TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Corsica

20th - 27th April 2003


Leaders:
Mike Read



Daily diary

Sunday 20th April

The flight from Gatwick departed on time and arrived in Marseille a little early. A few Greater Flamingos were standing in some shallows as the aircraft approached the runway and from the terminal building, Swallow, Common Swift, Yellow-legged Gulls and one or two probable Black Kites were seen. An hour after landing we were heading for the plane for the onward flight to Bastia on Corsica.

As we landed we saw a few Hooded Crows along the runway and around the airport while 4 or 5 Red Kites flew overhead. Common Swifts greeted our walk to the mini bus but as we began the drive towards Corte, rain began to fall. A pause before Ponte Leccia had us watching a few Crag Martins and a lone Common Raven while another Red Kite flew past at fairly close range. Further on, another roadside pause produced a group of Alpine Choughs; Chaffinch and a Common Buzzard and we also added Robin and Blackcap by song.

At the Hotel, a couple of Woodpigeons flew past as we arrived and more were seen later before dinner. Grey Wagtail, more Crag Martins, Hooded Crows nest building, Coal Tit, Wren and also another Blackcap were added. One member of the group also saw about 30 Alpine Swifts.
After a super evening meal, at least 3 Scops Owls could be heard calling around the hotel and restaurant complex.

Monday 21st April
For an hour before breakfast, we walked up the valley searching for birds. Before we left the car park, a couple of Serins were seen at close range and Greenfinch, Chaffinch, 3 Jays and a Stonechat followed quite quickly. Along the road, three Cirl Buntings gave good views and a Blue Rock Thrush indulged in a prolonged display flight. A Green-veined Orchid was growing on the roadside and a Dipper appeared on a large boulder in the river as we turned back for breakfast. The only other bird that slowed our return was a Pied Flycatcher, which put in a brief appearance.

South of Corte we paused to look at some Pink Butterfly Orchids and also saw a couple of Woodlarks, a Sparrowhawk, a Red Kite and heard a Common Cuckoo. Further south we paused at Venaco to purchase some liquid refreshments for lunch and here, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and a good group of House Martins were seen.

Into the Verjellu Valley we had soon heard (and later we saw) a Great Spotted Woodpecker. More Green-veined Orchids, Spring Sowbread and Corsican Hellebore were seen on the way to our lunch spot from where we had fabulous views to the towering mountains and the valley below. A pair of Goshawks displayed at a considerable height and a pair of Common Ravens drifted past looking very much like two Peregrines in silhouette. The Corsican race of Coal Tit was common here and a group of 6 Common Crossbills landed quite close to us and enabled us to easily distinguish between the female and her streaky young of this year. High on a rocky crag, a large bird was perched for ages and was identified as a Golden Eagle but just when nobody was watching it, it disappeared.

As we made our way back to the main road, we found numerous new plants including Three-cornered Leek, Roman Orchid and Narrow-leaved Lupin.

The drive to the Col de Vizzavona went well but with little of interest seen but as we neared the Col itself, the heavens opened and we decided on a hasty retreat rather than the intended walk. Coffees and another couple of Woodlarks raised our spirits somewhat but we still decided on a return to the hotel. The journey back was enlightened a little when two gendarmes flagged down the minibus and Mike was thankfully able to produce the appropriate documentation.

After dinner the usual Scops Owls were heard but again were sadly not seen.

Tuesday 22nd April
Before breakfast we walked towards Corte and saw a few birds and plants of interest. Blackcap was perhaps the most vociferous though a few Wrens sang quite well too. Jays were frequent (throughout the day) and as we approached the outskirts of town, Italian Sparrows were plentiful though sadly we did not see their hoped for Tree cousins. A Red Kite drifted past on floppy wings and on the way back to the hotel we found a Great Spotted Woodpecker making a nest hole.

After a well-earned breakfast, we headed past Ponte Leccia and into the Asco Valley. A short way along this long, winding road, we paused to search for birds and soon found a somewhat elusive male Pied Flycatcher. Further on we located a female of the same species and also 4 or 5 Spotless Starlings. The first of these was rather distant and someone nearly suggested it had been 'well spotted'. There then followed a debate as to whether it should in fact be 'well spotlessed' or even 'well unspotted'. No firm decision was reached as we were all rather confused .........

Other stops along the valley produced a group of 3 Whinchats and a Cirl Bunting, a singing Woodlark and a Grey Wagtail, which flew up from the roadside. As we approached the village of Asco, we saw other birds feeding along the roadside verges. The first group consisted of a male Serin and 2 Corsican Citril Finches while the second group contained about 8 - 10 Citrils. Unfortunately, most of these flew off as we approached but four remained to give us very good views at close range.

Other stops produced little except increasingly stunning views of the snowcapped mountains. We arrived at the ski station car park and were soon walking up the GR20 and past good quantities of Corsican Crocus. Coal Tits were numerous and after about 40 minutes walking, we saw a pair of Corsican Nuthatches. These gave fine and prolonged views with the male spending much time singing from a bare branch. Further on we encountered probably the same pair of birds and this time the female spent some time well within view. As we continued our walk, the views to Monte Cinto became even more impressive but apart from a lone Common Crossbill, little else of interest was seen.

We returned to the minibus and drove down to a riverside location for a late lunch in the glorious and hot weather we were now enjoying. We took our time over lunch and most celebrated the viewing of both endemic bird species with a little wine (not that a Travelling Naturalist group in France needs any excuse to partake in wine at lunchtime!).

We made frequent stops to search for birds and other things as we drove back towards Ponte Leccia though generally little was seen except a group of passing Alpine Swifts and House Martins and further on a Dipper was spotted flying along the river.

As we reached lower ground, we began to see occasional Red Kites again and along the roadside we saw a fine group of Pink Butterfly Orchids. A brief stop in the town of Ponte Leccia enabled us to enjoy ice creams before we began the journey back to the hotel. A raptor perched on cables encouraged a brief stop and it turned out to be a Common Kestrel but its positioning could not have been better because a Hoopoe flew from the old ruined building that we pulled up beside. It gave fine views as it perched in a dead tree some distance away.

After another well enjoyed evening meal, the Scops Owls serenaded us with their lovely, tuneful (?!) calling.

Wednesday 23rd April
The pre breakfast walk was relatively unspoilt with birds but the weather was superb and promised another fine and sunny day. Birds noted included Coal, Blue and Great Tits, Jays, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few others.

After breakfast we headed into the Restonica Valley and took frequent walks along the road to seek birds and flowers. Spring Sowbreads and Corsican Hellebore were numerous and we also found some Green-veined and Dense-flowered Orchids. Another pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen in some ancient Corsican Pines together with our first Common Treecreepers and then calling from a male Corsican Nuthatch alerted us to their presence and once we found them, they immediately flew to a small hole in a distant pine and disappeared inside. We had found a nest.

A little more walking and botanising headed us in the direction of Chez Caesar's cafe and we took advantage of the hot chocolate and Nescafe on offer; the electricity was off and 'proper coffee' was not available!
Once again the head of a wild boar looked down on us ...... and it was still wearing sunglasses! A 'crest' was calling from the trees around where we sat but it proved very elusive and we were unable to see if it was Gold or Fire.

We then drove up to the upper car park and walked a short way towards the 'col'. Snow still covered the ground in many places higher up and there was plenty of melt-water dashing down the various slopes. A few Crag Martins cruised around by a huge rocky cliff and right up on one of the highest peaks visible from our lowly position, a Blue Rock Thrush sat and gave everyone very distant views. Robins and Wrens sang from the nearby bushes, though they rarely gave good views, and the same could be said of the Ravens and Alpine Choughs that circled high above us. Unfortunately, the same had to be said about the juvenile Golden Eagle, which soared high above the highest snow-covered ridge. We saw it three times ..... but never well.

We returned to the minibus and drove down in to the valley and again had a slightly late lunch amongst a carpet of Corsican Crocus and the scent of the many pine trees. Afterwards, the journey back to the hotel was interspersed with spells of walking to enjoy the numerous flowers and driving. After our final evening meal and thanks all round to the staff, we tried to see the local Scops Owls but failed, although we did hear at least two.

Thursday 24th April
Before breakfast some of the group searched the river running past the hotel in the hope of seeing Dippers and Grey Wagtails. People had varying degrees of success though both species were seen.

As we began our journey to the coastal area, Common Swifts whirled over Corte. A short distance down the N200, a Nightingale was singing in roadside bushes and a little further on, a small bird which dashed across the road into some scrub eventually gave good views. It was a Dartford Warbler. A small field at this place held a couple of Northern Wheatears with a Stonechat and a Cirl Bunting nearby.
The journey to the small town of Cateraggio was soon completed with views of Barn Swallows, Crag Martins, 2 Common Buzzards and a Red Kite on the way. During a coffee stop we continued to watch for birds adding House Martins, a singing Serin and 2 Hobbies. As we drove southwards, a Common Kestrel was perched on roadside wires and a Hoopoe dashed across the road but was only seen by one or two people.

We arrived at Calzarellu and began a walk along the beach. Marsh Harrier and Yellow-legged Gulls were seen as we got out of the vehicle and a Nightingale put in a brief appearance as Cetti's Warblers sang from the depths of the marsh-side vegetation. Two Golden Orioles could be heard in the trees and one was glimpsed very briefly.

Further along the sand we flushed two Stone Curlews and they flew off to some distance and while we scanned for these, 6 or 7 Northern Wheatears were standing on tussocks, driftwood and occasional posts. A couple of Purple Herons flew up from the reeds where Reed Warblers sang their monotonous songs. When we reached the open water, numerous birds were found including Coots, a lone Cormorant, Great Crested and Little Grebes. The most prized species here were a male Garganey and 2 Ferruginous Ducks. Also seen here were a Grey Heron and 2 Common Buzzards while some European Bee-Eaters flew over calling and 5 Red-footed Falcons were circling against the far hillside.

We ate our lunch overlooking the Etang d'Urbino and could see a few typical species including lone Black-winged Stilt and Oystercatcher. A couple of Little Egrets and a few Grey Herons could be seen in the shallows and on an island respectively while the surrounding fields and hedges held 2 Whinchats, Corn Buntings, Goldfinches and a Sardinian Warbler. As we left the area, a Red Kite flapped lazily past and a Cattle Egret wandered among a group of sheep. Some of the group wondered if it was in fact a Corsican endemic Sheep Egret!

Close to the Etang de Diane, we looked over a smaller lake and found a Great White Egret and a male Red-crested Pochard as well as 'lesser species' like Coots, a Moorhen, Great Crested Grebe and Yellow-legged Gull. The surrounding scrub held occasional Serins, Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers. The Etang de Diane held little so we made our way towards our hotel beside the Etang de Biguglia. The journey had us seeing more Red Kites and a Common Buzzard and as we arrived at the hotel, a Common Kestrel was in one of the pine trees and more Bee-Eaters flew over calling noisily.

Friday 25th April
Before breakfast we drove along the eastern side of the Etang de Biguglia and looked over he water in one place and found a few Little Egrets and 3 Black-headed Gulls. Further along, we parked and walked past some scrub and out to the lake shore. Nightingales sang from one side of the road while Sardinian Warblers and Corn Buntings occupied the other. Out on the lake were a few Great Crested Grebes and another Little Egret. Cetti's Warblers sang from the scrubby areas and a lone Great Reed Warbler appeared in the reeds not far from us.

After breakfast we drove north along the etang and paused to look over the water again. Four Audouin's Gulls stood on posts and a flock of gulls over the far side of the water caused some confusion; did they have any black in their wings or not? For a while we tried to find our way in to the other shore of the lake but eventually gave up.

After a brief piece of picnic shopping, we set off north along the twisting road along the coast to the north of Bastia. By the time we reached Macinaggio, coffees were needed (though brandy might have been more appropriate with Mike's driving!) and soon we were heading towards Botticella and then Barcaggio.
Two raptors were circling and gaining height before setting off north towards mainland France and these turned out to be our first Honey Buzzards. At the ringing point there were a few birds present and we had soon added some Warblers to our list including Melodious, Sedge, Willow, Wood and Garden. Also there were Chiffchaff and Blackcap. A couple of puddles held 7 Wood Sandpipers and there were a few Whinchats and Stonechats occupying bush-top perches while a few Barn Swallows flitted overhead. Out over the sea, a Cory's Shearwater constantly circled between the shore and the Ile de la Giraglia while a few Yelkouan Shearwaters drifted past further out. By now, lunch beckoned and so we returned to the car park.
News from the ringers persuaded us to walk out along the beach area again and on reaching the marsh area, we found 4 Little Egrets and 5 Squacco Herons. Hirundines were drinking from the pool and we wee surprised to have four species in binocular view at a time. These were House and Sand Martins and Barn Swallows with a couple of their Red-rumped cousins to complete things.

Quite content with the assumption that the Tour (Tower) d'Angelo was not too far off, we began striding through the dunes and vegetation in a generally eastwards direction. Many Italian Wall Lizards dashed for cover at our approach and a Western Whip Snake dashed off before it could be seen by any of the clients (much to Celia's relief!!).

It soon became apparent that the fences between the shore and us were taking us further inland and the minor tower was much further away than was first thought. A hole in the fence enabled us to head for the beach and we decided on a tactical withdrawal. This did enable us to see the fine Black-eared Wheatear on our way back to the mini bus and as time was now getting on, we headed back to Bastia and just south of the town, we came to our first traffic jam. The problem? A cement lorry had taken a roundabout too quickly and had fallen over on to the shrubs in the central reservation. As Guy remarked, shame about the oleanders!!

We briefly paused by the Etang and confirmed that the group of gulls that we had distant views of earlier in the day were most probably Black-headed Gulls.

Saturday 26th April
The pre breakfast walk took in some of the footpath, which overlooked the Etang de Biguglia. Cetti's Warblers were frequent in the scrub and a Common Whitethroat called from deep cover. Nightingales were also difficult to see but eventually, some of the group had excellent views. An Audouin's Gull flew around over the water where Great Crested Grebes and many Coots swam and dived.

After breakfast, we headed north again towards Cap Corse by popular demand. During the journey we saw plenty of Common Swifts, at least 7 Bee-Eaters, Spotless Starlings close to the road and an Audouin's Gull or two over the sea. During a pause for coffee, House Martins seemed intent on nesting while a White Stork and a Marsh Harrier headed northwards with some purpose.

During the drive to Piazza we paused briefly to view a Pied Flycatcher and saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The array of roadside flowers also drew considerable admiration which no doubt pleased Messrs Kodak and Fuji.

We drove towards Barcaggio and took the track towards Cap Grosso. Pausing a short way along, we located a few birds in a small valley and these included Melodious and Subalpine Warblers and a female Common Redstart. We parked and began the search for more birds and managed to find a few Whinchats and a Sardinian Warbler in the bushes while the more open areas held Wheatears, Tawny Pipit, a pair of Woodlarks and 2 Corsican Citril Finches. A Common Kestrel frequently hovered overhead and a couple of Common Buzzards were seen during lunch.

Another raptor caused some discussion when Guy found a 'blob' on a coastal cliff. Typically, when no one was watching, it disappeared. Shortly afterwards, a Peregrine circled up past us confirming the identification we had already reached. When we finished eating, the search for birds went on and we soon located 2 Linnets and a singing male Dartford Warbler.

Disappointed by the lack of one particular species, we drove on towards the tower on the headland and this proved to be beneficial when we found our first Marmora's Warbler. It performed superbly by sitting up on a tall twig and sang for ages. Everyone had great 'scope views. A pair of Stonechats perched nearby but were ignored in favour of the warblers of which we eventually found four.
A brief visit to the ringing area produced little except a Common Sandpiper and a few various warblers. It was a quiet day as the weather was so clear and sunny; the birds were heading north with no poor weather to slow their progress. Another group of high flying Bee-Eaters demonstrated this admirably. The journey back to the hotel went smoothly though the driver was tempted to stop and say a few words of commiserations to the oleanders.

Sunday 27th April
There was no 'official' pre breakfast walk due to packing time needed for the journey home. However, a couple of group members ventured out at 7 a.m. when the rain (!) had stopped. The news over breakfast was good. They had seen many Barn Swallows and Bee-Eaters heading northwards and there were things like Common Redstart and Wood Warbler along the etang-side trees. During breakfast, more Swallows were obviously heading for their breeding grounds in northern Europe and so we decided on a 9 a.m. departure for the airport. This would give us a little extra time for possible birding.

A drive across a reed-lined road had us hearing Fan-tailed Warblers (this leader still refuses to call them Zitting Cisticola due to the name being offensive to spotty teenagers. We do try and remain PC at Travelling Naturalist ......... for some of the time at least!) and Water Rail and we saw our second Common Sandpiper of the tour.

Further on, a shrill calling caused another quick stop and it was eventually identified as a Wryneck. In the end, we heard two and managed to secure views of one of them. At the same place we also had views of 2 Tree Sparrows. During the rest of the drive to the airport, we did see a couple of Whinchats and about 4 Common Kestrels.

Really keen birders in the group continued to watch from the airport and even from the plane. On arrival at Marseille airport, a couple of Magpies repeated what we had seen on the way towards Corsica but 2 Crested Larks beside the taxiway was a new species.

Once we were on it, the flight back to Gatwick went smoothly and we bade our farewells at the baggage reclaim.


SPECIES ACCOUNTS

Birds

Little Grebe
At least 10 near Calzarellu on 24th
Great Crested Grebe
Seen at various locations on 24th and then on the Etang de Biguglia on 25th, 26th & 27th
Cory's Shearwater
1 well seen at Cap Corse on 25th
Yelkouan Shearwater
A total of 5 seen distantly at Cap Corse on 25th
Great Cormorant
1 near Calzarellu on 24th was the first with 3 more at the Etang d'Urbino later that day. 2 on 25th and 2 on 26th at Biguglia completed the sightings
European Shag
2 flew past Cap Corse on 25th
Grey Heron
2 near Calzarellu and 4 at the Etang d'Urbino on 24th then 2 on 26th at the Etang de Biguglia
Purple Heron
2 seen at the marsh near Calzarellu on 24th
Cattle Egret
A single seen near the Etang d'Urbino on 24th and one seen over the Etang de Biguglia on 26th
Great White Egret
1 near the Etang de Diane on 24th
Little Egret
Noted on 5 days in the coastal area
Squacco Heron 5 at Cap Corse on 25th were obviously held up migrants
White Stork
A single bird was seen heading northwards as we drank our morning coffees at Macinaggio on 26th
Greater Flamingo
A group of about a dozen seen as we came in to land at Marseille on 20th
Mallard
Just a couple seen at the Etang de Biguglia on 25th
Garganey
A single male was at the marsh near Calzarellu on 24th
Ferruginous Duck
2 seen near Calzarellu on 24th
Red-crested Pochard
A single male was near the Etang de Diane on 24th
Common Pochard
A couple of males were on the Etang de Biguglia on 25th
Osprey
Just a single sighting at Cap Corse on 25th
European Honey Buzzard
About 9 seen near Cap Corse on 25th including some that set off northwards towards mainland France
Red Kite
First seen at Bastia airport as we arrived on 20th and then seen every day except 23rd
Eurasian Marsh Harrier
Seen at Calzarellu on 24th and Cap Corse on 25th and 26th
(Northern) Goshawk
A pair seen high over the Verjullo Valley on 21st were probably displaying
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Just a single sighting near the Pont du Vecchio on 21st
Common Buzzard
Seen every day except 22nd and 23rd with the highest quantity being at least 9 on 24th, the day we travelled from the mountains to the coast
Golden Eagle
One perched high above the Verjullo Valley on 21st gave poor views and the juvenile seen over the Restonica Valley on 23 was not much better
Common Kestrel
Seen every day except 23rd
Red-footed Falcon
5 seen in the distance from Calzarellu Marsh on 24th
Eurasian Hobby
2 seen near Caterragio on 24th
Peregrine
1 seen flying away over the Etang de Biguglia on 25th and then 1 seen perched on cliffs then flying over us on 26th at Cap Grosso
Water Rail
Heard calling beside the Etang de Biguglia on 27th
Common Moorhen
1 near the Etang de Diane on 24th was the first and then also seen on 25th and 26th
Common Coot
Commonly seen on various Etangs on 4 days from 24th
Stone Curlew
2 seen along the beach at Calzarellu on 24th, a good find
Eurasian Oystercatcher
A single bird was seen during lunch at the Etang d'Urbino on 24th
Black-winged Stilt
Just 1 at the Etang d'Urbino on 24th
Wood Sandpiper
7 seen in puddles at Cap Corse on 25th
Common Sandpiper
1 near the Cap Corse ringing station on 26th then another beside the Etang de Biguglia on 27th
Audouin's Gull
4 at the Etang de Biguglia on 25th and a further 2 later that day during the journey to Cap Corse then another 2 seen the following day
Yellow-legged Gull
Commonly seen near the coast on 20th and on 4 days from 24th
Black-headed Gull
Seen on 25th and 26th at the Etang de Biguglia
Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Noted on 4 days with a group in the Asco Valley on 22nd looking very much like the original 'species'
Wood Pigeon
Noted on 6 days
European Turtle Dove
Just a single bird seen on 25th
Eurasian Collared Dove
Seen every day except 21st and 23rd
Common Cuckoo
Heard on 21st, 24th and 25th
European Scops Owl
Heard every night and morning at the hotel in the Restonica Valley (5 days) but sadly not seen. Up to 3 birds heard calling at times
Alpine Swift
About 30 seen above the Hotel Dominique Colonna on 20th and then seen for the following 3 days in the mountains
Common Swift
Noted every day
European Bee-Eater
When we reached the lower elevations on 24th, birds were obviously passing over and heading north; we heard them calling on a few occasions. The following day we began to see them with about 30 noted on 25th and 26th. The approaching poorer weather on 27th seemed to be bringing them lower because before breakfast and on the way to the airport, at least 100 were seen.
Eurasian Hoopoe
1 on 22nd near Ponte Leccia then singles also seen on 24th, 26th & 27th
Eurasian Wryneck
2 heard, with one being seen, on the way to the airport on 27th
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Noted every day except 27th
Crested Lark
2 seen at Marseille airport as we taxied to the terminal building on 27th
Wood Lark
The first 2 were on 21st near Corte and we heard another 2 later that same day. Also noted on 22nd, 24th and 26th
Eurasian Crag Martin
Seen every day except 27th
Barn Swallow
Seen every day except 21st & 23rd
Red-rumped Swallow
At least 2 seen at Cap Corse on 25th and 1 there the following day
Common House Martin
Noted every day from 21st onwards
Sand Martin
At least 5 over the pool at Cap Corse on 25th and 1 nearby the following day
White Wagtail
2 in the car park at Cap Corse on 25th with 1 there the next day
Yellow Wagtail
At least 2 seen at Cap Corse on 25th & 26th
Grey Wagtail
Often seen near, or in fact on the Hotel Dominique Colonna, and in other locations in the mountains from 20th to 24th
Tawny Pipit
2 seen at Cap Grosso on 26th
Tree Pipit
At least 4 flew off northwards from Cap Grosso on 26th
Woodchat Shrike
Just a single, brief sighting as we drove from Cap Corse up the hill to Piazza on 26th
White-throated Dipper
Seen on 21st in the Restonica Valley close to our hotel then seen for the next 3 days there
Winter Wren
Elusive or what? Heard on 7 consecutive days from 20th ......... but not actually seen!
Blue Rock Thrush
A male did a super display flight for us (?) during our pre breakfast walk on 21st. The only other sighting was of one on a lofty pinnacle in the upper Restonica Valley on 23rd
Common Blackbird
Seen every day except 20th
Mistle Thrush
Seen or heard on 6 consecutive days from 20th
European Robin
Seen or heard on 6 days
Common Nightingale
Seen on 24th and 26th and heard on 25th and 27th
Common Redstart
We saw a male being ringed at Cap Corse on 25th and near Cap Grosso on 26th there were 3. Finally, there was one near the hotel on 27th
Whinchat
3 seen on 22nd in the Asco Valley then regularly seen in the lower areas from 24th with at least 20 on 26th at Cap Corse
Common Stonechat
1 before breakfast on 21st and another later that day. Also seen on 3 consecutive days from 24th.
Northern Wheatear
2 during the drive to the coastal area on 24th then 6 or 7 along the beach a little later. 3 at Cap Grosso on 26th was the only other sighting
Black-eared Wheatear
One well seen along the beach at Cap Corse on 25th
Fan-tailed Warbler
Heard on 24th near Calzarellu then well seen on 25th and finally 2 were heard on 27th
Cetti's Warbler
Seen and, more frequently heard, on 4 consecutive days from 24th in the lowland areas
Eurasian Reed Warbler
Just noted near Calzarellu on 24th
Great Reed Warbler
A single bird well seen beside the Etang de Biguglia on 25th
Sedge Warbler
Just a single bird at Cap Corse on 25th
Melodious Warbler Single birds seen at Cap Corse and Cap Grosso on 25th and 26th respectively
Willow Warbler
Seen at Cap Corse on 25th and near the Etang de Biguglia on 27th
Chiffchaff
3 or 4 seen at Cap Corse on 25th and 2 at Cap Grosso the following day
Wood Warbler
1 seen being ringed at Cap Corse on 25th and 1 near the Etang de Biguglia on 27th
Blackcap
Heard or seen every day
Garden Warbler
1 at Cap Corse on 25th was the only sighting
Common Whitethroat A skulking individual was beside the Etang de Biguglia on 26th
Sardinian Warbler
Seen on 4 consecutive days from 24th in the coastal areas
Subalpine Warbler
Seen on 3 consecutive days from 24th in coastal scrub
Dartford Warbler
1 on 24th in the Tavignano valley and then at least 1 at Cap Grosso on 26th
Marmora's Warbler
4 seen at Cap Grosso on 26th with one male performing very well as it sang from a bare twig for ages!
Spotted Flycatcher
Just a single bird near Cap Grosso on 26th
European Pied Flycatcher
One in the Restonica Valley on 21st then 2 in the Asco Valley on 22nd. Not seen again until 26th when we saw a male at Cap Corse
Coal Tit
Regularly seen in the highland pine forests for 5 days from 20th
Great Tit
Seen every day
Blue Tit
Seen every day except 20th
Corsican Nuthatch
2 in the Asco Valley on 22nd and then 2 at a nesting site (probably nest building) on 23rd
Eurasian Tree Creeper
2 seen in the Restonica Valley on 23rd
Eurasian Jay
Seen every day
Alpine Chough
Distant groups seen on 20th, 21st and 23rd though we did not really get any good views
Hooded Crow
Seen every day
Common Raven
Small numbers seen every day except 27th
Magpie
4 on 20th and 2 on 27th at Marseille airport
Eurasian Golden Oriole 1 glimpsed and another heard near Calzarellu on 24th
Spotless Starling
At least 4 in the Asco Valley on 22nd and then seen daily in the lowlands from 24th
Corn Bunting
The first 2 were near the Etang d'Urbino on 24th and we also saw this species the following day
Common Chaffinch
Seen every day
European Serin
Seen every day except 20th
Corsican Citril Finch
2 seen in the valley at Pont du Vecchio on 21st and at least 15 in the Asco Valley the following day. Finally, there were 2 at Cap Grosso on 26th reflecting the wide range of habitats and elevations at which this species is found.
European Greenfinch
Seen every day except 20th
Eurasian Siskin
4 were at Cap Corse on 25th and they were heard close to the Etang de Biguglia on 27th
European Goldfinch Seen every day except 23rd
Common Linnet
Heard on 25th at Cap Corse and then seen at Cap Grosso the following day
Common Crossbill
There were 6 well seen during lunch on 21st in the Forêt de Cervello and there was at least one high in the Asco Valley on 22nd
House (Italian) Sparrow
Seen every day from 22nd
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
At least 3 seen on the way to the airport on 27th


Amphibians & Reptiles

Marsh Frog
Seen or heard on 3 days from 24th
Italian Wall Lizard
Seen every day except 20th & 27th
Western Whip Snake
One seen on the sand dunes at Cap Corse on 25th. Though no clients actually saw this individual, the record is included for completeness

Butterflies

Swallowtail
1 on 26th only
Large White
Probably this species seen on 21st, 22nd and 23rd
Orange Tip
2 or 3 in the Restonica Valley on 23rd
Green-veined White
1 possibly seen on 23rd
Clouded Yellow
Noted on 4 days in various locations
Brimstone
Noted on 22nd, 23rd and 26th
Wood White
On 21st,a small, white butterfly with a weak flight was probably this species
Green Underside Blue
1 on 21st near Pont du Vecchio
Peacock
1 on 22nd in the Asco Valley
Painted Lady
Seen on 5 days from 22nd
Speckled Wood
The southern variety (naturally) of this species was seen on 25th & 26th
Wall Brown
3 or 4 seen over the two days of 21st and 22nd

Moths

Silver Y
Seen at Cap Corse on 25th and 26th
Pine Processionary
Masses of groups of caterpillars 'processing' at our lunch spot on 21st

Flowers
3 Pinus pinea Stone Pine, Umbrella Pine
?
Pinus Norfolk Pine?
11 Cupressus sempervirens Italian Cypress
13 Juniperus communis Juniper
23 Castanea sativa Chestnut, Sweet
24 Quercus coccifera Kermes Oak
25 Quercus ilex Holm Oak
27 Quercus suber Cork Oak
32 Cytinus hypocistis Cytinus
33 Cytinus ruber
42 Ficus carica Fig
115 Carprobrotus edulis Hottentot Fig
126 Arenaria balearica Balearic Sandwort
157 Silene vulgaris Bladder Campion
182 Silene conica ? Sand Catchfly (Probably this species)
213 Anemone hortensis Broad-leaved Anemone
240 Ranunculus bulbosus Bulbous Buttercup
252 Ranunculus ficaria Lesser Celandine
281 Papaver somniferum Opium Poppy
283 Papaver rhoeas Common Poppy
303 Fumaria capreolata Ramping Fumitory
304 Fumaria bicolor
322 Arabis verna Spring Rockcress
326 Mathiola sinuata Sea Stock
363 Cakile maritima Sea Rocket
386 Sedum album White Stonecrop
396 Umbilicus rupestris Navelwort (Wall Pennywort)
400 Platanus orientalis Plane Tree
402 Pittosporum tobria
405 Rosa pimpernellifolia Burnet Rose
410 Poterium verrucosum Mediterranean Salad Burnet
420 Crataegus monogyna Hawthorn
430 Cercis silquastrum Judas Tree
432 Acacia dealbata Mimosa
475 Ulex europaeus Gorse
486 Lupinus angustifolius Narrow-leaved Lupin
488 Robina pseudacacia False Acacia
510 Vicia villosa Blue Vetch
524 Vicia sepium Bush Vetch
531 Vicia sativa Common Vetch
541 Lathyrus sphaericus (Pea Family)
605 Medicago marina Sea Medick
623 Medicago arabica Spotted Medick
625 Lotus corniculatus Bird’s Foot Trefoil
644 Trifolium arvense Hare’s Foot Clover
676 Dorycnium hirsutum Dorycnium
677 Dorycnium pentaphyllum
735 Oxalis pes-caprae Bermuda Buttercup
736 Oxalis articulata Pink Oxalis
744 Geranium pusillum Small-flowered Cranesbill
747 Geranium robertianum Herb Robert
761 Erodium cicutariium Common Stork’sbill
794 Euphorbia acathamnes Wire Netting Plant
777 Linum bienne Pale Flax
799 Euphorbia helioscopia Sun Spurge
818 Euphorbia characias Large Mediterranean Spurge
843 Melia azedarach Indian Bead Tree or Persian Lilac
850 Polygala spp. Nice or Common Milkwort (not specifically identified)
865 Pistacia lentiscus Mastic Tree, Lentisc
912 Lavetera arborea Tree Mallow
925 Viola alba supsp. Dehnadtii Mediterranean White Violet
933 Viola arvensis Heartsease
961 Cistus albidus Grey-leaved Cistus
962 Cistus creticus
965 Cistus salvifolius Sage-leaved Cistus
966 Cistus monspeliensis Narrow-leaved Cistus
985 Tuberaria guttata Spotted Rockrose
996 Helianthemum nummularium Common Rockrose
1024 Tamarix tetragyna Tamarisk
1040 Opuntia ficus-indica Prickly Pear
1141 Ferula communis Giant Fennel
1052 Myrtus communis Common Myrtle
1073 Eryngium maritimum Sea Holly
1176 Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree
1178 Erica arborea Tree Heath
1198 Anagallis arvensis Scarlet Pimpernel
1199 Anagallis foemina (blue pimpernel)
1207 Cyclamen repandum Spring Sowbread
1245 Fraxinusornus Flowering Ash (Manna)
1260 Vinca major Greater Periwinkle
1288 Asperula arvensis Blue Woodruff
1383 Echium plantagineum Purple Viper’s Bugloss
1395 Borago officinalis Borage
1526 Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary
1528 Lavendula stoechas French Lavender
1619 Linaria chalepensis (Toadflax spp.)
1642 Veronica spp. Common Speedwell?
1664 Orobanche minor Common Broomrape
1791 Belles annua Annual Daisy
1858 Anthemis arvensis Corn Chamomile
1982 Silybum marianum Milk Thistle
1908 Calendula spp. Poss. Field Marigold
2039 Urospermum dalechampii Urospermum
2087 Asphodelus fistulosus Hollow-leaved Asphodel
2201 Muscari comosum Tassel Hyacinth
2219 Ruscus aculeatus Butcher’s Broom
2227 Allium subhirsutum
2229 Allium triquetrum Three-cornered Leek
2253 Agave americana Agave, Century Plant
2255 Yucca gloriosa Yucca
2282 Tamus communis Black Bryony
2290 Iris pseudacorus Yellow Flag
2307 Gladiolus italicus Field Gladiolus
2393 Neotinea maculata Dense-flowered Orchid
2394 Dactylorhiza romana Roman Orchid
2401 Orchis papilonacea Pink Butterfly Orchid
2403 Orchid morio Green-winged Orchid
2412 Orchis purpurea Lady Orchid
2451 Serapias lingua Tongue Orchid
2494 Arundo donax Giant Reed
Lunaria annua Honesty
Dandelion spp.
Mistletoe
Linum annua Annual Flax
Cirsium spirosissimum Spiniest Thistle


E Potentilla crassinervia
E Digitalis purpurea var.gyspergera Foxglove
E Alnus cordata Green Alder
E Alnus cordata x glutinosa Green x Common? (Common not listed
for Corsica)
E Crocus corsicus
E Pancratium illyricum Illyrian Sea Lily
E Genista corsica Corsican Broom
E Saxifraga pedemontana subsp. cervicornis
E Pinus nigra subsp. Laricio Corsican Pine
E Helleborus lividus subsp. Corsicus
E Euphorbia pithyusa spsp. cupanii

Well I guess you could say that in some ways the weather was too good for some of the time! Had it been more overcast, we would have seen more migrants at Cap Corse. But then again, it would have made our visits to the high mountains much less enjoyable. So all things considered, the weather was fabulous especially when you see that we had one more bird species than last year.
On the mammal side of things, we did actually see a Hedgehog but just like in Britain, it was on the road and was of the subspecies horizontalis. The only other mammal (wild boar) featured on the menu on the first evening! And the flowers? They were brilliant with banks of Spring Sowbread (sounds like something you should eat with sanglier/wild boar but in fact it is a lovely cyclamen), as well as orchids and a good number of endemic species.
As usual, there was much good humour, food and wine. The group was great and everyone played their part to the full. I sincerely hope to have the pleasure of your company again in the not too distant future.

Mike Read
April 2003


© The Travelling Naturalist 2003