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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Corsica and Sardinia, 22nd-25th March 2006,
This report gives details of the birds seen and the sites visited during a few days in Corsica and Sardinia. We wanted to make use of cheap Ryanair flights so we flew from Prestwick to Stanstead, then Stanstead to Sardinia. As the usual airport at Alghero was closed for repairs we flew into Oblia, where we collected our hired car and drove to Santa Teresa Gallura to get the ferry to Corsica. We birded Corsica for 2 days, then returned to Sardinia for the final day to get our flight.
22nd March. Arrived Oblia in north east Sardinia at 1720. Collected the car at the airport and then had a quick look in some scrub land close by. Goldfinches, Sardinian Warblers, Hooded Crows and Jackdaws, were all we saw before the light went. Headed north up to Santa Teresa Gallura and booked into the hotel for the night.
Up 6.30 am to get the 7.30am ferry to Corsica. By the harbour we found Spannish Sparrows and many Yellow-legged Gulls. As we left the sheltered inlet at Santa Teresa we saw several Mediterranean Shearwaters, a few Cory’s Shearwaters and a European Shag. As we approached Corsica we again came across a few more shearwaters of both species and shags. The ferry docked at Bonifacio, a magnificent Genoese walled city spectacularly positioned on a headland bounded by cliffs above a sheltered inlet. The weather was bright and sunny, but with a strong northerly wind. We quickly headed north up the N190 seeing a few Grey Heron and a Moorhen on pools in flooded fields. At Aleria we headed inland up the N200, where just south of Corte we saw Red-legged Partridge, our first Crag Martins and Red Kite. From Corte we went up the N193 to just beyond Ponte Leccia, where we turned left into the Asco valley. This had taken us just over 3 hours. As we entered the valley we stopped by a small field, where they were feeding cattle amongst scattered trees. Overhead we had a pair of Red Kite, a displaying Common Buzzard and a Sparrow Hawk. In the field by the feeders were Italian Sparrows, Chaffinch, a few Cirl Bunting and a male Brambling. In the trees were a pair of Jays and a Wood Pigeon.
We headed up the spectacular valley and its narrow gorge. In road side scrub we had a pair of Long-tailed Tit. As we gained height we came across more Crag Martins. Our destination was the car park in the conifer forest at Haut Asco. We arrived to find deep snow drifts in the forest, but managed to work our way up through the snow to the old pines just north of the car park, behind some chalets. After a short while we located a fine male Corsican Nuthatch, which gave excellent views. We headed back down to the car park and from the road we located a family of Common Crossbill, lots of Chaffinch, Great Tit and heard a Coal Tit.
We then drove back down the valley and just before the village of Asco turned right down a steep road towards the river. The scrub by the road was full of birds. Lots of Goldfinches, a few Cirl Bunting, Stonechat, European Robins, Blackbirds, Blue Tits and a single Mistle Thrush. Best of all was a large flock of 80+ Corsican Finches. We got excellent close views of these birds feeding at the side of the road. Some males were displaying. Overhead were Crag Martins and a pair of Common Raven. A nice spot!!
We drove back to Ponte Leccia and rejoined the N193 down to the coastal road, which we followed north a bit before turning of right towards Etang de Biguglia. In fields south of the etang were large flocks of Chaffinch, with some White Wagtails and lots of Hooded Crows. The road then heads north along the east side of the etang. We stopped from time to time where there were gaps in the reeds, which allowed us to view the water. Out on the etang were groups of Black-necked Grebes with at least 250 birds in all. Also present were Great Crested Grebes, lots of Common Coot, a few Mallard and some Great Cormorants. Towards the north end large numbers of Little Egrets were flighting in, whilst in the shallows were 40+ Greater Flamingo and lots of Black-headed Gulls. In the reeds were Cettis Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas and a few Whinchat, whilst Marsh Harriers hunted above. The roadside scrub held lots of Black Redstarts, a few Chiffchaff and a flock of Tree Sparrows. Towards dusk White Wagtails were coming into roost. As the light faded we headed north to locate our hotel in Bastia. It had been a long but very successful day.
Another early start, but the weather had changed as it was wet and cloudy with a strong easterly wind. The hills were covered in low cloud. We were glad we had gone inland yesterday! We went back down to the north end of Etang de Biguglia and stopped at the car park by the beach just north of La Marana. On posts close to the shore were 19 superb and noisy adult Audouin’s Gulls. Close to them were 46 Greater Flamingo and in the distance 7 Sandwich Terns sat on posts. Waders on the shoreline were scarce, only a Common Snipe, a Common Redshank and a Greenshank. In roadside trees Greenfinch and European Serins were displaying, and we saw our first Blackcap.
We drove north through Bastia on the coastal road towards Cap Corse. It was now raining heavily. By a bay just north of Porticciolo four Black-winged Stilts were roosting on the beach. In the adjacent woodland were lots of European Robins, Blackbird, Song Thrush and a few Wren, Blue Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap. A Grey Wagtail flew up the river and from a roadside ditch we flushed a Little Crake. We drove on up to Macinaggio seeing lots of Black Redstarts all along the roadside. At Macinaggio we followed the main road towards the harbour, it then swings left heading inland and on the right we went down a small road just after a sign saying U Stazzu Camping. The road passed through an area of fields, where one vineyard held several Meadow Pipits with a few Stonechat, Black Redstarts and Cirl Buntings. We kept following the “Camping” signs till the road turned into a track and gained a bit of height. This gave us views over a small lagoon behind the beach. On the water were a Mute Swan, 2 Garganey and 6 Little Grebe. Three Black-winged Stilts fed in the shallows along side 2 Yellow Wagtails of the race cinereocapilla. Lots of Barn Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins fed over the lagoon. We continued along the track till it reached a car park. The rain was easing a bit. We walked out along the beach and followed the coastal path into the maquis scrub. We were rewarded with good views of at least 4 Dartford Warblers and 2 Marmora’s Warblers. On an offshore islet there was a large colony of Yellow-legged Gulls and a few European Shags.
We walked back to the car park and in a field behind there was another large flock of Chaffinch, with 20 Skylark, 2 Corn Bunting, 2 Common Linnet, 2 European Serin, a few Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and Black Redstarts. It was then back to Macinaggio, where we resumed our journey north up through the wooded hills towards Cap Corse. Along the roadside were more Black Redstarts, European Robins and Blackbirds and the occasional Common Raven. The road was quite bendy and slow and even more so as we headed back south on the west side of the peninsular, where extensive road works slowed our progress even further. Just before St Florent we cut back across the hills, through low cloud and mist to Bastia. We then drove south to the Etang de Biguglia, where once again we stopped at the beach car park. New birds on the etang included 20 Garganey, 2 Northern Shoveler and 6 Northern Pintail, along with a flock of 25 Cattle Egret, that had settled on the posts.
We made our way onto the N190 heading back south, with the idea of checking out some of the other etangs enroute. First stop was down to the etang at Bella Riva, by a naturist colony, not surprisingly unoccupied in late March! The etang was overgrown with reeds and bushes. A female Marsh Harrier hunted over it. Several Cetti’s Warblers were singing. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over to land in the trees beyond. As we drove up the track back to the main road we had excellent views of a flock of 20 Corsican Finches.
Driving further south we cut down to Etang de Diane. This large etang is used for shellfish farming. Lots of Yellow-legged, a few Black-headed and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull sat on rafts. A few Great Crested Grebes were on the water, but little else. We quickly headed on and turned left just north of Mignataja (which is north of Vix) down to the end of the road at Etang de Palu. We walked south along the coast to view this etang. The bushes alongside held a few Cetti’s Warblers, Blackcap, Greenfinch, lots of Corn Buntings and our only Common Redstart of the trip. On the marshes were 2 Black-winged Stilts, a Green Sandpiper, a Wood Sandpiper, a Curlew and a Common Snipe, along with a few White Wagtails, Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. A pair of Marsh Harrier hunted overhead. By the etang 70+ Cattle Egret were flighting up to roost in a large tree. On the etang were 35 Greater Flamingo, 30+ Little Egret, 5 Great White Egret and 10+ Great Cormorant along with lots of Common Coot, a few Great Crested Grebes and Mallard. Finally as we headed back we heard at least 3 calling Water Rail. The light was going fast so we returned to the car and resumed our journey south to Bonafacio, the only bird of note being a Barn Owl that crossed the road in front of us.
Up at 7.00am, to the chirping sound of Italian Sparrows. We drove out along the headland east of Bonifacio. In an area of scrub we had several Sardinian Warblers, Greenfinch, a few Cirl Bunting, also Common Kestrels and a fairly pure looking Rock Dove. Another Red-legged Partridge crossed the road in front of us as we drove back to Bonifacio to catch the ferry. Just offshore we had nice views of 12 Balearic Shearwaters and a few Cory’s Shearwaters. As we approached Sardinia we had another 10+ Cory’s.
Back in Sardinia we disembarked at Santa Teresa Gallura and drove west along the coast. In agricultural land a few kilometres west we had a nice male Marsh Harrier, lots of Spotless Starlings, Corn Buntings and Greenfinches at the side of the road. We drove on till we reached a large lake – Stagno di Platamona. There were many Yellow-legged Gulls on it and a pair of Great Crested Grebe, but not much else. Two pairs Marsh Harrier hunted over the reeds. In the adjacent coniferous forest we had good views of two pairs of Great Spotted Woodpecker and some European Serins. We continued west heading towards Stintinto. Just south of the town we stopped at Stagno delle Saline, an area of salines just east of the road. The pools here held 52 Greater Flamingo, five of which supported colour rings: one from Sardinia, one from the Ferrara area of mainland Italy, one from the Ebro delta and one from the Malaga region of Spain and one from the Izmir area of Turkey– quite an international mix! Waders included 10 Black-winged Stilts, 15 Kentish Plover, 20 Little Stint, 2 Dunlin and a Greenshank. In the scrub we had Sardinian Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas. Overhead a Skylark was relentlessly pursued by a Common Kestrel and at one stage a Lesser Black-backed Gull joined in. The lark eventually escaped by plunging down into deep vegetation.
South of the salines was an area of shallow floodwater. This held 30 Greater Flamingo, 4 Mallard, 2 Common Shelduck, along with 15+ Little Ringed Plover, 8 Ruff and 2 Common Redshank. Also feeding on the water’s edge were 10 or so Water Pipits in smart summer plumage, along with a few Meadow Pipits and Yellow Wagtails. Overhead were a pair of Marsh Harrier and a pair of Common Buzzard.
We then drove south to the airport at Alghero. Here we discovered that the airport was still closed and our return flight (unknown to us!) had been diverted to Oblia. This meant we had to re-hire the car and travel back across to the east side of Sardinia. 12km west of Alghero we stopped by Lago de Cuga. A few Common Coot, Mallard and 3 Eurasian Wigeon were out on the water. Common Linnets, Cirl Bunting, Blackcap and Stonechat were present on the lakeside. The journey back east took over 3 hours, made worse by the closure of one of the main roads and a rather tortuous diversion. Being a Saturday evening Oblia was very busy, but we eventually located a hotel and booked in for an extra night.
The only way Ryanair could get us back was by taking an early flight to Frankfurt Hahn in Germany, where we would have to stay for most of the day till we could get the evening flight to Prestwick. We arrived at Oblia airport to find we were not on the passenger list and the flight was fully booked! Luckily a few passengers did not show up and so we got on the flight for the first leg of our return journey.
We arrived at Frankfurt Hahn and decided to explore the area around the airport. In the adjacent fields were large flocks of Common Starling, with Fieldfares and Redwings. Also present were Skylark, Tree Sparrow, Yellow Hammer, Wood Pigeon, Magpie and Carrion Crows. Red Kite and Common Buzzard soared overhead. By a small pool were a pair of Black Redstart a Common Snipe. In the woods by the golf course (just in front of the airport) were lots Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Blue and Great Tits. We also located a Woodcock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, European Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Siskin, but best of all was good views of a yaffling male Grey-headed Woodpecker. Eventually it was time for our flight. We booked in OK got into Prestwick just after 8.00pm and eventually arrived back in Ross-shire just after midnight.
In two days birding on Corsica and one in Sardinia we saw a total of 97 different species. In order to utilise cheap flights we went a lot earlier than most birders do, but still managed to see all Corsica’s specialities. As well as all the resident species, there were good numbers of winter visitors and the first summer migrants were arriving, all this gave rise to 3 days excellent birding.