Corsica and Sardinia - 29th April – 2nd May 2006

Published by Richard Bonser (richbonser8181 AT

Participants: Richard Bonser and Mark Lopez



Mark Lopez and I visited the islands of Corsica and Sardinia for 4 days in late April and early May 2006. The prime reason for our visit was to target the two endemic species that are present on Corsica – Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Citril Finch – as well as observing Marmora’s Warbler and the many endemic or near endemic forms or races that occur on these islands.


As one of the birds that we were most keen on seeing is only found on Corsica (Corsican Citril Finch can in fact be seen on Sardinia), it was this destination that we were most keen to visit. Initial research on the internet made us realise that in order to fly direct to this destination from the UK, it seemed that we would have to spend a week there and suffer a rather expensive British Airways or charter package in the process. As a consequence, knowing its close proximity to Sardinia and the fact that there are decently priced Ryanair flights to this island, we decided to fly to Alghero and then get a ferry (€122 for a car and two people return) from Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia to Bonifacio, Corsica. Note that another affordable way of getting to Corsica would be to fly Easyjet to Nice and then get the Corsica Ferries ferry from there to Corsica.

Car hire was booked through Hertz and this was relatively inexpensive and there appeared to be no restrictions on taking the car over from Sardinia to Corsica (or at least that’s what we thought). We had not booked any accommodation prior to our trip and, on Corsica, found it painless to find reasonably priced hotels (less than €30 per person per night) – we stayed at the Hotel Residence Porette in Corte on the 29th April and the Hotel Le Sampiero in Bastia on 30th April. On Sardinia, after scouring the resort of Alghero and finding no hotels within our budget, we headed off towards Capo Caccia and found accommodation at the Agritourismo Pinette west of Fertilia on the night of 1st May.

Restaurants were reasonably priced, though Corsica seemed somewhat dearer than Sardinia, and for evening meals we ate pizza and drank a beer – this averaging at €25 between the two of us. As we visited Corsica from Saturday to Monday, it may be of importance to note that it adheres fairly strictly to no trading on Sunday and as such we struggled getting food supplies and had to ensure that we filled our car up with petrol – a few garages were open on a Sunday but heading north from Bastia to Macinaggio, not a single garage or shop seemed to be trading.


Information on Corsica is relatively easy to get hold of on the web via the traditional sites such as Birdtours and Surfbirds – in particular, the Travelling Birder search engine allows you to search trip reports on a variety of sites. Trip reports that I took with me, and were admittedly of differing quality, included those by Janne & Hanna Alto, Peter Jones, Dave Parker, Martin Pitt, Simon Plat & Marc Van der Aa, Mike Read, Jean Roberts and Simon Woolley for Corsica and those by Graham Tebb and Steve Webb for Sardinia. Additionally, sincere thanks to both Chris Bell and Andrew Raine who provided me with useful information based on their visits to Corsica and Sardinia.


In essence, this trip was especially planned in the hope that we would see the two Corsican endemics and as such these comprise the ‘true’ target species. However, as with any island, several other interesting species and subspecies occur and for the sake of completeness these are also detailed below. For an excellent summary of Corsican subspecies/races and their identification, please refer to Brian Small’s summary at the end of Dave Parker’s trip report.

Cory’s Shearwater (diomedea) – birds of the nominate race, known as ‘Scopoli’s Shearwater’ were seen on both ferry crossings between Corsica and Sardinia with c.25 noted on 29th April and at least 100 birds on the 1st May. On the latter date, one individual followed in the wake of the ferry and, at times, could be observed down to 30 yards where the pale underhand to the primaries could be seen to extend onto the outer webs.

Yelkouan Shearwater – the ferry crossing between Santa Teresa, Sardinia and Bonifacio, Corsica is excellent for this species and astounding views were had on our return ferry crossing. Only 2 were noted on the 3.10pm departure from Santa Teresa on 29th April yet a 5pm departure from Bonifacio on 1st May produced about 400 birds, including a couple of large rafts on the water. These observations, unsurprisingly, may suggest that a later (or indeed early) crossing coincides with more activity for this species.

Shag (desmarestii) – easily seen on the crossing between Santa Teresa, Sardinia and Bonifacio, Corsica with several birds allowing close scrutiny in the harbour at Santa Teresa on 29th April.

Sparrowhawk (wolterstorffi) – three sightings of this species with one on the drive along the north coast of Sardinia on 29th April, a further bird in the mountains 11km east of Ghisoni, Corsica on the same date and a further bird near Cap Corse at Barcaggio on 30th April.

Buzzard (arrigonii) – commonly seen on both islands on all dates.

Barbary Partridge – this species is not present on Corsica but can be found relatively easily in the north-west corner of Sardinia at Capo Caccia. Upon gleaning information we realised that an early start would be advisable to see this species as, before the hordes of tourists arrive at the Cape, it can be seen feeding adjacent to the roadside in the couple of kilometres or so before the lighthouse where the telegraph wires pass over the road just east of the small settlement of Tramariglio. We had 2 pairs by the roadside in the vicinity of the telegraph wires early morning on 2nd May – be aware that persistence may be needed and we continued to drive around the area until we saw this species.

Barn Owl (ernestii) – one was seen on a post on the road to Capo Caccia just west of Fertilia, Sardinia late evening on 1st May.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (parroti) – a common resident on Corsica and seen regularly at most sites especially in upland areas.

Wren (koenigi) – several heard and a couple seen whilst visiting sites within the Corsican mountains.

Marmora’s Warbler – this species is widespread on both islands, favouring the maquis vegetation. We only really tried one site and found an obliging bird within about 10 minutes of searching south of Vivario by the N193/D69 junction at Col de Sorba, Corsica. Park your car by the ‘Le Chalet Restaurant’ and the scrub on the small hill behind this building is where we saw this species.

Subalpine Warbler (moltonii) – we found this species to be fairly common on our visit, both in the upland areas and in coastal scrub of Corsica. At least 3 birds, including 2 singing males, were found on 30th April on the road to Haut Asco – from the D147/N197 clock 9.9km along the D147 and this is where we located all of our birds in the roadside scrub. Additionally, a couple of stops along the D80 between Bastia and Macinaggio produced a further 2 singing males.

Long-tailed Tit (irbii) – also occurring in southern Iberia, we had two observations of this subspecies on Corsica with one bird 9.9km along the D147 to Haut Asco from the N197 junction on 30th April and, later the same day, a further bird in the woodlands at Macinaggio.

Coal Tit (sardus) – this species was fairly common in the coniferous woodlands in the upland areas of Corsica.

Blue Tit (cogliastrae) – birds of this race, also occurring in southern Iberia, were noted in upland areas of Corsica such as the small hill behind the ‘Le Chalet Restaurant’ at the N193/D69 junction at Col de Sorba.

Great Tit (corsus) – a common bird of both upland and coastal deciduous woodlands on Corsica.

Corsican Nuthatch – one was seen extremely well in the pines at Col de Sorba on 29th April. We located our bird at a favoured site 2.8km along the D69 from the N193 junction (to the south of Vivario by the ‘Le Chalet Restaurant’). Other sites where this species is regularly seen include Haut Asco, the Restonica Valley and Vizzavona.

Woodchat Shrike (badius) – although none were located on Corsica, driving the north coast of Sardinia on 1st May allowed us to encounter one on roadside wires to the west of Vignola Mare. After stopping, another bird was located in the same area.

Jay (corsicanus) – a common and vocal species in all habitats on Corsica.

Hooded Crow (sardonicus) – very common throughout both Corsica and Sardinia.

Chaffinch (tyrrhenica) – seen in decent numbers in upland areas on Corsica.

Corsican Citril Finch – unlike Citril Finch, which is confined to high altitude sites, this species can be found in a wide variety of habitats throughout Corsica. Our first sighting was of a pair at Col de Sorba on 29th April (3.3km along the D69 from the N193 junction at ‘Le Chalet Restaurant’) and then, the next morning, at least 10 birds on the small hillside behind the ‘Le Chalet Restaurant’. Later on the 30th April, a pair were seen in coastal maquis at Macinaggio – take the track off the D80 in Macinaggio signed ‘U Stazzu Camping’ and ‘Sentier des Douaniers’ and follow this track for a couple of kilometres to a car park by a beach, and we walked north along the beach to the headland and located a pair of this species in the coastal maquis scrub. This species can also be found on Sardinia but we did not visit any sites on this island where this species is known to occur.

Greenfinch (madarszi) – a common species on Corsica, and seen frequently in all habitats.

Goldfinch (tchusii) – like the previous species, commonly seen in a variety of habitats on Corsica.

Crossbill (corsicana) – one bird was seen (and heard) flying over the car park at Haut Asco on 30th April and a small flock of c.15 birds were seen in the coastal pinewoods at Hotel Restaurant Pineto (near Etang de Biguglia) on the morning of 1st May.


It is inevitable that on such a short trip that some species or interesting subspecies would evade us. For the sake of completeness, and to aid future visiting birders to the islands, these species are listed below.

Goshawk (arrigonii) – a fairly rare species, as one would imagine, with favoured sites being upland areas on Corsica such as Haut Asco and the Restonica Valley.

Lammergeier – this species regularly occurs on Corsica and, with more time and better weather, our chances would have greatly increased. The Haut Asco area and the Restonica Valley are the favoured area for sightings.

California Quail – a successfully introduced bird on Corsica and consequently retains its status on Category C of the French list. There is a severe lack of information with regard to where to find this species on Corsica. The only information that I was aware of was that it could be found in coastal scrub and grassland adjacent to Etang d’Urbino.

Spotted Flycatcher (tyrrhenica) – most commonly noted in other trip reports in the woodland along the D253 near Cap Corse at Barcaggio, Corsica.

Treecreeper (corsa) – regularly observed in the upland areas of Corsica at sites such as Haut Asco and the Restonica Valley.


This section aims to detail our day-to-day observations in a diary format. Although some detail is undoubtedly contained below, if you are looking for more specific information on certain species, then I’d advise you to have a look at the ‘Target Species’ section above.

Saturday 29th April

Having arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule at Alghero airport, Sardinia we suffered a little bit of a wait in the Hertz queue to get hold of our rental car – a Ford Focus. Spotless Starlings and House Martins were common in the airport grounds whilst we checked for scratches and made sure everything was fine on our car. With the sun shining and four hours to play with before our ferry to Corsica, we thought it best to drive gently along the north coast of Sardinia stopping en-route as and when birds were present.

Northern Sardinia (Alghero airport to the harbour at Santa Teresa di Gallura)
Having quickly become accustomed once again to the Italian way of driving, we headed off from the airport, around the town of Sassari, and hit the north coast of the island just to the east of Porto Torres at Platamona Lido. It was obvious from the first ten minutes of our journey that Corn Buntings are doing significantly better in Sardinia than in Britain, whilst just west of Sassari I observed a European Bee-eater whilst Mark was concentrating on the road ahead.

As we headed east along the north coast, traffic thinned out and many roadside birds were present – hundreds of Swallows heading north, several flocks of Spotless Starling, many Spanish Sparrows chipping away, the ever present Yellow-legged Gulls patrolling the coast as well as a Sparrowhawk and a few Jackdaws. Serins could be heard pretty much continually as we journeyed along the coast and the roadside wires were filled with Corn Buntings. As we got closer to the ferry at Santa Teresa, our attention was attracted to a spectacular flock of at least 50 European Bee-eaters sallying from wires near the village of Vignola Mare – we stopped the car to watch these birds and, whilst doing so, a Tawny Pipit popped up onto an adjacent wire and a small flock of half a dozen Pallid Swifts flew over. A couple of Buzzards were also noted as was a Chaffinch and many hirundines.

As usual, our timing meant that we had well over an hour to kill when we reached the port at Santa Teresa di Gallura and, as such, we had a quick walk around the area. A couple of Kestrels hovered over the hillside in this most scenic location, and a female Marsh Harrier flew over, whilst in the harbour itself an adult Audouin’s Gull was present along with many Yellow-legged Gulls and a couple of Shags provided decent views as they hauled themselves up onto the rocks.

Ferry between Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia and Bonifacio, Corsica
Our ferry left promptly at 3.10pm and, despite the gorgeous weather that we had experienced on Sardinia, things clouded over quite quickly and with a lowering of pressure the crossing was less than flat. Even so, we quickly noted our first Cory’s Shearwater (of the nominate race diomedea) and ended up seeing at least 25 of this species and Shags were in view pretty much continually for the first half hour, whilst a couple of Yelkouan Shearwaters provided frustratingly poor and distant views. Even though the crossing was only an hour, and the ship relatively large, there is always one person who doesn’t seem to fair too well and as such we were treated to views of a rather large mature women vomiting the contents of her stomach up into a translucent plastic bag… nice. After a bit of a palaver getting off the ferry, where they insisted that everybody reversed out, we were on our way and heading north along the east side of Corsica…

Drive along the N198 from Bonifacio to Ghisonaccia, Corsica
One thing we immediately noticed was the increase in traffic on Corsica compared to Sardinia. Nevertheless we made good time along the east coast of the island noting several Serins, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Turtle Doves and a ‘zitting’ Fan-tailed Warbler as we drove north.

D344 between Ghisonaccia and Ghisoni, Corsica
As we turned off the main coastal road and onto the D344 at Ghisonaccia, we quickly changed habitats from the coastal plain to a landscape of rugged mountains and narrow, winding roads. 11km to the east of Ghisoni, we stopped our car at a suitable spot by the river and had a quick wander around. A couple of Sardinian Warblers sang in typical ‘scratchy mode’ from the scrub, and a Blackcap and a Wren sang from the lush riverside vegetation, whilst on the adjacent hillside a Woodlark was noted and a Sparrowhawk zoomed through. 3 Grey Wagtails were also noted in this area, proving typically vocal in flight. Heading towards Ghisoni we noted a couple of Crag Martins flying about below us in the gorge whilst a further stop 5km from Ghisoni in a small, wooded area produced at least 4 Cirl Buntings, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Greenfinches and a Wren.

Col de Sorba (the D69 between Ghisoni and Vivario (on the N193)), Corsica
Although we headed to this area from the south, it’s much easier to clock distances from the N193/D69 junction as a point of reference. Anyway, knowing that Chris Bell et al had seen both endemic species in this area with extreme ease, we thought that this would be our first port of call for these species. As it was, we observed a pair of Corsican Citril Finches by the roadside 3.3km from the D69/N193 junction as they fed on an open area of rocky ground. It was 500 metres further on (and 2.8km from the D69/N193 junction) that we gained superb views of a Corsican Nuthatch in an area of ancient pines, noting the slight upturn of its bill tip and also regularly hearing its diagnostic call. As we watched the nuthatch 4 Ravens flew over, a Cuckoo was heard and a Great Spotted Woodpecker put in an appearance.

Having had very little sleep the night before due to the early flight time, and with the evening getting on, we drove to the town of Corte where with relative ease we found some decently priced accommodation and settled into a decent pizza and beer at one of the restaurants in the town.

Sunday 30th April

We awoke at a relatively decent hour to clear blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. Having packed our bags, we departed the town of Corte and headed south again to the N193/D69 junction just south of Vivario.

Col de Sorba (the N193/D69 junction and the hill behind the ‘Le Chalet Restaurant), Corsica
The small hill immediately behind the ‘Le Chalet Restaurant’ provided us with an excellent hour or so of early morning birding in bright sunshine. After a short amount of time, a superb Marmora’s Warbler was found contact calling in the low scrub here. At least ten Corsican Citril Finches were also noted on this hillside, continually providing us with their call (similar to a Trumpeter Finch but less drawn out), whilst at least 8 noisy Jays were present as were a handful of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The small trees here attracted both Blue Tits and Great Tits as well as a Goldcrest whilst other birds seen here included a pair of Stonechats, a couple of Goldfinches, several Greenfinches, a Serin, a couple of Blackbirds and a handful of Cirl Buntings.

Casanova (south of Corte on the N193), Corsica
Heading north back along the N193, a Red Kite over the road was the first observation of this species on this trip.

Haut Asco, Corsica
Just to the north of the village of Ponte Leccia, where the N193 and the N197 divide, the D147 heads west to the ski centre car park at Haut Asco. This spectacular valley has long been on the itinerary of any birder visiting the island, and with this in mind, we spent the rest of the morning birding this area. Initially the D147 is relatively decent to drive but soon it gets quite narrow as it ascends along the valley. After noting a couple of Red Kites at the N197/D147 junction, we stopped 9.9km from here on the D147. This area proved extremely productive for Subalpine Warbler where 3 birds were seen in the roadside scrub after a little bit of patience. A male Blue Rock Thrush could be heard and then seen on the rocky outcrop above, and a Peregrine breached the horizon here, whilst in the roadside scrub and river valley a Long-tailed Tit, a couple of Chaffinches, a couple of Grey Wagtails, a few Coal Tits and a pair of Buzzards were also seen.

Continuing along the D147, and through Asco village, Serins sang from the Mediterranean terraced cultivated hillsides whilst a stop closer towards the ski centre car park provided us with our only Woodpigeon of the trip as well as a Cirl Bunting and a couple more Goldcrests and Coal Tits. We arrived at a rather deserted ski centre car park, presumably due to the lack of snow (although the peaks were still holding a little snow), and wandered around the remnants of the forest in the vicinity. We did not have a concerted attempt to locate any Corsican Nuthatches here although many people do seem to see this species here but a Crossbill flying over the car park was a bonus and the pines abounded with Coal Tits. Scanning the ridges did not prove successful and our attempt to locate a Lammergeier failed largely due to the low cloud, so on this note we decided to head back down the valley with the intention of spending the rest of the day on the north coast of this beautiful and rather varied island. A pair of Blue Rock Thrushes and a couple of Firecrests, including a singing male, made us stop near Asco village on our descent but apart from this, the journey back down the valley was rather birdless.

Etang de Biguglia, Corsica
The weather on the coast was significantly different to the overcast conditions we had left behind us in the mountains – in fact it was beautifully sunny and rather warm. Located to the south of Bastia and accessed at several points along the D107, the Etang de Biguglia is probably the best site in Corsica for waterbirds. However, the southern half of the lake was pretty birdless except for a flock of 7 European Bee-eaters on roadside wires as well a few Spotless Starlings, and we made our first true stop at a track that bisects the lake near Pineto. It was here that we noted a couple of Great-crested Grebes in amongst good numbers of Coot whilst Cetti’s Warblers, Nightingales and a couple of Fan-tailed Warblers sang from the lakeside bushes and reeds. Over the lake itself, huge numbers of Swifts and Swallows swarmed in the skies whilst further north along the D107 and just to the south of the bridge near Club de la Marana 2 Audouin’s Gulls perched on posts in the middle of the lake along with 3 Common Terns and a Black-headed Gull here was the only individual of this species we saw during the trip.

Bastia to Macinaggio along the D80, Corsica
After navigating ourselves through Bastia, which it transpired was incredibly easy, we headed north along the D80 in the direction of Cap Corse and the village of Macinaggio at the north-eastern corner of the island. The outstandingly beautiful scenery, comprising of rugged coastline and sandy bays, provided the backdrop to sightings of a female Montagu’s Harrier, a couple of Subalpine Warblers and Sardinian Warblers as well as c.10 Crag Martins and innumerable Swallows all heading north.

Macinaggio, Corsica
Just after going past the harbour (from the south), the D80 swings to the left and there is a road on the right shortly after signed ‘U Stazzu Camping’ and ‘Sentier des Douaniers’ – we took this and were to be pleasantly surprised with the birding that was to be had. After going through a few bends, the road heads uphill and on the right there are some horse paddocks and a marshy area in the distance adjacent to the coast. Stopping by the road and scanning, we found a whole host of migrants – in the horse paddocks c.20 Yellow Wagtails congregated including a male thunbergi in amongst the more common iberiae/cinereocapilla types as well as a handful of White Wagtails, 4 Red-throated Pipits, a couple of Tree Pipits and 3 Northern Wheatears. The bushes surrounding the paddock produced 3 Cirl Buntings, a Willow Warbler, 2 male Pied Flycatchers, a Sardinian Warbler, a male Redstart and a Whinchat – it was obvious that migration was in full swing as new birds were continually being seen in this area throughout our period of observation. The distant marshy area produced a Squacco Heron as it appeared briefly from the lush vegetation and a couple of Common Sandpipers and half a dozen Wood Sandpipers were also seen, whilst patrolling the skies in amongst the hordes of Swifts, House Martins, Sand Martins and Swallows were an Alpine Swift, a Marsh Harrier and a Hobby. Reluctantly, we left this superb area and continued along the track and parked in the beach car park near the cafĂ©.

Walking north along the beach from the car park, migration was still evident here with a small procession of Yellow Wagtails flying over and at least 2 ringtail Montagu’s Harriers, a Marsh Harrier and a Hobby also seen. Upon reaching the small headland at the north end of the beach our search for Dartford Warbler commenced and with a large amount of effort and a lot of scratches, at least one bird was seen. A couple of Corsican Citril Finches ‘trumpeting’ in the coastal scrub was a bit of a surprise but we were aware that they occur throughout the island and in a variety of habitats, whilst several Sardinian Warblers were heard and a Tawny Pipit was seen on the headland as well. Heading back to the car from here, a couple of Cirl Buntings were seen in a hedge adjacent to the beach whilst both Hooded Crow and Yellow-legged Gull were numerous in the area.

D253 from the D80 to Barcaggio, Cap Corse, Corsica
The stretch of road from the junction of the D80/D253 to Cap Corse is an obvious filter for migrants in spring as they become funnelled in this valley before their onward northerly migration. We just made erratic stops along this car in areas that either ‘looked good’ or a bird from the car caused us to stop. I’ll always remember this wooded area for the number of Pied Flycatchers – at least 30 we saw in only a couple of hours – as well as other migrants including 3 Willow Warblers, at least 5 Redstarts and a male Whinchat. Birds abounded from pretty much every bush in places and, as well as the migrants, a couple of Turtle Doves, 3 Red-legged Partridges, a Long-tailed Tit, a Sparrowhawk, a male Firecrest, c.10 Cirl Buntings, several Serins, many Chaffinches and both Blue Tits and Great Tits were all seen. At the bottom of the valley, we parked by the beach on the east side of Barcaggio and explored this area briefly. Whilst I was looking at the bushes in the car park, Mark had walked off to explore the small stream near the wooden bridge and immediately shouted me over as he’d disturbed a small crake and a Water Rail. Despite getting my shoes and socks off and wading through the area, we couldn’t relocate either bird so the crake’s full identity will forever remain a mystery…

Feeling pretty satisfied with the day and the light beginning to fade, we journeyed back south along the D80 and managed to find some affordable accommodation on the southern outskirts of Bastia. After quickly checking in, we headed off out to find some food – being a Sunday evening this proved surprisingly frustrating until we found a small pizza place that was open near the port. One hour after ordering a simple pizza, and many expletives later, our food finally arrived.

Monday 1st May

Rising once again at a relatively amicable time we headed off from our hotel and a few minutes down the road to the Etang de Biguglia, a site we’d visited briefly the previous day.

Etang de Biguglia, Corsica
Starting off at the north end, parking by the store just to the west of the bridge, we headed off on foot to explore the small estuary here. About ten Little Egrets were present along with a Dunlin, 2 Wood Sandpipers, a Greenshank, 12 Common Sandpipers and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers. A single Cattle Egret flew over whilst on the other side of a bridge the distant reeling of a couple of Grasshopper Warblers could be heard. Nightingales and Cetti’s Warblers unmistakably uttered their presence as did a few Serins whilst walking down the track away from the river mouth and towards the lake itself produced a few migrants including a Redstart, a handful of Whinchats and a Turtle Dove. Fan-tailed Warblers were obvious in this area as were several ‘Italian’ Sparrows and a Sedge Warbler.

Heading a short distance south along the D107, we stopped in the first large lay-by and viewed the lake – a couple of adult Audouin’s Gulls present were presumably the same as seen the previous day whilst a couple of Oystercatchers and Grey Herons, a Cormorant and a few Little Egrets were noted on the lakeshore.

Pinewoods and dunes at the Hotel/Restaurant Pineto adjacent to the D107, Corsica
Realising that migrants were around, we found the first suitable spot adjacent to Etang de Biguglia and investigated. When we parked the car at the end of the track in these pinewoods, I headed off towards the nearby dunes and chalets whilst Mark went off into the pinewoods – both of us to be gripped off by the other. I’d found a superb Ortolan Bunting in the dunes in amongst a load of ‘Italian’ Sparrows whilst Mark had located a small flock of c.15 Crossbills in the woods – needless to say, we could not relocate each other’s birds. Nonetheless, birding here was quality and the pinewoods in particular produced a variety of migrants including a Hoopoe, a male Blackcap, a Garden Warbler, a Wood Warbler, a male Whinchat, a Redstart, 3 Pied Flycatchers and 3 Willow Warblers with Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch and Goldfinch also present. Swifts and hirundines headed north overhead.

Etang de Biguglia, Corsica
Just to the south of the pinewoods at Pineto, we once again had a quick look along the track that bisects the lake and were pleasantly surprised to find a Great Reed Warbler singing from the reeds here and, as we headed south along the lake shore on the D107, a single European Bee-eater was present on roadside wires.

N198 between Etang de Biguglia and Etang D’Urbino, Corsica
As we headed south, in amongst the Bank Holiday traffic, a handful of Red Kites cruised overhead along with a couple of Buzzards. We managed to find one place open where we were able to purchase some bread and cakes, ready for the afternoon’s birding and the ferry crossing back to Sardinia.

Etang D’Urbino, Corsica
Accessing this lagoon from the south, we had a brief look around in the heat of the day and saw several Little Egrets, many Yellow-legged Gulls and Coots whilst other birds noted included ten or so Spotless Starlings whilst Nightingales and Cetti’s Warblers voicing their presence loudly.

Etang de Palu, Corsica
To the south of Ghisonaccia, we headed off the N198 and accessed this lagoon from the north side from the car park at the end of the D745. A pleasant area, half a dozen European Bee-eaters sallied from the scattered bushes in the car park and a handful of Linnets were also present here. Although the lagoon itself is not viewable from the car park it is only five minutes walk south along the beach, with Fan-tailed Warblers and Sardinian Warblers present here, and on our visit 20 Greater Flamingos were present at the north end of the lagoon.

Having a little bit (or rather a lot in fact!) of time to kill before our ferry, we tried to find suitable sites to bird on our journey south through the island but, unfortunately, none of these seem worthy of a mention here as there was little bird activity.

Bonifacio lighthouse area, just to the east of Bonifacio town
In a last ditch desperate attempt to find a decent final site to bird on Corsica, we explored this area on foot briefly. Although pretty quiet on our visit, with 3 Turtle Doves and a Raven being the highlights, it certainly seems a good site geographically and must have the odd migrant from time to time.

Ferry from Bonifacio, Corsica to Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia
Remarkably, despite the fact that the ferry was full and one of the decks was lined with cars, we set off pretty much on time at 5pm from the scenic harbour at Bonifacio and south through the ‘Bouches de Bonifacio’ in the direction of Sardinia. As soon as we exited the harbour a couple of Shags flew past distantly and the first Cory’s Shearwaters (of the nominate race diomedea) started to appear and in total over 100 of this species were noted including one individual that insisted following in the wake where astounding views were had (including that of its under primaries!). However, the most poignant observation of this crossing was that of about 400 Yelkouan Shearwaters, a species that I was relatively unfamiliar with and keen to observe. Astounding views of several birds were had, including a couple of large rafts, and it was interesting to note the shape of these ‘brown and white manxies’ as well as their two toned upperpart colouration (the primaries appearing darker than the rest of the upperwing and mantle in the strong evening light).

We got ourselves off the ferry remarkably efficiently and shortly after 6pm we were on our way back along the north coast of Sardinia and heading towards Alghero where we were looking to spend the night.

Vignola Mare area (coast road between Santa Teresa and Castelsardo), Sardinia
The European Bee-eaters that we observed on the 29th April were still in the same place near Vignola Mare and seemed to have increased in numbers somewhat and, once again, providing us with excellent views of the most colourful European species. Heading west along the coast road from here, amongst the numerous Corn Buntings and Spanish Sparrows that lined the wires, a Woodchat was quickly spotted by the roadside. Having span the car around and stopped, a quick search of the area provided us with decent views of two birds enabling us to note the distinct lack of white at the base of the primaries amongst other more subtle (and subjective) features indicative of the race badius. A female Mallard flew over the road, remarkably being the only duck sighting of the trip, whilst a Red Kite, a couple of Buzzards, a few Kestrels and a lot of Spotless Starlings were also seen on the drive.

Arriving in Alghero, looking somewhat weather beaten and scruffy, and feeling a little out of place amongst the typically stylish and pristine Italians in this resort, it was time to change into some decent cloths (in the car park outside the restaurant) before venturing in for some food. A decent pizza thankfully arrived on the table significantly quicker than the previous evening and a decent local bottle of beer provided a good nightcap. However, searching for affordable accommodation in this resort proved a little tricky and frustratingly we could not find anything within our €30 euro per person budget. We departed westwards resigned to a night in the car…

West of Fertilia on the road to Capo Caccia, Sardinia
After passing the town of Fertilia, and once again having no success in terms of accommodation, a Barn Owl was a most welcome site as it perched on a roadside sign. Just beyond here, signs for beds at an ‘Agritourismo’ seemed interesting and as we pulled into the drive of the farmhouse, an old woman and her husband came out to greet us. A conversation firstly of hand gestures didn’t really work and neither of them spoke any French so, with a little bit of Spanish, we managed to get the gist that this was in our price range and settled down for a few hours sleep. Well, sleep came after a cold shower and a rather amusing incident whereby I had to knick a towel from their washing line…

Tuesday 2nd May

Capo Caccia, Sardinia

After a pre dawn rise from our accommodation in order to get to Capo Caccia for first light, we arrived at the car park below the lighthouse in the pitch dark wishing we’d had a bit more time in bed. However, birds were up and a rather melodic song drew our attention to a male Blue Rock Thrush singing in the half light. Heading back along the road and through the small settlement of Tramariglio, the telegraph wires cross the main road and it was here that, after half an hour or so of driving around, that we located two pairs of Barbary Partridge and were treated to excellent views of this species. With a little bit of time on our hands before we needed to be back at the airport for our departure back to Stansted, we headed off to the lighthouse and the viewpoint area. With the sun rising and in crisp early morning light, we were treated to a spectacle of c.200 Alpine Swifts patrolling the skies between us and the offshore pinnacle as well as smaller numbers of Pallid Swifts in the air at the same time. A Peregrine flew close to us and along the adjacent coastline whilst Linnets, Goldfinches and Hooded Crows were all relatively numerous in the area. And sadly on this note it was time to head off back to the airport at Alghero and catch our mid morning flight back to London Stansted…

Species Lists

Great Crested Grebe, Podiceps cristatus
Cory's Shearwater, Calonectris diomedea diomedea
Yelkouan Shearwater, Puffinus yelkouan
Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis
European Shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii
Squacco Heron, Ardeola ralloides
Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis
Little Egret, Egretta garzetta
Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea
Greater Flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Red Kite, Milvus milvus
Marsh Harrier, Circus aeruginosus
Montagu's Harrier, Circus pygargus
Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus wolterstorffi
Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo arrigonii
Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus
Hobby, Falco subbuteo
Peregrine, Falco peregrinus
Red-legged Partridge, Alectoris rufa
Barbary Partridge, Alectoris barbara
Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus
Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus
Coot, Fulica atra
Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus
Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius
Dunlin, Calidris alpina
Greenshank, Tringa nebularia
Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos
Black-headed Gull, Larus ridibundus
Audouin's Gull, Larus audouinii
Yellow-legged Gull, Larus michahellis
Common Tern, Sterna Hirundo
Woodpigeon, Columba palumbus
Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
Turtle Dove, Streptopelia turtur
Common Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus
Barn Owl, Tyto alba ernesti
Common Swift, Apus apus
Pallid Swift, Apus pallidus brehmorum
Alpine Swift, Apus melba
European Bee-eater, Merops apiaster
Hoopoe, Upupa epops
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major parroti
Woodlark, Lullula arborea
Sand Martin, Riparia riparia
Crag Martin, Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
House Martin, Delichon urbicum
Tawny Pipit, Anthus campestris
Tree Pipit, Anthus trivialis
Red-throated Pipit, Anthus cervinus
Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava cinereocapilla & thunbergi
Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail, Motacilla alba
Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes koenigi
Rufous Nightingale, Luscinia megarhynchos
Common Redstart, Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Whinchat, Saxicola rubetra
Stonechat, Saxicola torquatus
Northern Wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe
Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola solitarius
Blackbird, Turdus merula
Cetti's Warbler, Cettia cetti
Fan-tailed Warbler, Cisticola juncidis
Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella naevia
Sedge Warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Great Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Marmora's Warbler, Sylvia sarda
Dartford Warbler, Sylvia undata
Subalpine Warbler, Sylvia cantillans moltonii
Sardinian Warbler, Sylvia melanocephala
Common Whitethroat, Sylvia communis
Garden Warbler, Sylvia borin
Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla paulucii
Wood Warbler, Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Common Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita
Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus
Goldcrest, Regulus regulus interni
Firecrest, Regulus ignicapillus
Pied Flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca
Long-tailed Tit, Aegithalos caudatus irbii
Coal Tit, Parus ater sardus
Blue Tit, Parus caeruleus cogliastrae
Great Tit, Parus major corsus
Corsican Nuthatch, Sitta whiteheadi
Woodchat Shrike, Lanius senator badius
Eurasian Jay, Garrulus glandarius corsicanus
Alpine Chough, Pyrrhocorax graculus
Jackdaw, Corvus monedula
Hooded Crow, Corvus cornix sardonicus
Common Raven, Corvus corax
Spotless Starling, Sturnus unicolor
House Sparrow, Passer domesticus italiae
Spanish Sparrow, Passer hispaniolensis
Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs tyrrhenica
European Serin, Serinus serinus
Corsican Citril Finch, Serinus corsicanus
Greenfinch, Carduelis chloris madarszi
Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis tchusii
Linnet, Carduelis cannabina
Common Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra corsicana
Cirl Bunting, Emberiza cirlus nigrostriata
Ortolan Bunting, Emberiza hortulana
Corn Bunting, Emberiza calandra