TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT


Corsica

Sunday 24 April - Sunday 1 May 2005




Leaders:

Mike Read

Brian Small



Sunday 24 April

The group arrived at Bastia airport in pretty awful weather; there was low cloud that made landing somewhat difficult. After sorting a luggage problem and dealing with the hire of Brian’s minibus, we set off for Corte and soon encountered heavy rain. Due to the weather, there were very few birds to be seen.

A warm welcome greeted us and we were soon settled in and enjoying a hearty Corsican dinner though we were a little concerned about the following day’s weather!



Monday 25 April

We woke to a fine morning and took a pre breakfast walk up the road. Crag Martins seemed quite plentiful and 3 Common Buzzards were well seen. A male Blue Rock Thrush was watched for a while and high above us a Northern Goshawk circled around before heading for the depths of the woodland. Other species seen included Cirl Bunting, Blue, Great and Coal Tit.

Later, we paused at the local supermarket before heading out for the day. While the leaders shopped, clients were treated to good views of 1 or 2 Red Kites circling overhead. As we left the area, those in the second minibus had views of a Black Kite that was passing through on migration. Just a short drive outside of Corte, we paused at a lay-by. A Sardinian Warbler and 2 Marmora’s Warblers were good finds with both species proving somewhat elusive. It was the raptors that provided the best birding here with fairly close views of 3 Common Buzzards while a pair of Golden Eagles circled high over a distant ridge. Our second Goshawk of the day flew past and 2 Eleonora’s Falcons were an unexpected bonus.

Coffee in Venaco was taken to the sound of singing Blackcaps as the weather warmed up and the remaining cloud dispersed. Further on we turned into the Verjellu Valley and were soon seeing a few Crag Martins and masses of flowers including a few Corsican endemics. A couple of Corsican Citril Finches plus many Common Chaffinches (of the Corsican sub species naturally!) were seen in the short walks we made and we then drove on up to the end of the tarred road.

Here we had our lunch and enjoyed magnificent views to the surrounding mountains. The nearby pines were home to many ‘nests’ of Pine Processionary Moth caterpillars and many groups were heading off to new feeding areas and were making their way across the road. (Have you any idea how long it takes for a procession of moth caterpillars to completely clear the road so that we can drive onwards? We have!!) During lunch we had distant views of a group of over 50 Alpine Choughs high above the ridge and a Sparrowhawk flew over the forest. A search of the local area produced many Corsican Hellebores and a couple of Milky Orchids.

As we left after lunch we paused at a couple of places to view more birds and flowers. Finds included Barton’s Orchid, a species of Marsh Orchid and Blinks. The birds we saw were Firecrest and two Treecreepers. On our way back to Corte we again paused at the lay-by where birds included passing Common and Alpine Swifts, House Martins and Barn Swallows and there were at least 80 Corsican Citril Finches. This completed a fabulous day out.



Tuesday 26 April

Before breakfast the early risers took a walk towards Corte and saw a few birds including Pied Flycatcher, Raven and Grey Wagtail, while the growing plant list included Man, Pink Butterfly and Green-veined Orchids as well as Dark Ophrys.

After a typical continental breakfast we set off towards the Asco Valley but just a short way beyond Corte we saw a juvenile Peregrine circling over a low slope. A brief stop at Super U in Ponte Leccia had us looking at Common and Pallid Swifts and a very close Red Kite. A short distance from the main A road we paused by a large bend in the river and visited a damp area in a field to see Green-veined, Milky and Pink Butterfly Orchids. We also saw Mistle Thrush and a couple of Woodlarks. Further along we paused at some fields where we saw two more Woodlarks as well as Common Buzzard and Red Kite.

An early coffee stop proved relaxing and informative. From where we sat in the warm sunshine we could see a distant Golden Eagle high over a ridge. Several Nettle Tree Butterflies landed in the Nettle Tree above us. The restaurant owner surprised us by showing us a number of one-year old tortoises; he was helping the local breed and release scheme.

Beyond the village of Asco we paused at a fabulous viewpoint and had a lovely Red Kite circling below us. A few Serins and Citril Finches were feeding close to some cattle, while high over the hills we could see distant Alpine Choughs and three more Golden Eagles. Following further brief stops we eventually reached a crossing of the river where we paused for lunch amongst a lovely display of Corsican Crocuses. During this time we had numerous Yellow Brimstone and one or two Cleopatra Butterflies going past. It was obviously time to head on when some of the group were bored enough to start building a mini snowman in the snow that remained beside the road!

A fairly short walk from the Haute Asco car park took us up to some lovely mature Corsican Pine trees where we were lucky enough to find the endemic Corsican Nuthatch. Here there was an even better display of Corsican Crocuses and many photographs were taken of these with the mountains in the background. We began our return journey and occasional stops produced little new until we reached the lower fields once again. The pair of Woodlarks was once again present as were at least 25 Spotless Starlings. We were just about to board the buses again when the unmistakable call of European Bee-eaters was heard; at least 30 birds flew overhead on their northward journey. A few Red Kites and Ravens were sighted as we returned to Corte and our hotel.



Wednesday 27 April

This morning before breakfast we drove towards the edge of Corte and as we began walking it soon became obvious that there had been something of a fall of Blackcaps in the area. Around the houses there were plenty of Italian Sparrows, a few Serins and a Firecrest.

Our aim today was to explore further into the lovely Restonica Valley. We began with the usual routine of driving a short way then taking a walk and this was often repeated throughout the morning. At various locations we found Common Buzzards and Blackcaps, while Grey Wagtails frequently flew up from the roadside. Two Firecrests and a pair of Long-tailed Tits were seen in the forest as were a couple of Cirl Buntings and a Tree-creeper. At various places we could see through the trees up to the ridges beyond and at one point a falcon was circling in the distance. This bird caused some confusion due to the brief views and the various angles at which it was seen. Eventually Hobby and Eleonora’s Falcon were ruled out and the bird was confirmed as a Peregrine.

During coffee at Chez Caesar a number of Crag Martins were seen up by a rocky crag and eventually a Blue Rock Thrush perched on the very top of a pinnacle. We drove gently on up to the car park at the top of the valley and took a brief walk. Crag Martins and a few Alpine Choughs were the only avian delights but there were plenty of Corsican Crocuses and the endemic species of Berberis as well as many other flowers along the way. During a nice relaxing lunch surrounded by stunning views a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming in the nearby trees.

Our journey back towards Corte was interspersed with occasional stops during which we saw a few birds including Goldcrest and Coal Tit. After a brief pause a the hotel we drove along the N200 to the east of Corte and at one field where cattle grazed we had a pair of Woodlarks, a male Whinchat and a Water Pipit. Along a back road return route, a Common Buzzard was circling and a couple of Corn Buntings were seen beside some fields. At one stop we found Long-spurred Orchid and Polyanthus Narcissus, while at another we saw Cirl Buntings and heard a Nightingale singing. We returned to the hotel at the end of a very fruitful day.



Thursday 28 April

To allow time for packing before our move to the coastal area, there was no pre-breakfast walk. Various stops were made on the way towards Aleria and these produced a few good birds including very brief glimpses of a Spectacled Warbler close to the San Giovanni ancient chapel at Pont Génois. After a pause for coffee, where we saw Kestrel and heard Cetti’s Warbler, we drove to Calzarellu for a walk along the beach to overlook the freshwater marshes there.

Chiffchaff and Nightingale sang to greet our arrival and as we walked southwards, we noted a small northbound movement of martins and swallows and these included 2 Red-rumped Swallows. Frogs called from the edge of the waterway and these were being sought by the various herons and egrets that we encountered. There were at least 4 Purple Herons and 3 Greys present. Reed beds held at least one singing Great Reed Warbler but only a few people managed to glimpse this bird. Out on the lake there were many Eurasian Coots plus a few Great Crested and Little Grebes. Again raptors featured well here and there were a few Marsh Harriers drifting around as well as Hobbies, Red-footed and Eleanora’s Falcons. One bird of the latter species gave us really good views.

We then began our northward journey and paused for lunch overlooking the Etang d’Urbino. Corn Buntings and Sardinian Warblers sang from the overhead wires from where a flock of 35 European Bee-eaters hawked for insects. We had superb ‘scope views of this latter species for some while but eventually decided that there would be some merit in eating our picnics and consuming just a little of the various coloured fermented grape juice! Distant views to the etang produced 1 Greater Flamingo and an Avocet, while 6 Black-winged Stilts could occasionally be seen in the wet grassland area. On a drier area closer to us 4 Little Ringed Plovers (presumably 2 pairs) called and revealed their presence. Fan-tailed Warbler, Linnet and Common Whitethroat were also seen by most people, though the passing Stoat was only glimpsed by one or two. Our final find here was the strange looking Friar’s Cowl plant.

We continued northwards and a brief pause to overlook the Etang deTerrenzana produced views of a Squacco Heron, lots of Eurasian Coots a couple of Mallard and a Subalpine Warbler. Onwards from here the journey was interspersed with occasional Red Kites and Common Buzzards and close to one roundabout we had a new species for Travelling Naturalist on Corsica. Feeding in some short grassland were 6 Rabbits. We reached the hotel La Lagune in good time to relax and unpack before dinner.







Friday 29 April

Before breakfast we took a stroll close to the hotel and in the ‘plot’ next door were pleased to find at least 2 Woodchat Shrikes, 3 Hoopoes and a few Tree Sparrows. Along the beach a few Northern Wheatears were pausing on their northward migrations as perhaps was a Nightingale singing from the scrub. A Cetti’s Warbler was also heard. Most noticeable this morning though was the steady stream – well more a rushing river really – of Swallows and Martins. This impressive movement of birds continued throughout much of the day and turned out to be one of the highlights of the tour.

After breakfast we intended to head for Cap Corse but a last minute change of plans had us touring the Etang de Biguglia instead. After purchasing some picnic supplies, we headed for the ‘Fort’ and were soon seeing good birds. Just part of the way down the winding access road a male Pied Flycatcher caught our attention and at the end of the road there was a Tawny Pipit in a fairly bare field and a Whinchat or two were perched on a fence line. Out along the shores there were 1 or 2 Grey Herons, Common Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plover while close to a flock of Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, a few Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes frequently dived for food.

Back along the eastern shores, a lone Audouin’s Gull was standing on a row of posts and a flock of European Bee-Eaters flew north along with the continuing stream of Swallows. Then we saw 3 species of raptor; a Common Buzzard circled in the distance as did a Marsh Harrier and then an Osprey flew almost overhead. As we made our way back to the minibuses, a Nightingale gave us some good views.

We had our lunch a little further south to an accompaniment of singing Reed, Sedge and Cetti’s Warblers. Later, we strolled near Pinetu and found more migrating Warblers namely Garden, Great Reed and Wood, passing through the lake-side trees along with a couple more Pied Flycatchers. On a sandy peninsula a mile or so further south, there was a good assembly of birds including many Little Egrets, 21 Greater Flamingos, 2 Sandwich Terns and 5 male Garganeys. We also saw a passing Red-footed Falcon.

At la Canonica Cathedral we spent a little while looking over a meadow where sheep and goats were grazing. This seemed to attract a fair number of birds and in the area we found a male Common Redstart, some Northern Wheatears, Whinchats and Yellow Wagtails. Overhead another male Red-footed Falcon circled away northwards and a speeding Hobby dashed past probably aiming at one of the northward bound hirundines. Around the building itself were numerous Spotless Starlings as well as Tree and Italian Sparrows.

By now the torrent of passing swallows and martins had slowed considerably and we decided to head back to the hotel to relax before dinner.

Some folks retired to bed but most made another valiant attempt to find Scops Owl. Again we heard them but sadly could not get views of one.



Saturday 30 April

The early risers walked locally once again and among the pines, were rewarded with good views of not one, but 3 Golden Orioles (2 males and a female). These birds were somewhat difficult to see but easy to identify while the next bird was the exact opposite. In the end we concurred that we were looking at a female Collared Flycatcher. A group of passing European Bee-eaters decided to spend some time perched in the tops of some pines and we consequently had excellent views. A Hoopoe called and was eventually seen, while a female Montagu’s Harrier and Tree Pipit headed steadily northwards and calling Quail remained unseen.

With Cap Corse our destination for today we were soon underway seeing a few things as we went including a few more Audouin’s Gulls and an occasional Buzzard. At Macinaggio we paused for coffee and then headed out to Botticella and on to a minor road for Barcaggio. Some way along this road we paused to look at a clear bay in the forested area and here we found numerous Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Common Whitethroat, plus Wood, Willow and Subalpine Warblers.

On arrival it seemed sensible to take a slightly early lunch before setting out on a walk and as we enjoyed our picnics we were able to see Common Sandpiper, Squacco Heron and White Wagtail, all at fairly close quarters. With such good weather it seemed that few migrants were actually being held up and consequently it was difficult to find very much during our brief afternoon walk. There were a few Whinchats a Dartford Warbler and a couple of Audouin’s Gulls in the area as well as a few passing Swallows. Perhaps the most exciting find here though was at least 6 Bottle-nosed Dolphins passing by a long way out at sea. Even the ringing station was rather quiet but we were able to see Blackcap, Swallow and Goldfinch being ringed.

We then headed for Cap Grosso and along the way saw a couple of Kestrels some Whinchats and Pied Flycatchers and at the Cap itself we found Tawny Pipit, Marmora’s and Sardinian Warblers. By now some sea mist was beginning to roll in but we were still able to watch a Hobby circling around overhead before heading off northwards. This was followed by a Marsh Harrier a short while later. Just as we were contemplating the journey back to Bastia, a calling Common Raven attracted our attention and we were pleased to see that it was actually mobbing a Peregrine.

During the return journey we made another brief stop in Macinaggio and the briefest of sea watches produced a couple of Great Cormorants and 2 Cory’s Shearwaters.

We made it back to the hotel in good time for dinner after which we spent a little time searching once again for Scops Owls and on this occasion we were lucky enough to actually get good views of one.



Sunday 1 May

After a leisurely breakfast we began our final day with some bird watching around the Etang de Biguglia and our first stop produced some good sightings. Birds here included presumably the same 5 Garganey that we saw the previous day. Extras at this particular location included 2 Spoonbills, 1 Sanderling, 1 Greenshank and 1 Redshank. A Great Reed Warbler seemed to be competing with the local Cetti’s Warbler. There was also a nice group of Greater Flamingos that included a couple of ringed birds.

At the car park bay further north there were another 4 Flamingos as well as a couple of Audouin’s Gulls, 2 Stonechats and 2 Woodchat Shrikes. Across the far side of the lake we could make out an Oystercatcher in amongst the Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls.

After a pause to buy picnic things and a coffee stop we headed inland a little up the Golo Valley and then turned on a side road towards Campile. Flowers along this road were quite stunning and included Narrow-leaved Lupins, Spring Sowbreads in abundance as well as Dense-flowered, Pink Butterfly and Barton’s Orchids. We had lunch with fine views down to the coast and did a little more botanising here before driving further up the road past Campile to seek some more flowers. Here we were lucky to find Violet Birds Nest and Man Orchids, a few specimens of the strange looking Cytinus ruber, Illyrian Sea Lily (an endemic species) and lots more Cyclamens (Spring Sowbread).

We returned towards the edge of Biguglia for our final spell of birding and along a track which eventually would lead to a wettish area and etang we spent much time searching for birds in the shade of the woodland. As we strolled along we glimpsed a couple of Golden Orioles but our attention was diverted away from finding them when we heard a Scops Owl calling! Careful searching enabled one or two people to glimpse this bird which should really have been sound asleep in the middle of the afternoon. Further along we had our best views yet of a Woodchat Shrike and as we returned towards the vehicles we heard a Hoopoe calling.

We drove to the airport and after taking on board some liquid refreshment (!) we headed for the departure lounge and our flights back to Britain.



BIRDS

Little Grebe
Tachybaptus ruficollis. Seen on two days near the coast: several from the beach at Calzarellu on 28th; a couple on Etang de Biguglia on 29th.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus. Seen on all four days near the coast, some displaying, with at least 40 on Etang de Biguglia on 29th.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. Four (two pairs) seen rather distantly on Etang de Biguglia on 29th were identified largely on shape in hazy conditions.

Cory's (Scopoli's) Shearwater Calonectris diomedea. Two, looking remarkably gull-like, were seen patrolling offshore of Macinaggio harbour on 30th were seen relatively well. This form diomedea may well be called Scopoli's Shearwater should it be split from Cory's.

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis. Though there were others rather distant, only one was seen well by some members of the group off Macinnagio on 30th.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. Not surprisingly, seen only on all four days near the coast, with 5-10 noted on 29th.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta. At the coast, up to 10 were noted on all four dates largely around the edge of Etang de Biguglia.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. One was noted in the murky conditions as we drove to Corte on 24th, then two more in the mountains near Corte on 27th. However, most were seen near the coast, with a daily max. of four on 29th.

Purple Heron Ardea pupurea. Always a smart bird to see, with the size and rich colour pretty distinct. Four were seen from the beach at Calzarellu on 28th, then two around Etang de Biguglia on 29th.

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides. Again good to see, though the one from the hill at Terrenzana was hard to tell from a paper bag. However, the excellent views on rocks from the beach at Barcaggio, Cap Corse, was seen very well indeed before flying out to see.

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia. A surprise find was the two at Etang de Biguglia on 1st May.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus rubber. An adult was seen distantly on Etang d'Urbino on 28th. Good views of up to 21 birds, all immatures and two with colour rings from the Carmargue, were on the eastern edge of Etang de Biguglia on the last three days.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Rather uncommon, with three birds on two dates being the total. Two were near Terrenzana on 28th then a male was at Etang de Biguglia on 29th.

Garganey Anas querquedula. Five very handsome males were seen on Etang de Biguglia on 29th and 1st May.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus. Two birds, one near Terrenzana on 28th by just one bus, but the second was fantastic for all as it flew almost over our heads at Etang de Biguglia on 29th.

Black Kite Milvus migrans. Just one at Corte on 25th. This species is a rare migrant through Corsica.

Red Kite Milvus milvus. Relatively common on Corsica and so was seen on all dates, some fabulously well, some mobbed by Ravens on 26th.

Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus. All four days at the coast produced birds, over fields and reedbeds, with the largest number being at least 15 on 28th.

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus. A female was seen by those on the early morning walk near the hotel on 30th. Also the last bird seen on Corsica was a young bird from the plane as we taxied ready for take-off on 1st May.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Two birds, the first at the Verjellu picnic on 25th, the second on the travel day on 28th.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentiles. Two on the same date, 25th. The first flew over the Restonica valley in the early morning; the second, seen by everybody, was a male just south of Corte.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo. All dates in varying numbers, but seen well and often quite dark.

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. At least seven of these magnificent birds were seen whilst in the mountains. The first were two, south of Corte on 25th, but this number was surpassed by at least five on our trip up the Asco gorge on 26th - some were even displaying.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. Noted on all dates at widespread sites, but not in huge numbers. the largest numbers were either at Marseilles airport on the journey out or on our trip to Cap Corse on 30th, where perhaps a dozen were seen.

Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus. About five of these beautiful birds were seen whilst near the coast in the second half of the week. The first was a first-summer male over the cafe at Aleria on 28th, with perhaps others distantly near Calzarellu; then two adult males were seen around Etang de Biguglia, the first briefly, the second beautifully near the 'Roman' church; then at least two more males were near the southern end of the airport on 1st May.

Hobby Falco subbuteo. At least 15 were noted over th Etang at Calzarellu on 28th, some came close but the majority were a little distant in the heat haze. One was seen well at Etang de Biguglia on 29th, then several more were noted over the hills at Cap Corse on 30th.

Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae. Something of a surprise, but fabulous nevertheless, were the two over the hills south of Corte on 25th. the lovely relaxed and 'paddling' flight, coupled with the brownish black upperwings and black underwings make them very distinctive. Two others were sen on 28th, but in poor conditions near Calzarellu on 28th.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. Always wonderful to watch out for, the juvenile seen up from the bus east of Corte on 26th caused a rapid stop and exiting of the bus - it performed really well. The second, a small male, was over the northern cliffs along Restonica valley on 27th; the last, another immature, in sea mist at Cap Corse on 30th

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix. As usual heard but not seen, this time near the hotel on the mornings of both 30th and 1st May. Its call should be said phonetically as 'Hide! Quick, quick'.

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus. Hard to see on Corsica, one was seen briefly at Etang de Biguglia on 29th.

Common Coot Fulica atra. Unlike the previous species, Coot is very common on the etangs, and it would be hard to estimate the exact number on Etang de Biguglia, but it would certainly be over 1000.

Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus. A distant single bird, whilst looking across the Etang de Biguglia on 1st May was the sum total for the week.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. A grand total of ten all near the coast. Six were seen from the lunch stop at Etang d'Urbino on 28th; four were seen on Etang de Biguglia on 1st May.

European Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta. One at Etang d'Urbino on 28th is actually quite unusual so late in the spring.

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula. One flew around the bay, calling, at Barcaggio, Cap Corse, on 30th

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius. Four were seen displaying noisily to each other at the Etang d'Urbino lunch stop on 28th.

Sanderling Calidris alba. At Etang Biguglia on 29th, 10 flew around behind the flamingoes threatening to land before disappearing off into the distance. One of the flock had, perhaps, returned on 1st May .

[Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. Two distant hazy 'blobs' at Etang d'Urbino on 28th were most likely this species.]

Common Redshank Tringa tetanus. Only one was seen on the big wader day, 1st May.

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia. Again, just the one on 1st May.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. About in in total near the coastal etangs, with six on 1st May being the highest day total.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus. On 29th about 30 were seen on Etang Biguglia and several more on 1st May.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus (cachinnans) michahellis. Common and widespread in coastal areas, where it can also be seen feeding in fields and flying towards freshwater sites inland.

Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii. This lovely gull was seen on posts at Etang Biguglia, one on 29th and two on 1st May, but more typically flying around small coastal fishing villages, with a total of 10, on 30th.

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis. Two amongst the flamingoes at Etang Biguglia on 29th.

Rock Dove Columba livia. Small number of feral birds dilute the 'real' Rock Doves, but if you looked hard there appeared to be several that looked not too bad at all.

Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus. Inland, small numbers were seen on most days, with no more than three being seen on any date.

Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto. Widespread, common and noted daily in variable number at numerous sites.

European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur. Widespread in small numbers at numerous sites on the last four days, either because they prefer the coast or they were on migration..

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus. Heard on six dates, but seen on just one, the 27th.

Eurasian Scops Owl Otus scops. Several heard around the hotel grounds on the coast on 28th-30th, with fleeting glimpses in the torchlight, but luckily one was finally seen on 30th. Hugs and kisses all round! Even more lucky was the one that called during the day on 1st May near the western edge of the airport - but unfortunately seen well by only two members of the group.

Alpine Swift Apus melba. A splendid bird. Up to 30 were seen on 25th, 10 in the Restonica valley and 20 over Corte; and at least 10 in the Asco gorge on 26th.

Common Swift Apus apus. Common and widespread throughout Corsica.

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus. At Ponte Leccia 40 were seen on 26th, and then just two on 27th. It is likely that some were overlooked due to the difficulty in separating them from Common Swift in bright light.

Europen Bee-eater Merops apiaster. About 30 flew over us at le Vieux Pont, on our way to the Asco gorge on 26th, but these were bettered by the fabulous views of 25 at our lunch stop near Etang d'Urbino on 28th. On 29th, the day of 'big passage', at least 150 and probably a lot more heard, were seen; 45 were also noted for 1st May.

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops. Heard on 26th, but seen near the coast, with several around the hotel on all dates.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major. The endemic race parotti is relatively common, with good numbers seen on all dates.

Wood Lark Lullula arborea. Following one heard on 25th, four were seen on 26th (two at Asco and two at le Vieux Pont). Thereafter, small numbers seen in rough pasture.

Sand Martin Riparia riparia. Considering the date, substantial numbers passed through on 29th - probably in excess of 1000.

Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris. Noted on all dates in the mountains and in very good numbers, but on the coast only around cliffs and the hills inland.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. Though we had seen many before we arrived at the coast, one of the highlights of the trip was the amazing passage of hirundines on 29th. This was restricted to a narrow coastal band and began at first light. Several counts during the day showed that initially at least 500 were passing per minute; by midday this had slowed to between 50 and 200 per minute. It is estimated that 100,000 passed through on 29th.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica. Two near Calzarellu on 28th and one passing with Barn Swallows early on 29th was all that we saw. Maybe more passed through on 29th, but were hidden amongst the large numbers of other hirundines.

Common House Martin Delichon urbica . Noted on all dates, but again large numbers passed north on 29th.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava. The three days on the coast produced several birds largely of the race cinereocapilla (though it is thought that the population on Corsica is actually intermediate between this from and iberiae). They have a different buzzy call to that which characterises flava (and flavissima), of which four were seen on 30th.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. Quite common near mountain streams on our first four days.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba. With records on three dates and just three birds, it is clear that White Wag is uncommon on Corsica.

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris. One bird showed fairly well at the north of Etang de Biguglia on 29th; another near Barcaggio, Cap Corse, on 30th.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis. Heard flying over on 28th, then seen and heard flying over on 30th.

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta. Just one seen by a lucky few in the cattle field south of Corte on 27th.

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator badius. Seen only near the coast, with two around the hotel on three dates, plus three others around Etang Biguglia on 30th and 1st May.

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. More heard than seen , but finally got to grips with at Corte and up the Restonica valley on 27th.

European Robin Erithacus rubecula. Seen and heard on six dates, with only a couple well enough to appreciate the subtle differences of the local race.

Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos. Again a lot heard singing, but as ever views were hard to come by. The only good views were on 29th, when one sang in full view for us all to savour - one of the highlights for many.

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus. One male near the 'Roman' church on 29th and at least two in the hills above Barcaggio were the sum total of the trip.

Common Stonechat Saxicola [torquata] rubicola. Widespread and fairly common; seen almost daily in small numbers.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. A male was on the beach near Calzarellu on 28th, but this was eclipsed by the 15 seen the next day, with at least ten on the beach near the hotel in the early morning.

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius. Three birds on three dates at three sites: a male near the hotel along the Restonica valley on 25th was the best in the clear morning light; the second was a little distant high above our coffee stop on 27th; the last seen by just a couple of the group flew across the road north of Bastia on 30th.

Common Blackbird Turdus merula. Common and widespread, though sometimes shy; the highest numbers were in the small gardens near Corte

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus. Seen on a couple of dates in the lush valleys near Corte, on 26th and 27th.

Song Thrush turdus philomelos. Just one seen briefly on cork oaks above Barcaggio on 30th.

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti. Fairly common and widespread near the coastal wetlands; heard almost daily.

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis. As with the previous species, common and widespread; seen and heard daily near the coast, the best views at the northern end of Etang de Biguglis on 29th.

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. Two seen, one singing, well as we lunched on the shore of Etang de Biguglia.

European Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus. Just four in the reeds along the eastern edge of Etang de Biguglia on 28th and 29th.

Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus. Heard near Calzarellu on 28th, then seen briefly and heard along the eastern edge of Etang de Biguglia on 29th and 1st May.

Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata. One near Barcaggio on 30th was a bit of a surprise.

Marmora's Warbler Sylvia sarda. First seen near Corte on 25th, with two males and a female, then heard and briefly seen on Cap Corse on 30th.

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata. A single bird at Chap. del Giovanni was something of a surprise at it briefly sang from riverside bushes.

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans. The form on Corsica is moltonii, and once learned its diagnostic call (which it incorporates into the song) indicates its presence. The first seen (after several heard) were on 28th in scrubby Cistus near the coast. Even more were noted on 30th on Cap Corse, but proved hard to see well.

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala. Fairly common and widespread, though often hard to see. Two males displaying to each other, fanning their tails much like African Blue Flycatchers, on 28th were the best.

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla. Several seen and heard on all dates. Very common.

Garden Warbler Sylvia borin. Two in the trees along the Etang on 29th - for some their first ever views of this species.

Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis. A single female near Etang d'Urbino on 28th was flolowed by three or four near Barcaggio on 30th.

Willow Warbler Phlloscopus trochilus. Noted on three dates. the first a pale bird caused a bit of confusion near Corte on 25th

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita. Heard singing and seen at Calzarellu on 28th.

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix. This lovely and striking warbler was seen on two dates: five in trees near Etang de Biguglia on 29th; at least 15 in the cork oaks above Barcaggio on 30th.

Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus. Perseverance paid off as, after a single near Verjellu on 25th that refused to show properly, we saw two marvellously well along the Restonica valley on 27th. Seen and heard near Campile on 1st May.

Golcrest Regulus regulus. A male sang to us along the Restonica valley on 27th.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata. On 30th we encountered good numbers flycatching with many Pieds amongst the cork oaks above Barcaggio.

Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca. A male showed to just a few near the hotel on 26th, but this was eclipsed by at least 55 seen on 29th and 30th - with over 50 on the latter date in woodland above Barcaggio.

Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis. Not a male, but distinctive nevertheless, a female was seen in pine trees near the coastal hotel on 29th and 30th. The large amount of white at the base of the primaries, extending beyond the primary coverts, plus its reaction to the call and song of Collared Flycatcher confirmed the identification.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus. Largely a bird of wooded hillsides, so seen only inland. Several were seen and heard on three dates, 25th, 27th, and 1st May. The local race is irbii, which is darker around the head and dingier overall.

Coal Tit Parus ater. Extremely common inland wooded hillsides, especially in coniferous woodland, but much less common near the coast.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus. Noted on all dates, but in smaller numbers than Coal Tit and in deciduous woodland.

Great Tit Parus major. Again, seen on all dates, and was the second most common tit.

Corsican Nuthatch Sitta whiteheadi. Despite the apparent wealth of habitat, this species is drawn to the oldest areas of Corsican pine. So it was with great expectations that we visited the top of the Asco gorge on 26th, and we were not disappointed with initially a pair, then the male showing well and responding well to Big Mike calling the bird in.

Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris. One along the Verjellu valley kept high in canopy and was neck-breaking to watch, so thankfully the second bird, along the Restonica valley, showed brilliantly as it inspected a possible nest site below eye-level.

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius. Several birds at various sites on all dates.

Eurasian Magpie Pica pica. Several birds at Marseilles airport fed along the edge of the runway as we taxied after landing on 24th and 1st May.

Alpine Chough
Pyrrhocorax graculus. Seen in small or large flocks high above rocky mountain cliffs, often as distant specks, but along the Asco and the Restonica valleys with a bit of effort you could just pick out their yellow beaks. The biggest flock was 60 along the Verjellu.

Hooded Crow Corvus cornis. Extremely common throughout Corsica - annoyingly so when you are looking for large raptors!

Common Raven Corvus corax. Seen regularly, most often in twos or threes, and always in areas of cliffs or mountains.

Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus. A male seen by one of the leaders in trees by the hotel in the late afternoon of 29th, was luckily still present the next morning, and was joined by at least two others, both apparently females. Two more were seen briefly just west of the airfield on 1st May.

Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor. Common and widespread, but often in small parties associated with feeding cattle. The best views were actually in the grounds of the hotel near the coast.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus. Seen briefly at Marseilles airport on 24th

Italian Sparrow Passer [hispaniolensis/domesticus] italicus. The taxonomic affinities of this interesting 'form' are uncertain, with some placing it with Spanish Sparrow, others House. It may well be that in fact it is more than just a hybrid population, but it is common and widespread on Corsica.

Tree Sparrow Passer montanus. Despite being pleased to see one as we arrived at the coastal hotel on 28th, good numbers were seen on the following days often around the hotel.

Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs. Fairly common, with several seen on all dates.

European Serin Serinus serinus. Locally common, particularly near the coast.

Corsican Citril Finch Serinus corsicanus. Seen on all dates whilst in the mountains, with the largest flock being at least 80 strong south of Corte on 25th. Its distinctive call, rather nasal, is a good way to find it, but can also be confusing whilst looking for Corsican Nuthatch.

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris. Quite common and widespread; seen daily.

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis. Fairly common and widespread; seen daily in small numbers.

Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina. Two flew over at the lunch stop above the Etang d'Urbino on 28th.

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus. Noted on six dates, with good views to be had especially around the hotel at Corte, where a number of young birds frequented the rocky slopes by the road.

Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra. Locally common and widespread; noted on six dates in or around cultivated land.



AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES

Italian Pool Frog

Italian Wall Lizard

Hermann's Tortoise

Dark Green/Western Whipsnake

Moorish Gecko



BUTTERFLIES

Swallowtail

Scarce Swallowtail

Large White

Small White

Green-veined White

Orange-tip

Clouded Yellow

Brimstone

Cleopatra

Wood White

Green Hairstreak

Small Copper

Holly Blue

Common Blue

Green-underside Blue

Baton Blue

Brown Argus

Peacock

Red Admiral

Painted Lady

Nettle-tree Butterfly

Small Tortoiseshell

Large Tortoiseshell

Comma

Queen of Spain Fritillary

Comma

Small Heath

Corsican Heath



MOTHS

Silver Y

Pine Processionary

Hummingbird Hawk-moth



ORCHIDS

(Largely in the order seen)

Green-winged Orchid

Milky Orchid

Barton's Orchid

Pink Butterfly Orchid

Man Orchid

Dark Ophrys

Early Spider Ophrys

Long-spurred Orchid

Lady Orchid

Tongue Orchid Serapias lingua

Small-flowered Serapias Serapias parviflora

Heart-flowered Serapias Serapais cordigera

Scarce Serapias Serapias neglecta

Violet Bird’s Nest

Plough-share Serapias Serapias vomeracea

Dense-flowered Orchid

Heath Spotted Orchid (leaves only)



PLANTS

Corsica has at least 2000 species of wild plants. Many of these are also

found commonly in the British Isles (e.g. Common Poppy, Herb Robert, White

Clover etc.). I have not listed such plants here. This list includes

species that are either rare, uncommon or local in Britain or are absent

from the British wild flora altogether.

The numbers are the reference numbers used in Wild Flowers of the

Mediterranean by Marjorie Blamey and Christopher Grey-Wilson.

Species and sub-species (ssp.) marked with an 'E' are endemic to Corsica

(or to Corsica, Sardinia and/or the Balearics).

Species were widespread and frequently seen, unless indicated otherwise.

3 Pinus pinea Stone Pine, Umbrella Pine

4a E Pinus nigra ssp. laricio Corsican Pine

13 Juniperus communis Common Juniper

15 Juniperus oxycedrus Prickly 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

33 Cytinus ruber a parasite of pink cistus species near Barcaggio and Campile E Alnus cordata Green

Restonica Valley

39 Celtis australis Southern Nettle Tree near Ponte Leccia

42 Ficus carica Fig

46 E Urtica atrovirens a nettle

48 Urtica pilulifera Roman Nettle roadside near Macinaggio Rumex pulcher Fiddle Dock Corte

115 Carpobrotus edulis Hottentot Fig coastal areas

136 Paronychia argentea a paronychia roadsides around Corte

176 Silene gallica Small-flowered Catchfly

187 Kohlrauschia velutina Kohlrauschia

199 Laurus nobilis Laurel, Sweet Bay

201 E Helleborus argutifolius Corsican Hellebore in the mountains

205 Clematis flammula Fragrant Clematis near Campile

213 Anemone hortensis an anemone near Macinaggio and Campile E Pulsatilla alpina ssp. cyrnea a

pasque flower Verghello Valley

235 Ranunculus velutinus a buttercup

243 Ranunculus muricatus a buttercup

E Berberis aetnensis Spinella head of Restonica Valley

293 Glaucium flavum Yellow Horned-Poppy seashores

303 Fumaria capreolata Ramping Fumitory

310 Isatis tinctoria Woad common on roadsides

322 Arabis verna Spring Rockcress Corte

326 Matthiola sinuata Sea Stock Calzarella E Barbarea rupicola a wintercress Verghello Valley

361 Eruca sativa Eruca

363a Cakile maritima ssp. aegyptiaca Sea Rocket coastal areas

402 Pittosporum tobira Japanese Pittosporum

430 Cercis siliquastrum Judas Tree

432 Acacia dealbata Silver Wattle, Mimosa

439 Acacia cyanophylla Blue-leaved Wattle

454 Cytisus villosus a broom

464 E Genista corsica Corsican Broom maquis E Genista salzmannii ssp. lobeliodes a broom Asco Valley

483 Lupinus luteus Yellow Lupin near Bastia

486 Lupinus angustifolius Narrow-leaved Lupin

521 Vicia laxiflora Slender Tare

525 Vicia lutea Yellow Vetch

534 Vicia narbonensis a vetch Vicia tenuifolia a vetch

541 Lathyrus sphaericus a pea

544 Lathyrus setifolius a pea

553 Lathyrus aphaca Yellow Vetchling

605 Medicago marina Sea Medick seashores

618 Medicago polymorpha Toothed Medick

623 Medicago arabica Spotted Medick

640 Ornithopus pinnatus Orange Bird's-foot

658 Trifolium tomentosum Woolly Trefoil Barcaggio

661 Trifolium incarnatum Crimson Clover

662 Trifolium stellatum Star Clover

735 Oxalis pes-caprae Bermuda Buttercup around Bastia

743 Geranium rotundifolium Round-leaved Crane's-bill

746 Geranium columbinum Long-stalked Crane's-bill

749 Geranium lucidum Shiny Crane's-bill

777 Linum bienne Pale Flax

795 Euphorbia spinosa a spurge Capo Grosso

814a E Euphorbia pithyusa ssp. cupanii a spurge seashores

819 Euphorbia wulfenii Large Mediterranean Spurge

849a E Polygala nicaeensis ssp. corsica a milkwort Capo Grosso

865 Pistacia lentiscus Lentisc, Mastic Tree maquis

925 Viola alba ssp. dehnadtii Mediterranean White Violet

931 Viola kitaibeliana Dwarf Pansy Verghello Valley

942 Thymelaea hirsuta a thymelaea CapoGrosso

961 Cistus albidus Grey-leaved Cistus

962 Cistus creticus a cistus

965 Cistus salvifolius Sage-leaved Cistus

966 Cistus monspeliensis Narrow-leaved Cistus

1016 Tamarix africana a tamarisk

1019 Tamarix parviflora a tamarisk

1040 Opuntia ficus-indica Prickly Pear

1052 Myrtus communis Common Myrtle Cap Corse maquis

1060 Eucalyptus globulus Blue Gum

1073 Eryngium maritimum Sea Holly seashores

1087 Smyrnium olusatrum Alexanders abundant around Bastia

1097 Scandix pecten-veneris Shepherd's Needle

1141 Ferula communis Giant Fennel

1176 Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree

1178 Erica arborea Tree Heath

1198 Anagallis arvensis Scarlet Pimpernel - both red and blue forms

1207 Cyclamen repandum Spring Sowbread

1245 Fraxinus ornus Manna or Flowering Ash near Campile Blackstonia sp. an unidentified yellow-wort

Etang de Terrenzana

1260 Vinca major Greater Periwinkle

1305a E Rubia peregrina ssp. requienii Wild Madder

1315 Calystegia soldanella Sea Bindweed seashores

1331 Convolvulus althaeoides Mallow-leaved Bindweed north of Bastia

1383 Echium plantagineum Purple Viper's Bugloss

1395 Borago officinalis Borage very common E Stachys glutinosa a woundwort on rocks near Campile

1526 Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary

1528 Lavandula stoechas French Lavender

1545 Salvia verbenaca Wild Clary

1556 Hyoscyamus niger Henbane Corte car-park

1575 Datura stramonium Thornapple

1601 Verbascum sinuatum a mullein

1646 Veronica cymbalaria Cymbalaria-leaved Speedwell south of Corte

1651 Parentucellia viscosa Yellow Bartsia Etang d'Urbino

1652 Parentucellia latifolia a bartsia

1710 Sambucus ebulus Dwarf Elder Cathedrale de la Canonica

1711 Viburnum tinus Laurustinus Restonica Valley

1712 Lonicera etrusca Etruscan Honeysuckle

1805 Evax pygmaea Evax Barcaggio

1842 Dittrichia viscosa Aromatic Inula coastal areas E Santolina corsica a lavender cotton

1892 Otanthus maritimus Cottonweed seashores

1908 Calendula arvensis Field Marigold

1920 Carlina corymbosa Flat-topped Carline Thistle

1954 E Carduus cephalanthus a thistle near Barcaggio

1971 Galactites tomentosa Galactites

1982 Silybum marianum Milk Thistle

2032 Hyoseris radiata Hyoseris

2039 Urospermum dalechampii Urospermum Hypochaeris maculata Spotted Cat's-ear Corte

2089 Asphodelus aestivus Common Asphodel

2171 Ornithogalum umbellatum Star of Bethlehem near Campile

2180 E Brimeura fastigiata Brimeura Verghello Valley

2201 Muscari comosum Tassel Hyacinth

2212 Asparagus acutifolius an asparagus

2216 Asparagus maritimus Maritime Asparagus coastal areas

2222 Smilax aspera Common Smilax

2224 Allium roseum Rosy Garlic

2229 Allium triquetrum Three-cornered Leek

2230 Allium pendulinum a leek Corte riverside

2253 Agave americana Agave, Century Plant

2271 E Pancratium illyricum Illyrian Sea Lily near Corte & Campile 2276 Narcissus tazetta Polyanthus Narcissus near Corte

2308 Gladiolus illyricus Wild Gladiolus Barcaggio Romulea sp. an unidentified romulea Verghello Valley

2338 E Crocus corsicus Corsican Crocus in the mountains

2361 Arum italicum Large Cuckoo Pint Cathedrale de la Canonica

2377 Arisarum vulgare Friar's Cowl Etang d'Urbino

2386 Limodorum abortivum Violet Bird's-nest Orchid near Campile

2393 Neotinea maculata Dense-flowered Orchid near Campile

2395 Dactylorhiza sambucina Elder-flowered Orchid near Campile Dactylorhiza insularis Barton's Orchid

Verghello and near Campile

2399 Aceras anthropophorum Man Orchid Restonica and near Campile

2401 Orchis papilionacea Pink Butterfly Orchid

2403 Orchis morio Green-winged Orchid

2404 Orchis longicornu Long-spurred Orchid

2412 Orchis purpurea Lady Orchid Restonica Valley

2428 Ophrys sphegodes Early Spider Orchid near Corte Ophrys incubacea Dark Ophrys near Corte

2448 Serapias cordigera Heart-flowered Orchid Capo Grosso

2449 Serapias neglecta Scarce Serapias Barcaggio

2451 Serapias lingua Tongue Orchid

2452 Serapias parviflora Small-flowered Tongue Orchid Etang de Terrenzana

2460 Briza maxima Large Quaking Grass

2473 Lagurus ovatus Hare's-tail Grass

2494 Arundo donax Giant Reed

2530 Asplenium onopteris Acute-leaved Spleenwort south of Corte

A very short non-lepidopteran insect list (other than those printed on the

species checklist):

Lygaeus equestris a red-and-black groundbug Verghello Valley

Lygaeus saxatilis a red-and-black groundbug Verghello Valley

Xylocopa violacea Carpenter Bee

Cicindela hybrida a tiger beetle

Barcaggio

Oxythyrea funesta a chafer very common on flowers

Cetonia aurata Rose Chafer near Campile

Chrysomela populi Poplar Leaf Beetle near Corte

Following on from the previous week’s tour, how lucky we were with the weather!! Arrival in dull, wet conditions did not bode well and the drive to Corte was in heavy rain. We all went to bed that night expecting that these conditions might even prevail for a few more days at least. The next morning the clouds were clearing and generally speaking, kept away for the rest of our stay. Food, wine and wildlife were excellent too with lots of good birds (124 species in total) and flowers set off amid the stunning scenery of this ‘Isle de Beauté’.

I thank all of you clients for being such good company but I really should single out Richard who quite willingly provided the tour’s plant list. Thank you Richard for taking that on. I would also like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to my co-leader Brian Small; he provided the species accounts for this report and was jolly good company too. But most of all I would like to thank him for making me appear sane – well almost!!



Mike Read, April - May 2005




© The Travelling Naturalist & Limosa Holidays 2005