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A Report from

Sardinia May 2001,

Eric Hocking

Yet another non-birding holiday on the continent - or so Linda thought. The following is not terribly organised, merely notes from my bird diary so you're going to get birds of note merely as they appeared to us chronologically. Since I ws travelling with my non-birding partner I didn't really push some potential twitches, as such, down south I dipped on the Purple Gallinule, which was a bit of a pity. In it's place we partook of Sardinian local cuisine, so there's no real complaint. If you enjoy Italy as we do, I can thoroughly recommend Sardinia, it's a bit like the entire Italian environment squashed into one small island and surprisingly productive for "incidental birding". I was rather surprised to gather some 80 species without trying terribly hard at all.

Here goes:

Alghero 5/5/01 Flew in to Alghero and picked up the Fiat at the airport after having a good peer at the Common Swift, House Martin and Hooded Crows. Used "The Rough Guide to Sardinia" as, it seemed, did practically every other visitor (including Italians), to find digs in town and picked up Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Common Redstart and the ubiquitous Yellow-legged Gull while window shopping around town.

Next day (6/5/01) we buzzed out to Capo Caccia in a vain attempt to peer at at least one of the Grottos out there. Unfortunately the offshore wind made the conditions unsuitable to view the sea caves. One thing that amazed us about Sardinia was, that no matter what coast you are on, the breeze is always onshore. I think this phenomenon, while inexplicable, is not nearly as mysterious as the phenomenon that an approaching Fiat Uno actually requires more road space than an oncoming articulated pantechnicon, yet can park on a patch of footpath that a Chihuahua would have difficulty relieving itself on.

The saving grace of the Grotto's carpark is that it overlooks shear cliffs who's tops are covered with low shrubbery that regurgitated, Melodious Warbler, Shag (down a bit further of course), Bonelli's Warbler, Crag Martin and Sardinian Warbler. The last being the most common and what one uses as a yardstick to sort out the rest of the Warblers - ie, if you think it's something rare or curious, it will be a Sardinian Warbler (see comments about Buzzards, later).

We then headed north west towards Stantino via Lago Baratz which could do with a bit more explore time than we gave it. Again, the wind seemed to keep everything sheltering, but we found Great, Green and Blue tits in the forest walk and Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Coot on the lake and a swarm of Swallow hawking above them.

On the road to Stantino we saw Bee-Eater and Common Kestrel and what I immediately put down as a Pied Flycatcher (from the car) but was then faced with three black and white Flycatcher "could-a-beens", and irritating ID predicament after the fact. This coming to light while checking Larrouse at lunch in Stantino to make sure that those were Spanish Sparrow we could see on the window sill.

The Le Saline on the road south of Stintino, while unassuming in itself was quite productive with Black-winged Stilt, Little Tern, Comon Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Little Stint, Kentish and Ringed Plover. A scope would have been a very handy piece to be carrying for this and other wading bird environments.

From here to Porto Torres we found a very streaky, well "blocky" is the best way to describe the plumage, of a Marsh Harrier that I tried very hard to make into a Bonelli's Eagle, but Harrier it was.

As it was shoulder off-season, the church we hunted out in Porto Torres was closed (this was not to be the first) but we picked up Collared Dove and European Serin while trying to decide whether we'd take the inland or coast road south.

Coast road it is - I assured Linda that it was only a mere coincidence that this was also the coast to twitch Griffon Vultures. It was also a happy coincidence that I'd stopped for yet another Buzzard. It is inevitable that in your heightened sense of anticipation when birding abroad that Buzzards manifest themselves into all sorts of hopeful raptor IDs, but on the coast road this one was worth stopping for. After the getting over the disappointment of yet another "Golden Eagle" being relegated to B.buteo something much, much larger loomed up over the cliff top. Come on you sodding thing, closer. That's it. Now turn - yes! White ruff and all - our one solitary Griffon Vulture for the trip. Lesson learned, stop for every "Buzzard" you see, just in case.

Hmm, this is a good roadside stop, there's a Raven, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Chaffinch and Black-throated Wheatear. What? O.hispanica is not supposed to be here. But it was, and it was not going to be the last of the mainland birds that "weren't supposed to be here" this week.

Overnight in Bosa on the river and standing on the balcony of the cheap off-season matrimonial suite I find a rather odd looking starling, which I knew immediately was a Spotless Starling. Stroll into town for dinner gave up Jackdaw, Black Redstart and Barn Swallow in amongst the buildings well as Little Egret and Common (?) Sandpiper on the river.

Driving up to the hills out of town the next day 7/5/01 I got a very bedraggled European Roller and more Common Buzzards, then on to Losa checking out numerous prehistoric sites where Hoopooe and Stonechat seem to abound and one of the few Woodpigeon showed itself. From the path to one of the Nuraghi we managed Calandra and Short-toed Lark. Fortunately I had a bit of time, the bins and the book at hand for these two.

Well, still time to visit the ruins at Tharros before overnighting in Oristano (remember to check out Oristano's stagno). Ruins and other monuments are always good for birds and Tharros was no dissapointment (some of the ruins are well worth a Polaroid too). A striking bird, the Woodchat Shrike would show up quite often after this first sighting, there's a Black-eared Wheatear, not the black-throated race and no, it's not an autumn Northern (O.oenanthe) either. There was the regular grey phase Northern Wheatear as well as Spotted Flycatcher and Common Redstart *and* a rather stringy Marmosa's Warbler (remember, all Warblers are Sardinian until absolutely positive). Fortunately I found another Marmosa later in the trip that I could be positive about.

Next day, the Stagno south of Oristano. The immediate one's weren't much chop but those at Arborea (S.di S'Ena Arubia) were more productive with a close encounter with an Osprey, Little Egret and two Squacco Heron on the main road side, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant and Common Tern can be found on the seaward side of the stagno, where you have to drive out to if you want to see the first Greater Flamingo of our trip.

So it was overnight at Arborea before down the coast (8/5/01) to Isola Di S.Antica with a stop at Giara Di Gesturi for some field birds (oh, and some prehistoric thingy, I'm sure); Corn Bunting, Robin, Linnet, European Serin, Stonechat, Skylark, Reed Bunting and Cuckoo (heard x 2). Never got to *see* cuckoo, but heard many on this trip.

After a couple of false starts, finally confirmed a Lesser Kestrel at Portoscuso and then onto Santa Antioca for Flamingo and Little Egret. Not a terribly pleasant backdrop to these stagno and neither are the stagno in Cabliari, but they do give an opportunity to get close views of Flamingo.

Decided to cut for Cagliari where we overnighted for two nights for a bit of culture, (and viniculture). Dodged a Grey Wagtail on the road through mountains to C.

After a couple of days wandering the old town and sunning ourselves on the beaches along the coast , it's inland to the mountains and Oliena for our first lot of Jays while walking up in the mountains, only to be frustrated with a "soarer" - was it a buzzard, vulture, or eagle? Guess I'll never know. Forest walk up the foot of the cliffs is a pleasant change to the beach life and gave up; Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap (m&f), and along with common Great Tit and Blue, Robin and Blackbird, two more firsts, Firecrest and Nightingale.

Next day (11/5/01) back to the coast to Santa Teresa Gallura via Cala Libretto (Alpine Swift) and more nuraghi where we encountered, Red-backed Shrike (m&f - a striking contrast), European Serin, Winchat Shrike, more Hoopooe, Rock Sparrow, Water Pipit, Cirl Bunting and Marsh Harrier (f).

Santa Teresa Gallura and our last night in Sardinia. Tomorrow will be a bit of a travelogue doing the coast and then inland, but just to round off the Swifts, managed to discern the Pallid Swifts from the others.

While there may be a few "dips" it was a very enjoyable break, and Tony, you might want to do a search the Fat Birder on Sardinia where there is a trip report closer to the time of year you're off. It was written in 1997, but at least that trip was in July and *both* holidayers were birders, so you should be able to get a few pointers from them, and hopefully from this one.

Eric Hocking

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