harbours andhighly productive seas (a paradise forfisherman and seabirds alike!), while onland, extensive birch and spruce forestsclothe the lower slopes of the snowymountains. Whilst most of the land birdsvacate these icy latitudes in the winter, weshould still keep our eyes open for flocks ofRedpoll or Waxwings, or perhaps even theoccasional lingering Hawk Owl. Away fromland, however, hundreds of sea-ducksgather in the sheltered bays and fjordseach winter, and amongst the large rafts ofCommon Eider we will be hoping to findthe spectacular King Eider. We will alsokeep an eye open for White-billed Diversand Long-tailed Ducks, along with LittleAuks further out to sea and PurpleSandpipers busily feeding along theshoreline. When darkness falls, we will puton our warmest clothes and leave thebright lights of the city behind, enteringanother world where the inky blue polarnight is studded with a myriad of brightlyshining stars. Our night-time quest is for aview of the Northern Lights, and Tromsø isone of the best places to witness thisextraordinary natural light-show ifconditions are clear.At the same latitude as Siberia and Alaska,the Gulf Stream hugs Norway's shores tocreate the longest ice-free polar coast, anda voyage aboard the illustrious CoastalExpress, known locally as the 'Hurtigruten',gives a unique opportunity to glimpse lifeabove the Arctic Circle. The Hurtigruten is apostal transport system with a realheartbeat; by day and night its vessels plythis challenging coast from south to northand back again, calling at 34 ports alongthe way. For the second part of this tour weleave Tromsø at midnight aboard aHurtigruten passenger ship and for the nexttwo days we will witness the very best ofNorway's untouched Arctic landscapes onwhat is arguably the world's most beautifulsea voyage.Over breakfast on the first morning wearrive in Harstad, giving us a whole day torelax and enjoy the magical 'fairyland'scenery of the Lofoten Islands. A short stopat Sortland provides an opportunity for ashore visit and another chance to look forKing Eider, Long-tailed Duck and possiblyGreat Northern Diver, before we board ourvessel once more and head forStokmarknes. From here we set a coursesouth-east towards Svolvær, theundisputed capital of the Lofoten Islands,where we will enjoy another shore visit.Stamsund will be our last port of call beforewe leave the Lofotens and start ourcrossing of Vestfjord to the mainland townof Bodø.On the second day of our cruise we will saildown the Hegeland coast, which plays hostto some important seabird assemblagesduring the breeding season. In winter it is adifferent story; White-tailed Eagles arecommon and make an impressive sightsoaring on broad, apparently motionlesswings across the Arctic sky and are oftenseen posed statue-like on the manyskerries or even perched on the ArcticCircle sign itself! We'll also see theimpressive 'Seven Sisters', a cluster ofmajestic mountains often romanticised inNorwegian folklore.Unfortunately, all epic voyages come to anend, and so must ours. As dawn breaks onthe third day we arrive in the town ofTrondheim where we must leave the ship inorder to make a short transfer to the airportfor our flight back to the UK, our minds fullof the spectacular coastal landscapes andwildlife of north Norway, illuminated - wehope - by the ethereal flickerings ofNorthern Lights. Fjords, Arctic Birds & Northern Lights! ... A Norwegian Coastal Voyage A 6-day holiday in search of the Northern Lights, Arctic birds and spectacular winter landscapes, including a 3-night mini-cruise aboard one of Norway's legendary Hurtigruten passenger ships.Tuesday 26th February - Sunday 3rd March Cost: £1,795Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationNORWAYSWEDENTROMSØSORTLANDSTOKMARKNESSVOLVÆRSTAMSUNDBODØTRONDHEIMOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Tromsø.Day 2Tromsø. Day 3/5Hurtigruten cruise.Day 6Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotel in Tromsø withprivate facilities. For the cruise fromTromsø to Trondheim we will joinone of the Hurtigruten's smallerships (please refer to the detailedTour Itinerary for additionalinformation about the vessel).Cabins are twin berth and en suite.FoodBreakfasts and lunches areincluded whilst in Tromsø; dinnersare excluded. All meals whilstaboard the Hurtigruten mini-cruiseare excluded. Allow approximately£250 for additional meals notincluded in the tour cost.GradingGrade A. An easy tour with optionalshort walks, although it will besnowy and icy underfoot.FocusWinter scenery, Northern Lightsand birds.LeaderMalcolm Stott or Peter Dunn.Single room supplementTo be advised.Web quick search: NOR0999Northern LightsWhite-tailed EagleKing Eider