TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Corsica

18th - 25th April 2004


Leaders:
Mike Read
Liz Read

Daily diary

Sunday 18th April
We took off from Gatwick just about on time and were soon flying over a cloudy France. Just a little behind schedule, we landed at Nice and after a little difficulty in locating our departure gate 'M' we were ready for our onward flight to Bastia. During our brief time at Nice, we did manage to spot a few birds and these included the usual Common Starlings and House Sparrows plus House Martin, Magpie, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls.

Our flight to Bastia left and arrived on time and by 5 p.m. we were driving away from the airport and heading for the 'high country'. This was after Mike had 'dipped on a lifer' although he never did find out by how much time he had dipped! The species involved was a Collared Flycatcher and the place it was found was in the front grill of Mike's minibus. It was sadly in the same state as the parrot of the famous Monty Python sketch ....... it was late, it had expired, it had ceased to exist .............

On our way up through the Golo Valley, we paused to search for Crag Martins and eventually we saw about a dozen. Added to this were fine views of a circling Red Kite and prolonged views of a Blue Rock Thrush. This bird was half hidden but stayed long enough to encourage Mike to delve into his suitcase to extract his telescope and tripod; for once, the bird remained long enough for those who had not already found it to secure good views.

On the journey from Ponte Leccia to Corte we saw a couple of Common Ravens and two more Red Kites.

An hour and a quarter after leaving the airport, we arrived at the hotel close to Corte and were soon settled in to our rooms. Birds seen here included Grey Wagtail, White-bellied Dipper, more Crag Martins, a few passing Alpine Swifts and a male Cirl Bunting that sat in a bush beside the hotel car park and spent some time preening.

Monday 19th April

The day began very overcast and with the occasional spot or two of rain however the skies did seem to be brightening. We began our walk fairly promptly at 7a.m. and had soon seen Grey Wagtail and three species of Tit. The rain had increased by a miniscule amount by the time we were watching a Cirl Bunting but as we approached le Refuge Hotel, it was raining steadily! We all beat a hasty retreat for our own hotel and a warming cuppa and a good breakfast.

After stopping on the outskirts of Corte for liquid supplies from the supermarket and a visit nearby, we set off southwards and stopped at a roadside where we found some Green-winged Orchids, Pink Butterfly Orchids and Narrow-leaved Lupin. Overhead, a couple of Red Kites were almost constantly present and we saw many more of these during the day. A Common Buzzard, which flew off into the valley, was not seen by everyone but other species were and these included Cirl Bunting, Jay and Blue Tit. A couple of Corsican (Citril) Finches proved a little more difficult to see while a Marmora's Warbler was only seen by a few of the group.

We drove on to the Pont du Veccio, seeing a couple of Common Ravens on the way, and turned into the Verjellu Valley. During a slight let up in the rain, we walked along this very quiet road and found a good number of flowers including Giant Fennel, Large Mediterranean Spurge & the endemic Corsican Hellebore but apart from a singing European Robin hidden deep within the scrub, there was little sign of bird life. While Liz and Mike walked back to fetch the vehicles, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Common Treecreeper were found in the fine conifer forest.

As the rain became a little more insistent once again, we only paused on a couple of occasions on the way to the end of the road. At one place there were plenty of signs of Wild Boar which had uprooted many plants including the hoped-for Three-cornered Leek. At the top of the road, we had reached a fairly high level and the precipitation was now falling mostly as wet snow. A slightly early lunch seemed to be the best option and we remained in the vehicles and marvelled at the view that was blotted out by the weather!

Eventually a clearer spell arrived and we began a walk through the pine forest. Typically, rain and then hail soon began to fall again and we retreated back to the vehicles. Many of the group were determined to continue on foot as the weather had eased once more so Mike and Liz drove down a short way so that the vehicles were readily available if needed. By the time Mike had rejoined the group, they had seen another Great Spotted Woodpecker, European Robin, Coal Tit, Treecreeper and a Blackbird but best of all was the female Common Crossbill which had been seen at very close range.

As we left the valley we caught views of a pair of Ravens, some distant Alpine Choughs, a close Winter Wren and lots more flowers but as the weather was still rather poor, a warming drink seemed in order so we visited a restaurant beyond Vivario. On the return journey we turned off the direct route at Vivario and almost immediately paused to view a distant raptor but our attention was immediately taken by some closer birds. These were Corsican Finches and there was a flock of about 40 of them in a beautiful flowering cherry tree, the views, and the picture, were superb until moments later when a lorry wanted access to the lay-by that we were parked in. He seemed to be big enough to get his own way; otherwise we felt that we might end up being pushed over the cliff where he was dumping his rubbish!

Along the road towards the col at Bocca di Murellu we saw more Corsican Finches, a few more Cirl Buntings and a couple of Stonechats. The most exciting event was to see a superb rainbow in the valley below us; Messrs Kodak and Fuji did well out of the event!

We trundled on along the minor roads via Muracciole and Rospigliani but apart from a few Pink Butterfly Orchids and lots of Primroses, we saw little until a few Crag Martins were spotted hawking around for insects rising from a river. We rejoined the more major route and continued driving until just before Corte where another pause had us viewing another Stonechat and we had excellent views of another Marmora's Warbler. This completed our outing for the day and we returned to the hotel to prepare for another fine evening meal.

Tuesday 20th April

Before breakfast we strolled towards Corte and still found a few good birds. A pair of Common Ravens soared around over the ridge to our right, 2 White-throated Dippers were seen along the river, Cirl Buntings and a Serin were in the scrub and a group of Crag Martins hawked for insects along the sun-lit ridge to our left. A female Pied Flycatcher was seen a little further along the road as were Green-veined and a single Lady Orchid though the latter was sadly not in bloom yet.

During the journey to the start of the Asco Valley after breakfast birds were noticeable by their virtual absence with just a lone Common Buzzard seen. However, as soon as we turned off the main road and made a stop overlooking some grazing meadows, things began to improve. Mistle Thrush and Yellow Wagtail were both feeding in the close-cropped turf and at least 5 Red Kites were soaring around in the area as was a Common Buzzard. Four Common Ravens vied for air space while 3 Alpine Swifts passed in the distance. As the farmer left the area, he invited us to walk on his land along the river; this we did but it only produced one good sighting and that was a Sparrowhawk that went flying past.

Further up the valley just beyond the village of Asco, a brief stop produced views of Coal Tit, Hooded Crow, Blackcap and a pair of Firecrests. We then drove up to the car park at the top of the valley and, in glorious weather, began a gentle walk up to some fine coniferous forest. There was plenty of lying snow/hail and the scenery was fabulous with fine views to Monte Cinto and other surrounding peaks. Birds seen during our walk included more Coal Tits and Common Ravens while groups of crow-like birds flying along the ridges were obviously Alpine Choughs. One group member saw a couple of Water Pipits fly past as we returned to the vehicles.

After lunch we drove lower down and parked by the Asco River. A brief bit of exploration in the woods produced a few Yellow Brimstone butterflies, a brief view of a male Sparrowhawk and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. These latter birds were probably both males, as they seemed pretty intent on fighting each other; at times feathers were flying as they plummeted towards the ground in a flurry of wings and grappling beaks! In this area there were very many Mistletoe plants growing on the trees.

We left this area a little after 4 p.m. and began the journey back towards Corte. As the valley widened to incorporate grazing meadows once again, a bird flew across the road and was not immediately identified. In the time it took to stop by the roadside, train binoculars on the bird and identify it, it had nearly reached some woodland. As the cry of "male Golden Oriole" went up, it completed its flight and only one other member of the group actually saw it. 'Consolation prizes' came by way of a singing Woodlark, at least 20 Spotless Starlings and a female Red-footed Falcon which hunted for insect and other prey items from a short, leafless tree.

We returned to the hotel seeing little as we went and after an hour or so rest, we all enjoyed another fine evening meal.

Wednesday 21st April

Before breakfast we began with a fine male Pied Flycatcher behind the restaurant and a couple of Greenfinches in the nearby trees. A bird singing high on rocks was delivering the unmistakable refrains of a Mistle Thrush and a smaller bird silhouetted fairly close to it was probably the first of 3 or 4 Cirl Buntings that we saw. Grey Wagtails were frequent and a few Woodpigeons flew over the wooded hillside. While we watched a Serin, 3 Alpine Swifts flew past high above. We were rather fortunate to also have good views of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on a broken pine branch but the final memorable event was the rather pongy plant that Liz handed round during the return walk. This plant was so smelly that it was discarded and never identified, although it was probably some kind of herb. This was an event to be avoided if you possibly could! During breakfast, a couple of Grey Wagtails were feeding on the lawn a few feet from us.

At 9 a.m. we left to head further in to the Restonica Valley. At our first, very scenic stop, people were a little disappointed to learn that the spectacular waterfall flowing from between some vegetation was actually coming from a large pipe. The walk from here had us looking at a Common Buzzard high overhead with Jay, Coal Tit, Robin, Blackcap and Chaffinch all soon seen. Further on, we paused again and spent some time waiting for birds to come to us! Great Spotted Woodpecker and again Robin were found while passing butterflies included a few Green Hairstreaks and Brimstones.

Eventually, our patience was rewarded when the song of a Corsican Nuthatch drew our attention to the presence of this sought-after species. A second set of song from a different direction confirmed the presence of a second individual and a territorial dispute ensued giving everyone excellent views until they parted in opposite directions. Then the original bird was joined by another. This was obviously its mate judging by the duller, female colouration. So three Corsican Nuthatches were seen in fairly rapid succession; wow!

This called for a celebration 'cuppa' so it was drinks all round at the cafe-with-the-boar's-head-wearing-sunglasses! Crag Martins were flying up to a nearby cliff face, 2 Cirl Buntings were seen in the car park and to cap it all, another Corsican Nuthatch put in a brief appearance.

We drove gently on up to the car park at the end of the valley and decided on taking lunch nearby with spectacular views to the mountains and out of the valley too. This picnic spot was surrounded by the Corsican Crocus and many group members took photographs of this lovely flower. There were frequent sightings of Alpine Choughs and Crag Martins throughout this period with a few of the former species coming close enough to see their yellow beaks. Just as we were about to set off for a walk, a Water Pipit gave everyone excellent views. During our walk, birds like Dunnock and Goldcrest were added to the list and a pair of Common Ravens drifted along the cliff edge above us. Along the path there were very many endemic Berberis bushes. As we made our way back towards the vehicles, a couple of raptors put in very brief appearances. First a Lammergeier was seen for about 5 seconds by one member of the group who had happened to be watching a distant group of Choughs. With our senses more aware of the possibilities, skyline watching increased and eventually a Golden Eagle drifted into view, was watched for perhaps 30 seconds and it then promptly disappeared back over the ridge and was not seen again.

We returned to the hotel soon after 4 p.m. and decided that we still had an hour or more of birding time left in the afternoon. Driving east of Corte on the N200 road, we soon found a place worth stopping at where we soon had good but brief views of a Subalpine Warbler amongst a few more common species; roadside orchids included the common and widespread Green Winged and the more localised 'Early Spider' type. Also found here was the lovely Star of Bethlehem.

Along a back road, a pause to view nothing in particular had pleasant consequences. A pair of Sardinian Warblers were moving about in the scrub, House/Italian Sparrows, Collared Doves and Spotless Starlings were investigating the stable yard beyond and there seemed to be a row of Whinchats on a field fence. A little further on we found an old ruined cottage but on the out building roof, many Green Veined Orchids were growing. Stonechat and Blackcaps were along the roadside and a large flock of passing Common Swifts contained a few Alpines.

During (if you went outside!) and after dinner that evening we did just about manage to hear the calling of a Scops Owl above the sound of the adjacent rushing river.

Thursday 22nd April

During the pre breakfast walk towards Corte we found the usual Dippers and Grey Wagtails beside the river plus Cirl Bunting, Jay, Chaffinch and Citril Finch close to the road while a Blue Rock Thrush sang frequently from the sunny slope above us. Orchids seemed much in evidence this morning with 5 species noted namely Man, Lady, Green Veined, Pink Butterfly and Early Spider type. As we returned towards the hotel, a female Pied Flycatcher gave us good views.

Fully packed, we left the Hotel Dominique Colonna just after 9 a.m. and began our journey towards the coast. A short distance along the N200 from Corte we paused by a field where some cows and calves were feeding. Here, and in the nearby scrub, we saw more Cirl Buntings, a couple of fairly demonstrative Sardinian Warblers and a pair of more elusive Dartford Warblers, Whinchats in the cow field and a couple of Woodlarks flew past.

Further on towards Aleria, a pause at a bridge gave us good views of Blackcap, Barn Swallows and Italian Sparrows and during the remainder of our journey we saw a couple of Common Kestrels and a Common Buzzard. Coffee at Aleria was accompanied by further Kestrels and Buzzards plus 2 Red Kites and a possible Red-footed Falcon. A passing Cuckoo also looked a bit raptor-like but more easily identified were the Swallows and House Martins. Across the road from the café we found Small Tree Mallow and Opuntia Cacti. Most confusing of all here was a Gecko species that someone immediately identified as 'Art Gecko' but obviously they had been listening to Mike's jokes far too much (though Mike did promise to remember it for future tours!!).

We drove to the beach at Calzarellu and were soon seeing or hearing new species as Cetti's and Willow Warblers sang from the depths of the reedy scrub. The striking bright pink Hottentot Fig was growing by the footbridge and we then found the Three-cornered Leek that had been hoping for at Pont de Veccio. A Northern Wheatear was perched on some driftwood along the shore and then we had fairly good views of a Fan-tailed Warbler in its bounding song flight and a Little Ringed Plover kept a respectful distance ahead of us as we made our way along to overlook the Etang de Gradugine. A couple of Marsh Harriers drifted low over the reeds beyond the pool and perhaps it was they who disturbed a Squacco Heron or two. The offshore wreck had a resting Cormorant perched on it and there were two more on the sea. Along the top of the sandy beach were many plants, including Sea Holly, Sea Bindweed and Sea Medick.

The reed lined etang held Coots, Great Crested and Little Grebes and we also saw Reed Warbler, a lone Mallard, about a dozen Little Egrets, 1 Grey and 3 Purple Herons before we left the area. We returned to the vehicles and drove to the peninsula in the Etang d'Urbino where we had lunch. Right by the parked vehicles we found Stranglewort growing over the bushes and Large Cuckoo Pint flowering across the other side of a field.

Marsh Harriers were seen here too as was a passing Red-footed Falcon. Corn Buntings sang from the electricity cables and a passing Hoopoe brought lunch to a rapid conclusion. David, who was the first to search for this elusive bird was soon reporting back with another sighting and he had also heard a Quail calling from a meadow. Everyone soon had achieved views of the Hoopoe but, as usual, the Quail remained unseen though most heard it. As we were leaving, one final look over the northern bay of the etang enabled us to add Shelduck and Kentish Plover to the list.

Our next stop was overlooking the Etang de Terrenzana where a male Garganey was in the company of 4 Red-crested Pochards and a Ferruginous Duck. Osprey, Dartford Warbler, a couple of Linnets and a pair of Long-tailed Tits completed the birds here and as we left, a second Tortoise was found to add to the one we had seen on the way in.

Our drive to the Pineto Hotel was fairly quiet with just a few Common Kestrels and Red Kites and as we drove up the coast road to the east of the Etang de Biguglia, we saw 5 raptors together on overhead wires. Closer inspection revealed that they were all Red-footed Falcons and two of them were adult males.

We settled in to the hotel and after dinner, our walk back across the car park revealed the fairly close presence of Scops Owl in the vicinity and after fetching their torches, one or two clients managed to catch a glimpse of it as it flew.

Friday 23rd April

Before breakfast we drove to the lake-side parking area to scan for the assembled birds there. A steady stream (almost a river really) of Barn Swallows headed northwards and this continued throughout the day. There were occasional Sand Martins thrown in for good measure. Out on the row of posts in the etang, one of the Gulls was an Audouin's and close to the far bank a group of gulls were Black-headed and among them were 4 Slender-billed. Redshank, Greenshanks and 3 Common Sandpipers were the waders seen and a male Marsh Harrier was the only raptor present. Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap and Willow Warbler were not unexpected in the scrubby area though a couple of passing Common Crossbills did seem a little out of place.

After breakfast we set off for Cap Corse well to the north of us. After a pause to purchase lunch, there was nothing to stop us except Blue Rock Thrush, Marmoras Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher at the Tour de l'Osse ............. oh, and coffee at Macinaggio!

Along the winding road from Botticella out to Barcaggio there were dozens and dozens of Pied Flycatchers and Common Redstarts flitting from bush to bush; it really was surprising just how many there were. Yet when we began our walk along the shore at the latter village, there was not a sign of either species.

We did two walks here, one before and one after lunch, and the species seen over both walks were as follows. Common Sandpiper, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers were along the shore, in the short scrub were Spotted Flycatcher, Subalpine and Dartford Warblers, many Whinchats and a Wryneck. Along the track we found Small-flowered Catchfly and Euphorbia pithyusa among others. Overhead were things like Kestrel, 2 or 3 Red-footed Falcons, Common and Honey Buzzard, a male Montagu's Harrier which seemed a little undecided about its northward journey towards the French mainland and 5 distant Black Kites which were set on a firm northwards course. A Great Reed Warbler, Common Whitethroat and lots of Barn Swallows had all been caught for ringing purposes but the ringers stood no chance with the European Bee-Eaters that flew westwards at a very high altitude.

Driving west along the short 'coast road', we saw a much lower group of about 8 Bee-Eaters. We then made a brief visit to Cap Grosso where we had prolonged though distant views of 2 Peregrines, more Redstarts and Whinchats, a glimpse of a Northern Wheatear, 2 Tawny Pipits, 2 Corsican Finches and another Marmora's Warbler. On the grassy area were we parked the vehicles we found the delicate Ball Cotton Clover flowering.

The journey back to Bastia and then on to our hotel went smoothly (though bendy!) with just a couple of Common Buzzards and Red Kites seen on the way. After dinner, the Scops Owl was again calling but some distance away.

Saturday 24th April

We drove a little south to reach an area of scrub for our pre breakfast walk. Cetti's Warbler and Nightingale sang to greet us and a Marsh Harrier patrolled over the reeds. Beyond this a Whiskered Tern flew elegantly past with the occasional dip to catch an insect or other item of food while a pair of Black-necked Grebes frequently dived in search of their food. A Great Egret completed the etang species and we began a loop back through the scrub where we found many Whinchats, a Pied Flycatcher and a few singing Corn Buntings. Numerous Common Swifts and a couple of small groups of European Bee-Eaters were seen overhead.

At the end of breakfast, a Woodchat Shrike put in a brief appearance and while trying to re-locate it, a Hoopoe was found. While the leaders did some picnic shopping, the group watched over the lake from the parking area. Birds seen included passing Barn Swallows, 14 Bee-Eaters, Red-footed Falcons, Marsh Harrier and Osprey with Audouin's and a Slender-billed Gull out on the lake. Little Egrets, Mallards and Great Crested Grebes were also seen.

Lake-side viewing as we drove southwards included Greenshanks, a Redshank, a couple of Common Sandpipers and a Black-winged Stilt. In the scrub and trees we found Whinchats, Serin and a Common Whitethroat. Plants here included Bermuda Buttercup and Mimosa.

We then took a walk at the southern end of the scrub that we had explored earlier. Here we immediately found a small group of Tree Sparrows, a male Pied Flycatcher, Red Kite, Red-footed Falcon and a couple of Ketrels plus more Whinchats.

A little further along the road there was a male and a female Red-footed Falcon on the wires where they had been the previous day and in the field beneath them was a Stone Curlew. At the ancient church there were plenty more Tree Sparrows as well as Italian Sparrows and Spotless Starlings.

We drove up the Golo Valley and then turned on to the Campile road to head for a high level bend where we knew we could have lunch-with-a-view. And what a view it was! The different aspects of the nearer slopes showed a marked variation in vegetation with the northern facing ones holding broadleaved trees yet to come into leaf. Closer to us was a profusion of wild flowers which included Navelwort, Spring Sowbread, Green-veined and Dense-flowered Orchids, also the endemic Illyrian Sea Lily. Birds here were few and far between but did include Common Buzzard and Red Kite while passing butterflies included Wall Brown and Green Hairstreak.

After lunch was completed we headed for the edge of the Etang de Biguglia down a slightly less than savoury, bumpy road. Dumped rubbish was strewn along much of its length but when we reached our destination, the mass of Orchids that we found more than made up for it. There were dozens and dozens of Green-veined Orchids present but these were far out numbered by the Serapias/Tongue Orchids which probably numbered in their thousands!

As we checked through the Whinchats in the surrounding area, Liz asked "What's this bird?" It was a female Golden Oriole feeding among rushes in the middle of the grassland. Obviously this bird had not read the field guide and was trying to fool us by not being in its preferred woodland habitat! A passing Marsh Harrier, the first of 3 or 4 we saw here, spooked a Common Whitethroat we had been watching but like us, I'm sure it did not see the Quail calling from the grassland spread out before us.

We turned and headed for the lake side along a raised bank which held a couple of Northern Wheatears and the cattle grazing in the wet meadow across the ditch were accompanied by 7 Cattle Egrets while a couple of Squacco Herons stood nearby intent on keeping a watchful eye on us. Other Herons here included Greys and Purples, which were easily seen as they flew past yet the Little Grebe that frequently called from just beyond the reeds, was never seen. As we made our way back towards the minibus, David located a couple of birds flying gracefully towards us. These were 2 Collared Pratincoles which flew around feeding on various insects for a while before moving on. We thought this was a fitting end to the afternoon but back near the vehicles a group of about 40 European Bee-Eaters passed fairly low (compared to previously seen migrating groups) overhead.

We returned to the hotel content with an excellent final full day's birding.

Sunday 25th April

So that we could pack for our departure homewards, there was no pre breakfast walk though some took one final early morning look at the Etang de Biguglia. A few birds were seen and these included singing Common Chiffchaff and Nightingale and a passing Whiskered Tern. With the stronger north-easterly wind, it was noticeable that the migrating Barn Swallows and Martins were keeping very low to avoid the breeze. As we began loading the minibus, a Eurasian Hobby dashed past and was almost immediately lost to view. A parting gift from the hotel was most welcome and by 09.10 we were on our way.

With a mid afternoon flight, we still had plenty of time left for birding. While Mike and Liz did the picnic shopping, the clients watched the northern bay of the Etang and saw an Osprey, a Marsh Harrier and a Common Kestrel being harried by another small raptor. This chase ended in the Kestrel dropping its lizard meal! At the bridge over the northern outflow of the Etang, a small sandy island held a fair gathering of waders but these turned out to be just two species; there were a dozen Common Greenshanks and at least 30 Common Sandpipers. Larger white birds that at first resembled Gulls were, in fact, 19 Little Egrets.

A little to the south of the Hotel, a small road out to the shore produced little except a few Collared Doves, another Common Kestrel and a very brief glimpse of a Hoopoe. An unusual plant found here was the Thornapple, also three species of poppy and Crown Daisy.

Further to the south, another brief stop produced Common Redshank and Greenshank as well as 3 more Common Sandpipers plus Great White and Little Egrets. There was also a passing Marsh Harrier just before we left. At the same location as yesterday, the 2 Red-footed Falcons remained and in the field below them was not one but 2 Stone Curlews while in the distance a Red Kite and 2 Common Buzzards could be seen.

After a coffee stop, we took the rubbish tip road again in the hope that our success of the previous day could be repeated. It seemed to be sensible to spend some time here having lunch before heading for the airport. As we arrived, a Lesser Black-backed Gull flew past, Corn Buntings were frequent and a couple of Marsh Harriers drifted around. While the wine was opened and the usual pizzas and other assorted items were spread out for our picnic, others went off birding and saw Woodlark and Hoopoe and heard Quail calling.

During lunch it became apparent that the number of Common Swifts moving northwards had increased since earlier in the morning. A Dunlin flew past as we finished the meal with a fruity French tart each (!) and we then set off to see if it (the Dunlin not the fruity French Tart) had landed on the nearby marsh. A Yellow Wagtail was feeding so close to a grazing cow that at times, it almost seemed impossible for the cow not to devour it. Plant species seen included Rosy Garlic and Yellow Flag. One of the Squacco Herons that we saw the previous day was present again as well as Cattle and Little Egrets and eventually, one of the passing Swifts was confirmed as a Pallid. More Marsh Harriers were seen and eventually we had to leave this great, though somewhat malodorous spot to head for the airport. Our final surprise here came as we were turning the vehicles around. A female Montagu's Harrier appeared fairly close to us and we spent a few minutes admiring its plumage before leaving.

At Bastia airport there were a number of Common Kestrels hovering over the grassy areas but soon we were leaving them behind as we took off for Marseille. Landing on the French mainland, we were almost pleased to see a couple of Black-billed Magpies beside the runway after all, this is a species that is absent from Corsica. Also at Marseille we saw Common Starling, House Martins and House Sparrows. And just to round the trip off, we managed to persuade the restaurant to make us the first sitting for dinner so that we could eat before we caught our flight back to Britain.

SPECIES ACCOUNTS

Birds

Little Grebe Seen on 22nd at the marsh near Calzarellu and also heard on the Etang de Biguglia on 24th

Great Crested Grebe First seen on 22nd at Calzarellu as well as the Etangs d'Urbino, Diane, Terrenzana and Biguglia and seen on the latter lake on the remaining 3 days

Black-necked (Eared) Grebe A pair were on the Etang de Biguglia during our pre breakfast walk on 24th and another pair was seen later the same day

Cory's Shearwater A group of at least 40 were seen near the Ile de la Giralia on 23rd. Though distant, their size compared to the gulls that seemed to be annoying them, made it obvious that this was the species involved.

Great Cormorant First seen on the wreck and on the sea off Calzarellu on 22nd. Also seen later that day on the Etang d'Urbino later that day and on the next 2 days at Cap Corse and the Etang de Biguglia respectively

European Shag At least 3 on the Ile de la Giraglia on 23rd

Grey Heron Seen on the way to Corte on 18th and then not seen again until we returned to the coastal area on 22nd where it was seen in small numbers on that and the next 3 days

Purple Heron 3 at Calzarellu marsh and 3 at the Etang de Terrenzana on 22nd plus 1 at the Etang de Biguglia on 24th

Cattle Egret 7 on 24th and a smaller quantity the following day all beside the Etang de Biguglia in a field with cattle strangely enough!

Great White Egret Single birds seen on the eastern side of the Etang de Biguglia on 24th and 25th

Little Egret Commonly seen on the last 4 days

Squacco Heron 2 on 24th and 1 on 25th n the same field as the Cattle Egrets

Mallard A male was at the Calzarellu marsh on 22nd and we then saw a few on the Etang de Biguglia on 24th and 25th

Garganey A male at the Etang de Terrenzana on 22nd was the only sighting

Red-crested Pochard Just 4 males on the Etang de Terrenzana on 22nd

Ferruginous Duck Just a single bird on the Etang de Terrenzana on 22nd

Shelduck A single bird on the Etang d'Urbino on 22nd was a new species for a Travelling Naturalist group to Corsica

Osprey 1 on 22nd at the Etang de Terrenzana and another over the Etang de Biguglia on 25th

European Honey Buzzard 1 at Aleria on 22nd and another the following day at Cap Corse

Black Kite 5 flew northwards from Cap Corse on 23rd

Red Kite Seen in small numbers every day

Lammergeier 1 seen briefly by one member of the group high in the Restonica valley on 21st

Montagu's Harrier A male at Cap Corse on 23rd seemed a little unsure whether to begin the crossing to the French mainland and a female on 25th near the airport gave us excellent views

Eurasian Marsh Harrier Seen on 4 consecutive days in the coastal region from 22nd

Eurasian Sparrowhawk 2 seen in widely separated areas in the Asco Valley on 20th and another seen the following day in he Restonica Valley

Common Buzzard Seen every day from 19th in smallish numbers

Golden Eagle 2 seen n the lower part of the Asco Valley on 20th with another over higher ground later that day. The following day, one was in the high part of the Restonica Valley

Common Kestrel Seen every day except 21st

Red-footed Falcon A good tour for this species with the first, a female, seen in the Asco Valley on 20th. This was then followed by a distant quantity near Calzarellu and 5 (2 males) together near the Etang de Biguglia on 22nd. The species was also noted on 23rd, 24th and 25th.

Eurasian Hobby Just a single brief sighting as we loaded the luggage into the vehicles on the final morning

Peregrine 2 seen at Cap Grosso on 23rd. Though distant, they stayed until after we left and everyone had 'scope views

Quail Heard at the Etang d'Urbino on 22nd and also down the 'rubbish tip road' on 24th and 25th

Common Moorhen Just seen around the Etang de Biguglia on 3 days from 22nd

Eurasian Coot Commonly seen on the Etangs from 22nd

Black-winged Stilt Just a single bird seen on the Etang de Biguglia on 24th

European Stone-curlew 1 on 24th and 2 on 25th to the south of our 2nd hotel not far from the Etang de Biguglia

Greater Ringed Plover A single bird was at Cap Corse on 23rd

Little Ringed Plover 1 on 22nd on the beach at Calzarellu and another at Cap Corse the following day

Kentish Plover 2 birds of this species were seen somewhat distantly at the Etang d'Urbino on 22nd

Whimbrel 2 at the Etang d'Urbino on 22nd then a single bird seen at the Etang de Biguglia on 25th

Common Redshank Heard on 23rd at the Etang de Biguglia and then seen there on the next 2 days

Common Greenshank 4 at the Etang de Biguglia on 23rd with 3 there the following day. On 25th there were 11 at the northern end of the same lake plus 3 further south

Common Sandpiper 1 in the Asco Valley on 20th then seen on 23rd & 24th at the Etang de Biguglia and also at Cap Corse on 24th. However, the biggest gathering by far was on 25th with over 30 where the Etang de Biguglia flows into the Med.

Dunlin Just a quick fly-by on 25th near the south-western side of the Etang de Biguglia

Collared Pratincole 2 seen down rubbish-tip-road on 24th; an excellent find and they gave us brilliant views for quite a few minutes

Audouin's Gull At least 2 on 23rd and 1 on 24th at the northern end of the Etang de Biguglia

Yellow-legged Gull Seen on 18th at Nice and after we had landed at Bastia then seen from 22nd to 25th in the Corsican coastal areas

Black-headed Gull At least 15 seen between terminal buildings at Nice then seen on 22nd, 23rd & 24th at the Etang de Biguglia

Slender-billed Gull 4 on 23rd and 1 on 24th at the northern end of the Etang de Biguglia

Whiskered Tern Seen on 24th & 25th at the Etang de Biguglia

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Seen every day except 19th

Wood Pigeon Seen every day except 23rd and 25th

European Turtle Dove 2 on 22nd, 1 on 23rd and 1 on 25th in various lowland areas

Eurasian Collared Dove Seen every day

Common Cuckoo 1 on 22nd at Calzarellu marsh and 1 on 25th down 'rubbish-tip-road'

European Scops Owl Heard somewhat distantly by the Hotel Dominique Colonna on 21st then heard much more closely at the Hotel Pineto on 22nd and 23rd with one or two people gaining a brief, torch-lit view on 22nd

Alpine Swift Seen on 18th, 20th and 21st in widely spaced locations in the mountains

Common Swift Commonly seen every day

Pallid Swift Just a single confirmed sighting beside Biguglia on 25th

European Bee-Eater Seen on the final 3 days of the tour with more than 50 passing northwards on 24th

Eurasian Hoopoe The first was at the Etang d'Urbino on 22nd. Also seen down the rubbish tip road on 24th, at the hotel on 25th and near the Etang de Biguglia later the same morning

Eurasian Wryneck Just a single bird seen near Barcaggio, Cap Corse on 23rd

Great Spotted Woodpecker Seen every day except 25th

Wood Lark Heard on 20th in he Asco Valley then seen the following day near Corte and 2 on 22nd on the way to Aleria

European Sand Martin Noted on the final 3 days in small numbers around the Etang de Biguglia

Eurasian Crag Martin The first ones were about a dozen seen on the way to Corte on 18th and then seen in varying numbers for the next 4 days

Barn Swallow Seen every day with very noticeable northwards movements in the coastal areas

Common House Martin The first ones were seen at Nice during the outward journey on 18th and then seen every day except 21st

Yellow Wagtail 2 seen at the start of the Asco Valley on 20th with a further 2 a few miles further along later the same day. Five on 23rd at Cap Corse and also seen near the Etang de Biguglia on 24th and 25th

White Wagtail Just a single probable sighting near Corte on 19th

Grey Wagtail Seen every day except 25th with the best sightings at the Hotel Dominique Colonna

Tawny Pipit 3 on 20th in the Asco Valley and a single bird at Cap Grosso on 23rd

Tree Pipit Just 2 seen on 23rd at Cap Corse

Water Pipit 2 at Haut Asco on 20th were only seen by one member of the group but at least 1 of the 2 the following day high in the Restonica Gorge was well seen by everyone

Woodchat Shrike Just a single bird seen at the Hotel Pineto on 24th but sadly it was not seen by everyone

White-throated Dipper Seen on 18th, 20th, 21st & 22nd mostly at the Hotel Dominique Colonna

Winter Wren Heard almost every day but only seen on a few occasions

Blue Rock Thrush A pair was seen on the way to Ponte Leccia on 18th and seen near the Hotel Dominique Colonna on 20th and 22nd but the best views were at the Tour e l'Osse on 23rd

Common Blackbird Seen every day

Mistle Thrush Seen on 19th, 20th and 21st in various areas close to the mountains

European Robin Noted on 5 consecutive days from 19th

Common Nightingale Heard on 4 consecutive days from 22nd

Common Redstart 2 seen close to Corte on 21st then dozens seen between Botticella and Barcaggio on 23rd suggesting a strong migration and finally a single bird seen on 24th

Whinchat Seen daily from 21st with good, though not exceptional numbers seen on 23rd at Cap Corse

Common Stonechat Small numbers seen every day except 25th

Northern Wheatear Single birds seen on 22nd, 23rd and 24th

Fan-tailed Warbler Seen or heard on 4 days in the coastal areas from 22nd

Cetti's Warbler Seen or heard on 4 days in the coastal areas from 22nd

Sedge Warbler 1 or 2 seen at Cap Corse on 23rd

Eurasian Reed Warbler At least 3 heard at Calzarellu marsh on 22nd

Great Reed Warbler Jut a single bird seen at Cap Corse on 23rd though we did hear this species beside the Etang de Biguglia the following morning

Melodious Warbler A bird probably of this species was seen on 22nd

Willow Warbler Heard on 22nd, heard then seen on 23rd during pre breakfast walks at the Etang de Biguglia

Common Chifchaff Noted on the final 3 days

Blackcap Noted every day

Common Whitethroat Seen on the final 3 days beginning at Cap Corse on 23rd

Sardinian Warbler Seen on 21st close to Corte and then seen the following 4 days mostly in the coastal belt

Subalpine Warbler A single bird was seen near Corte on 21st and another was at Cap Corse a couple of days later

Dartford Warbler 2 pairs were seen on 22nd, one pair not far from Corte and the other near the Etang de Terrenzana. Also seen the following day at Cap Corse

Marmora's Warbler A good year for this species with sightings on 19th and 20th in the mountains and on 23rd on the way to Cap Corse

Firecrest The first were seen close to Asco on 20th and we then saw one the following day in the Restonica Valley

Goldcrest Just a single bird seen on 21st high in the Restonica Valley

Spotted Flycatcher 2 seen on 23rd one at the Tour de l'Osse and the other close to Barcaggio

European Pied Flycatcher Seen every day from 20th with the most being seen on 23rd on the way out to Cap Corse

(Collared Flycatcher Unfortunately we cannot really count this species as it was found dead in the front grill of Mike's minibus when he picked it up on 18th but it proves the existence of the species on Corsica. It did encourage us to check the true identity of all Pied Flycatchers though!!)

Long-tailed Tit Seen on 4 days namely 20th, 21st, 22nd and 24th

Coal Tit Seen every day except 23rd and 25th

Great Tit Seen every day

Blue Tit Seen every day

Corsican Nuthatch 3 seen in our usual area in the Restonica valley on 21st and another seen briefly as we had a 'celebration' coffee later that same morning

Eurasian Tree Creeper Just 2 seen on 19th in the Forét de Cervello

Eurasian Jay Frequent; seen every day

Alpine Chough At least 8 seen on 19th in a snow storm in the Verjellu Valley, a few more seen the following day in the Haut Asco and then at least 60 high in the Restonica Valley on 21st

Hooded Crow Seen every day

Common Raven Small numbers seen every day

Magpie Seen at Nice on the outward journey and at Marseille on the return flight

Eurasian Golden Oriole One male glimpsed briefly in the lower part of the Asco Valley on 20th and then a good coloured female (or was it an immature male?) seen well close to Bastia airport on 24th

Spotless Starling Seen every day from 20th when the first ones were seen in the Asco Valley

Common Starling Seen at Nice during the outward journey on 18th and during the change at Marseille on the way home on 25th

Corn Bunting First seen on 21st near Corte and then seen or heard in better numbers in coastal areas

Cirl Bunting Seen every day except 25th in small numbers with perhaps the best views obtained at the Hotel Dominique Colonna

Common Chaffinch Seen every day

European Serin Noted every day in small numbers

Corsican Citril Finch Seen on 5 consecutive days from 19th in such widely spaced locations as the high Restonica valley and Cap Grosso. On 19th there was a flock of at least 60 in Vivario where many of them perched fairly close to us in a flowering tree

European Greenfinch Seen every day from 19th

Eurasian Siskin Just a single bird seen on 20th in the Asco Valley

European Goldfinch Seen every day from 19th in small numbers

Common Linnet Just seen on 22nd by the Etang d'Urbino and at the Etang de Terrenzana and also during the pre breakfast walk on 24th

Common Crossbill 1 female seen at very close range on 19th in the Verjellu Valley with another 6 glimpsed there. Also, 2 flew past us when we were watching at the northern end of the Etang de Biguglia on 23rd

House (Italian) Sparrow Common; seen every day

Eurasian Tree Sparrow About 15 seen at la Canonica Cathedral on 24th

Mammals

Western Hedgehog Just seen on a couple of occasions as sub-species 'horizontalis' (e.g. dead on the road!)

Wild Boar Signs of their activity seen on 19th and 20th and, more importantly, on the menu at the first hotel most evenings

Amphibians & Reptiles

Italian Pool Frog Presumably this species seen on 3 days from 22nd

Italian Wall Lizard Lizards seen every day from 20th were presumably this species

Hermann's Tortoise 2 seen at the Etang de Terrenzana on 22nd

Gecko species 1 seen on the top of an outbuilding door at Aleria on 22nd

Butterflies

Swallowtail

Large White

Small White

Orange Tip

Green-veined White

Clouded Yellow

Brimstone

Cleopatra

Wood White

Green Hairstreak

Small Copper

Small Heath

Common Blue

Holly Blue

Peacock

Red Admiral

Painted Lady

Small Tortoiseshell

Speckled Wood

Wall Brown

Comma

Moths

Silver Y

Other Insects

'Red underwing' Grasshopper

Locust species

Green Tiger Beetle

Seven-spot Ladybird

Two-spot Ladybird

Bombylus fly species

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Scarce Chaser Dragonfly

Southern Skimmer Dragonfly

Vagrant Emperor Dragonfly

Plants

The reference numbers for each species refers to Mediterranean Wild Flowers by Blamey and Grey-Wilson.

Those marked with an 'E' are Corsican endemics.

3 Pinus pinea Stone Pine, Umbrella Pine

13 Juniperus communis Juniper

23 Castanea sativa Sweet Chestnut

24 Quercus coccifera Kermes Oak

25 Quercus ilex Holm Oak

27 Quercus suber Cork Oak

31 Quercus pubescens Downy Oak

42 Ficus carica Fig

49 Urtica membranacea Membranous Nettle

115 Carprobrotus edulis Hottentot Fig

157 Silene vulgaris Bladder Campion

176 Silene gallica Small-Flowered Catchfly

182 Silene conica ? Sand Catchfly

199 Laurus nobilis Laurel, Sweet Bay

213 Anemone hortensis

240 Ranunculus bulbosus Bulbous Buttercup

246 Ranunculus chius

252 Ranunculus ficaria Lesser Celandine

283 Papaver rhoeas Common Poppy

284 Papaver dubium Long-headed Poppy

290 Papaver hybridum Rough Poppy

303 Fumaria capreolata Ramping Fumitory

326 Mathiola sinuata Sea Stock

360 Sinapis alba White Mustard

361 Eruca sativa Eruca

363 Cakile maritima Sea Rocket

386 Sedum album White Stonecrop

396 Umbilicus rupestris Navelwort (Wall Pennywort)

400 Platanus orientalis Plane Tree

402 Pittosporum tobria

406 Rosa glutinosa Mediterranean Sweet Briar

423 Prunus persica Peach

424 Prunus spinosa Sloe, Blackthorn

428 Rubus sanctus Bramble, Blackberry

430 Cercis silquastrum Judas Tree

432 Acacia dealbata Mimosa

437 Acacia melanoxylon Blackwood Acacia

475 Ulex europaeus Gorse

481 Spartium junceum Spanish Broom

486 Lupinus angustifolius Narrow-leaved Lupin

510 Vicia vilosa Blue Vetch

519 Vicia hirsuta Hairy Tare

521 Vicia laxiflora Slender Tare

524 Vicia sepium Bush Vetch

531 Vicia sativa Common Vetch

534 Vicia narbonensis (Related to Broad Bean)

541 Lathyrus sphaericus (Pea Family)

544 Lathyrus setifolius " "

555 Pisum sativum Wild Pea

605 Medicago marina Sea Medick

623 Medicago arabica Spotted Medick

625 Lotus corniculatus Common Bird's-Foot Trefoil

642 Trifolium repens White Clover

656 Hop Trefoil Hop Tefoil

659 Trifolium pilulare Ball Cotton Clover

706 Hippocrepis unisliquosa

735 Oxalis pes-caprae Bermuda Buttercup

744 Geranium pusilum Small-leaved Crane's-Bill

745 Geranium dissectum Cut-leaved Crane's-Bill

747 Geranium robertianum Herb Robert

761 Erodium cicutariium Common Stork'sbill

777 Linum bienne Pale Flax

782 Linum maritimum

799 Euphorbia helioscopia Sun Spurge

818 Euphorbia characias Large Mediterranean Spurge

856 Acer monspessulanum Montpelier Maple

863 Pistachia vera Pistachio Nut

910 Lavatera cretica Small Tree Mallow

912 Lavatera arborea Tree Mallow

925 Viola alba supsp. dehnadtii Mediterranean White Violet

961 Cistus albidus Grey-leaved Cistus

962 Cistus creticus

965 Cistus salvifolius Sage-leaved Cistus

966 Cistus monspeliensis Narrow-leaved Cistus

1024 Tamarix tetragyna Tamarisk

1040 Opuntia ficus-indica Prickly Pear

1073 Eryngium maritimum Sea Holly

1087 Smyrnium olusatrum Alexanders

1141 Ferula communis Giant Fennel

1178 Erica arborea Tree Heath

1191 Lysimachia atropurpurea Purple Loosetrife

1198 Anagallis arvensis Scarlet Pimpernel

" " Blue Pimpernel

1207 Cyclamen repandum Spring Sowbread

1245 Fraxinus ornus Flowering Ash (Manna)

1248 Olea europaea Olive

1251 Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury

1260 Vinca major Greater Periwinkle

1268 Cynanchum acutum Stranglewort

1288 Asperula arvensis Blue Woodruff (not in flower)

1315 Catystegia soldanella Sea Bindweed

1316 Calystegia sepium Larger Bindweed

1334 Convolvulus arvensis Bindweed

1383 Echium plantagineum Purple Viper's Bugloss

1395 Borago officinalis Borage

1413 Anchusa arvensis Bugloss

1519 Origanum marjorana Sweet Marjoram

1526 Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary

1528 Lavendula stoechas French Lavender

1575 Datura stramonium Thornapple

1651 Parentucellia viscosa Yellow Bartsia

1652 Parentucellia latifolia

1791 Bellis annua Annual Daisy

1805 Evax pygmaea Evax

1858 Anthemis arvensis Corn Chamomile

1887 Matricaria recutita Scented Mayweed

1895 Chrysanthemum coronarium Crown Daisy

1908 Calendula arvensis Field Marigold

1916 Senecio vulgaris Groundsel

1982 Silybum marianum Milk Thistle

2039 Urospermum dalechampii Urospermum

2087 Asphodelus fistulosus Hollow-leaved Asphodel

2171 Ornithogalum umbellatum Star of Bethlehem

2201 Muscari comosum Tassel Hyacinth

2224 Allium roseum Rosy Garlic

2229 Allium triquetrum Three-cornered Leek

2290 Iris pseudacorus Yellow Flag

2307 Gladiolus italicus Field Gladiolus

2361 Arum italicum Large Cuckoo Pint

2383 Cephalanthera longifolia Narrow-leaved Helleborine

2393 Neotinea maculata Dense-flowered Orchid

2399 Aceras anthropophorum Man Orchid

2401 Orchis papilonacea Pink Butterfly Orchid

2403 Orchis morio Green-winged Orchid

2412 Orchis purpurea Lady Orchid

2448 Serapias cordigera Heart-flowered Orchid

2451 Serapias lingua Tongue Orchid

2494 Arundo donax Giant Reed

2522 Adiantum capilus-veneris Maidenhair Fern

2525 Asplenium trichomanes Maidenhair Spleenwort

2532 Ceterach officinarum

E Berberis aetnensis

E Alnus cordata Green Alder

E Crocus corsicus Corsican Crocus

E Pinus nigra subsp. Laricio Corsican Pine

E Helleborus lividus subsp. Corsicus

E Euphorbia pithyusa spsp. cupanii

E Aristolochia tyrrhena

E Sedum brevifolium

E Euphorbia corsica

E Pancratium illyricum Illyrican Lily

E Genista corsica

Hawthorn

Primrose

Honesty

Bracken

Mistletoe

Common Dog Violet

Due to the fact that the season was apparently about a week late this year there were some plants that were not recorded. However there were quite a few new ones identified.

What a super tour! We managed to overcome a few difficulties, including the fact that the other scheduled leader, Arnoud van den Berg had unfortunately to pull out at the last moment, and I really do need to thank my wife Liz for doing a sterling job in his place. And I am sure the plant list is much longer as a consequence .......

I also need to thank you, our clients, for being so understanding under the circumstances. Not only that but you helped to make the tour so much more interesting for me, what with the regular weather up-dates and the reminders what insects had been seen. On this latter note, I suspect that the insect list is incomplete ....... and some of the names are spelt wrongly. I can only blame myself for that!!

Corsica never ceases to amaze me. On the bird score, we totalled 129 species and we also saw 148 plants. It really was a shame we could not count the Collared Flycatcher to make the round 130 birds. (It was warm when I found it, honest. But that could have something to do with the fact that it was against the radiator!)

The wildlife, food, wine and of course you, our clients, were all great. What more could one wish for?

I hope I have the pleasure of your company again soon.

Mike Read

On a flight home from Sweden!

8th May 2004


© The Travelling Naturalist and Limosa Holidays 2004