It was back in 1973 and the Mallorcan Black Vulture had almost gone extinct, when a small group of birders and ecological activists formed the GOB (Balearic Group of Ornitology). It's current name has the defence of Nature added on the end, in order largely to be able to englobe the entire island and campaign for protecting its biodiversity.
For the last 40 years GOB has become the main player and leading force in the conservation and protection of birds, nature conservation and environmental issues in the Balearic Islands.
One of the main reasons why Mallorca has not been fully developed and has retained its km2 of protected natural areas is down to the GOB. Marine areas, mountain ranges, wetlands and marshes are some of the diverse and intriguing areas found on this small island, and all have now been awarded reserve status, which means they cannot be developed, you can't build a house there and the natural habitat and wildlife in the area is protected under Balearic law.
It may be frustrating if you want to build a house on the beach or in the remote Tramuntana hills, but it is otherwise a huge benefit to everyone who lives in and visits Mallorca; the island is all the more mesmerising thanks to the clarity of the water and the ragged beauty of its mountains. It wouldn't be so if mass developement had been allowed.
The most influencial NGO on the island and in Spain as a whole, GOB has a membership of over 5000, and plays a major role in the preservation of the terrain, running environmental educational programmes and raising public awareness.
The annual scientific journal Balearic Bird Report publishes the results on the numerous ornithological research and monitoring projects and surveys carried out by the GOB, and in Es Busqueret, the GOB's own magazine, which is only in Catalan.
The Mallorca nature reserves are protected areas of huge importance for wildlife, flora, fauna and other natural interests, which are managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. Some are designated by government institutions, others by private landowners, charities and research intititutions and fall into different categories depending on the level of protection afforded by the local Balearic laws.
The GOB has played an all important role in creating some of these wildlife sanctuaries on the island and there are now a total of 61 wildlife sanctuaries and a staggering 16.000 hunting licenses, which is high even by Spanish standards.
Two new areas which are now hunting-free are Can Bauma, in Alcúdia, with 75 hectares of land, and Son Aixeló, in Palma, with 13 hectares.
Given the lack of any other remaining wildlife, hunting in Mallorca is reserved for small birds, often song birds, hunted by large men in camouflage gear, rifles and dogs in pick ups, a sad reflection on all involved. But thankfully, more and more areas are being cordoned off and protected and this is largely thanks to the efforts of Gob and other environmental groups.
The main birding areas in Mallorca are: S'Albufera and S'Albufereta wetlands, The Boquer Valley, Formentor Peninsula, Ariabt, Cabrera Island Archipelago, Dragonera Island, the Serra de Tramuntana and the Artà mountains of the Serra de Llevant, most of which are protected natural parks and wildlife reserves.
These areas are largely found in the north of the island, near Port de Pollensa and the Tramuntana Mountain range, and have seen number of birders growing every year. Not only is this area under the auspices of the UNESCO and protected from development and human exploitation, but it is a breeding ground for some species of birds and is on the migratory routes between northern Europe and Africa, routes taken by a vast number of birds every year.
Key birds on the Balearics are the Black Vulture, the Red kite and the Osprey. Other birds of prey include the Peregrine Falcon, Eleanora Falcon and Red Footed Falcon, Marsh Harriers, Short-toed Eagles and Buzzards, while Herons and Egrets can be spotted in the marshes of S'Albufera, as well as Hoopoes and Bee-eaters. Black-winged Stilts and Flamingos are present in the salt pans in the south of the island. For a full listing of all the bird species which can be seen on the island, check out Avibase.
Since 2000 for the Red kite and in 2008 for the Osprey, the GOB has two major projects running to address and protect these two critically endangered species. GOB has been running surveys, censuses, bird ringing and tagging, radio and satellite tracking and the identification and assessment of threats.
GOB purchased La Trapa in 1980, an area of outstanding natural beauty and significance in the Tramuntana Mountains and made it the first private nature reserve on the island, and GOB volunteers help support, manage and run the reserve and take part in numerous environmental campaigns, events, projects and training courses.