Monthly Archives: August 2005

Corsica and Sardinia 4th to 14th of August 2005

Corsica and Sardinia 4th-14th of August 2005

In the beginning there was…

Work, work and work… But finally there came a holiday. We had been planning a trip to Azerbaijan but we had to cancel that, so we hadn’t too much time to arrange a new trip. After all we decided to make an easier trip and our destination became Corsika and Sardinia. In these islands there were a couple of endemics to get as a lifer. So I had found all the information from the internet, contacted to some birdwatchers who had visited these islands and then Hanna ordered us the flying tickets – the cheapest ones from Ryan Air. The cheapest way to get to Corsica was to fly first to London Stansted and then to Sardinia Alghero. So we could do some birding in Sardinia too.

While planning the trip we knew our schedule will be tight. Our holiday wasn’t too long and then we didn’t know if Hanna has to start working. We asked ”Potu” (Miika Suojarinne) to join us, and he was ready to get some lifers.

After we had came bach home from Lapland and Varanger where we had lead a nature course, we had only a couple of days before our flights. Somehow we made it and on the 4th of August on 10 a.m. we started our way towards Tampere. First we drove to Mikkeli to pick up Potu and then we headed towards Tampere.

Again not the easiest way

Because we weren’t in hurry we did some birdwatching on the way to Tampere. Kangasniemi Pukkiselkä and Joutsa Keskisenlampi birdtowers were places we had never heard before. Well there were nothing special. In the evening we spent half an hour also in Tampere Tarastejärvi rubbish tip where were thousands of gulls. We couldn’t find any Caspian Gulls only some Heuglin’s. We were early at Tampere-Pirkkala airport and our flight to London Stanstediä left 10.35 p.m.

At 11.30 p.m we landed to Stansted where we slept on the floor until our flight to Sardinia Alchero left 6.25 a.m. Well we didn’t sleep very well so, we managed to see a couple od English-ticks, for example Pied Wagtail and Carrion Crow.

After a long trip to Corsica

At 9.40 a.m we landed to Alghero, and from the good information point we got the information how to get north to Santa Teresa de Gallura which was the place to catch the ferry to Corsica Bonifacio.

Soon we were sitting in a bus which drove through the nice costal landscapes towards the most northern tip of Sardinia. Ofcourse we started to keep the list of the birds and it was not only Hooded Crows, Italian Sparrows, Gold Finche, Collared Doves and Yellow-legged Gulls but we saw also a Red-rumped Swallow, Lesser Kestrels, Eleonoras Falcons and a Mediterranean Shrike.

In the afternoon we arrived at Santa Teresa and we walked with all our luggages, after we had watched some spotless Starling, to the harbour. We bought the tickets to next ferry and after an hour we were on our way to Corsica.

We did seawatrching during an hour ferry trip and we managed to see 25 Scopoli’s Shearwaters.

In Bonifacio we ate a little in harbour café and then walked to the city. We walked immidiately to car rental but we couldn’t get the car which we had ordered from Finland because we hade became a day too early. We hadn’t been sure to get to Corsica this quickly. So we had to walk to the nearest camping area – the local hotels were far too expencive.

In the evening we walked to Bonifacio which was a beautiful town. Up on the hill there was an old city where we ate a local food in a small but confortable restaurant. Of course we saw some birds too: Crag Martins, Alpine and Pallid Swifts, a lifer Mediterranean Flycatcher and many new subspecies like Blue Tit, Blackbird and Blackcap.
After a long day we slept very well in our tent.

Birding starts – well

On the 6h of August we woke up because of the flock of Long-tailed Tits that were calling. A Wren was singing when we packed our tent and walked to the car rental. We had a big Renault Megane and while filling the trunk with our luggages we saw a Sardinian and a Subalpine Warbler. Soon we were driving north – it was about the time to start the real birding.

In the beginning we did some stops because of the trip-ticks. Some of the birds were lifers for Potu and other were new subspecies for us all: Cirl Buntings, Red Kites, Common Buzzards, Sparrowhawks etc.

We tried to get to the mountains to Restonica Valley, but we had planned to do some birding on the way. We had some information where to stop, but after all we didn’t need any information. After we had found the first Corsican Pines we decided to stop to when we found a nice forest place in Col del Sorba. And it took only a couple of minutes to find the couple of endemic Corsican Nuthatches. We used the CD-player to find these birds which were all the time moving on the top of the Pines, so they were really difficult to photograph.

We were happy to watch these endemic Nuthatches for some fifteen minutes which were hiding very well inside the top of the Pines. Hanna managed to get pictures but these birds were too quickly for me and Potu to digiscope.

Our next stop was made when we realized what was the maquish that was told to be the biotop for a Marmora’s Warbler. We checked carefully these first good looking, less than 1 meter high, dence bushes and soon we found the young Marmora’s Warbler. With the CD we managed to see this bird extremely well and again Hanna managed to get pictures. The bird was also calling all the time which made the identification easier. So we had already found 2 of 3 endemics! We also found a family of local Treecreepers.

We had another stop for Marmora’s Warblers in Vizzonia that was told to be good for them but we couldn’t find any. Soon we continued towards the Restonica Valley.

At Restonica Valley

The road to Restonica Valley was something amazing! Even though I have been driving very narrow and curvy roads before, this was the worst ever! I am happy Potu was driving. The road was so narrow and there was lots of traffic. We saw only one car losing its side-mirror ans ones sombody lunatic came towards us friving our line in a curve. Actually there was only space for one line but he was on our side. Somehow Potu managed to drive through the Valley and after an hour driving we were in the end of the road.

We decided to climb higher to the mountains. In the beginning of the walk it seemed there were almost no birds at all but when sun started to set birds started to show up. First good observation was really good one: I found aBearded Vulture flying towards the mountains! We could see this bird only for a couple of seconds before it flew behind the edges. After a couple of seconds we saw an eagle coming exactly from the place we thought that the Bearded Vulture would come visible again, but it seemed to be so small… It was a Golden Eagle – what the §U{{! Luckily Hanna realized that our Bearded vulture had turned and was flying to totally different direction, and we could see it quite well. It is really the most beautiful bird in Europe.

A Little bit later we found a flock of Alpine Choughs – a lifer for us. After all we saw a hundred of them and also a couple of Water Pipits, a Grey Wagtail, another Golden Eagle and when we were back in the parking place we saw a Bonelli’s Eagle. So our first evening in mountains had been much better than we had expected.

It was nice to drive back from Restonica when there was no traffic at all. We ate at Corte where we also saw atleat 6 Nightjars catching butterflies on the top of church.

It was very late when we continued to Haut Asco. The valley-road was not so narrow, so we drove to the end of the road. On the way we saw a Quail that left from the road and a funny family of Scops Owls. Finally we reached the Camping place at the end of the road but there were no good places left. So we had to sleep in our speeping bahs at the parking place. The night was cold and windy so some of us managed to sleep, I didn’t. Well I could listen Scops Owls calling.

Mountain climbing

In the morning our sleeping bags were wet because of the moisture. The sun was rising when we warmed up in car and soon we were ready to go mountain climbing. We decide to climb up to the nearest mountain by different route that most of the birders had walked before. So we took the steepest patch behind the hotel.

Right a way we reached to Corsican Pine forest we heard several Coal Tits and some Goldcrests. a Grey Wagtail flew over us and up over the mountains we saw a couple of flocks of Alpine Choughs. After 20 minutes climbing we saw a small bird flying to the top of one big Pine and there it was again – a Corsican Nuthatch. Soon we realized there were several Nuthatches – a family. Again they were hiding very well in the top of the trees.

The climbing was really hard! There were almost no birds, but we knew any bird there should be a good one. After three hours climbing the landscape was just rocky. Only birds were Alpine Choughs and now we saw them close. Ones we saw a possibly Rock Sparrow flying over us but it was a little bit too far.

After four hours climbing Hanna decided to turn around because she had some problems with her knee. Anyway we decided to continue to the top with Potu. Soon we saw a female Rock Thrush and after an hour we reached the top of the mountain. There on the top we suddenly heard saome Linnet-like calling and three Corsican Citril Finched passed us. The wind was really hard so the birds just disappeared.

The way back down was quick. So Hanna whi had seen a flock of Common Crossbills didn’t have to wait too long. Soon we were driving towards Ponte Leccia.
We passed Ponte Leccian, where everything were closed because of the siesta. We continued to western coast, passed Basta and reached Etang de Bigulgia lagoon. And there we could add lots of new species to our trip-tick list.

Lagoon had hundreds of Coot and Great Crested Grebes, lots of Little Grebes, some Grey Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets and a couple of Marsh Harries. Fan-tailed Warblers and Cetti’s Warblers were beeping on the bushed and reeds, a Mediterranean Shrike, Oystercatchers, Black Terns and a Little Gull were also seen. But then we felt we hadn’t been drinking enough – and we were also really tired. So we did some shopping and drove to the nearest camping area.

While putting up our tent we saw an Eleonora’s Falcon flying by, in Pine trees there were some Common Crossbills with Chaffinched, Blackcaps, Great and Blue Tits, Blackbirds and Collared Doves.

Capo Corse

In the morning of 8th of August we had planned to wake up early, but it was raining so we decided to sleep a little longer. Luckily the rain stopped soon and we went again to check the best places in Etang de Bigulgia lagoon. We knew we could find some new species because we were there in the morning but we found more than we had thought: an Auduoin’s Gull, a Mediterranean Gull, a Golden Eagle, a Kingfisher, 6 Black-throated Grebes, a Marsh Harrier, Reed Warblers were singing and from the fields and its ditches nearby we found an Eleonora’s Falcon, Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, Turtle Doves, Moorhens and a couple of calling Quails.

It was still early we continued to north to Capo Corsea. Potu was already driving like in Corsican rally. The costal road was beautiful. We headed up to the most north-western part of the island to Macinaggio. On the way we saw not only views but also some Blue Rock Thrushes and Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers.
Finally we reached Macinaggio, which was full of tourists because it had a beach. Al beaches were full of people in these days. Well we had something better to do, so we walked through the beach to the rocky coasts maquish.

We knew the area good for Dartford and Marmora’s Warblers but in the beginning we found only Subalpine and Sardinian Warblers. After some walking in a bushes which were full of needles we found the first adult Marmora’s Warbler which was in full moult and the first Dartfords. We heard several of both species more but they were impossible to find from the longer bushes.

We walked a couple of hours in the coast and ebecause the weather was extremely hot we couldn’t see a lot: an Auduoin’s Gull, Scopoli’s Shearwater, 4 Tawny Pipits, Red-backed Shrike and some more warblers.

In the afternoon we decided to drive back to Haut Asco, because we had to spend one more day in the mountains. We never can get enough from mountains and we had still to find Corsican Citril Finches for Hanna.

The way to Bastia by driving the western costal road was fast. On the way we saw a couple of Gannets flying over the sea. We passed Bastia and Bigulgia lagoon and turned towards the mountanous central part of the island. We ate at Ponte Leccia and then continued to Ascon Valley road again. This time we didn’t want to sleep on the parking place so we chose the first camping site which was in Moltifao, before the half-way of the Valley road.

An another day climbing

We wake up early so we could drive to Haut Asco before other tourists. Potu got his only big cup of coffee during the whole trip in the restaurant and after that we were ready for climbing again. Now we decided to follow the old ski-elevators. We had walked only a little when we saw a flock of 7 Corsican Citril Finches flying cross the valley – so everyone of us had seen all the endemics now!

We continued climbing for a couple of hours and now we found good maquish for warblers. We found several Marmora’s, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Stonechats, Robins and Wrens. Coal Tits were calling in the Corsican Pines, a couple of Common Crossbills flew over us and on the top of the mountains flocks of Alpine Choughs were flying.

We climbed up to the top of old elevatoers where were excellent edges for a Wallcreeper. We were whistling and scanning the edges but only Potu heard ones something that culd hve been a Wallcreeper. We heard some voices of Corsican Citril Finches from the bushes but we couldn´t see them, only a Wheatear and some Black Redstarts. When we had walked back to the parking place we heard a call of a Corsican Nuthatch from the Corsican Pines. So Haut Asco was the place to get all endemics in one day!

We had been in contact with our good Swiss friend Mike Schaad who also was in Corsica with his girlfriend. We had planned to meet them in the evening in Propriano – on the opposite side of the island.

We decided to try if the western highway would be the fastest way to drive even though it wasn’t the shortest. So we drove directly down to Etang d’ Urbino. In this lagoon we saw a Mediterranean Gull, some new trip-tick waders, Common Tern and so on before we continued south.

While driving we realized couldn’t make it to Propriano in time, so we called Mike who also had bad news: We couldn’t stay tehere in the same camping area because the area was ran out of water- they had closed the whole camping area!

So when we arrived at Propriano and even though it was already late we had to find another camping area and go to eat in a restaurant before we could meet Mike. Finally at 11 p.m. we met Mike and Lea near the gate of their camping area. It was good to see them! We had a good time with them for a couple of hours. Mike got good instructions how to find the endemics, but soon we were all too tired so we had to move on. We had a busy morning to come. Scops Owl was calling when we said goodbyes to Mike and Lea and started our way to our own camping area.

To Sardinia

In the morning we drove early to Bonifacio, which was very crowd. Luckily our car rental was before the town so we avoided the worst traffic jam. Then we walked to the harbour which wasn’t easy because of the luggages and the heat.

We had planned to leave at 2.30 p.m ferry but luckily there was a ferry already 12 o’clock. Again we did seawatching the whole ferrytrip and now we were lucky to see not only Scopoli’s Shearwaters but also 2 Yelkoyan’s Shearwaters.

At Sardinina, Santa Teresa, our bus that was leaving 4 p.m. was already waiting for customers. So we could leave our luggages to the bus and go to have a look at the town. We ate in the seafood restaurant and the pasta was excellent.

Only Potu wasn’t sleeping in the bus when we drove to Alghero airport, so only he could see some Eleonora’s Falcons again.

At Alghero airport we went to car rental took a big Ford Mondeon for 2 days and then we drove to Fertilia village to a camping place. The camping was near a Fertilia Lagoon.

When we were in the camping area a beutiful maid told us in italy, which we of course couldn’t understand, where to put our tent and so on. Only thing we clearly understood, and which was the most important thing, was that the insects which were calling really loud would be quiet at night. My telephone told that they called as loud as 81 dezibels.

In the evening we tried to load our camera-batteries but the plugs were wrong. We ate in the camping sites own pizzeria and when we walked back to our tent we saw a nightjar. And happily we realized there was something different – the insects realy were quiet.

Birding nearby

On the 11th of August in early morning we drove about 30 kilometers to Capo Caccia, where we found easily what we were looking for – Barbary Partridges. Because of we were the first car on the road we saw several flock of these partridges running across the road to the rocks.

In Capo Caccia we disappointed because all the interesting looking places were military areas. So we just walked shortly around the area where we could walk. Even the weather was extremely foggy and dark, the views were great. A family of Peregrine Falcons were flying around, warblers were calling, Wrens were singing and Crag Martins flying in front of us.

We continued to north to Lake Baratz, which we knew was a good place for ducks. When we were walking to the lake we heard calls od Moorhens, Coots and Little Grebes and there were lots of them. We found also 5 Black-winged Stilts, 2 Grey Herons, 5 Pochards, 2 female Red-crested Pochards and a dark morph Eleonora’s Falcon was flying around.

Our next destination were salinas in Stintino. We didn’t expect too much and we found just those species we expected: Kentish Plovers and Selnder-billed Gulls – anyway lifers for Potu again.

Because the places were checked much quicker than we had thought, we drove back to Fertilia by small roads. We found a rubbish tip which was full of gulls, Yellow-legged but also a Lesser Blackbacked Gull. Farming areas had Serins, Stonechats, Fan-tailed Warblers, a Marsh Harrier, Bee-eaters and finally the first flock of Corn Buntings for our trip.

In Fertilia we checked the lagoon where were a couple of Little Terns, a Sandwich Tern, a Kingfisher and some waders. In the evening we were really tired so we just relaxed. We had only one day left.

The last birding day

We started our last birding day early and we drove through Alghero city towards south. After some 30 kilometers we reached Bosa hills. A big flock of Barbary Partridges made us stop even though we had planned to came back to Bosa on our way back. Soon we found the first Griffon Vultures gliding on the top of the hills. They are just like flying carpets.

We continued to inland and Ottana, where we knew should be Little Bustards and other birds of that kind of biotop. Well we all had seen a Little Bustard also in Finland so we were even more interested to see other species.

After a difficult way we found Ottana but we never found the bustards. Mediterranian Shrikes were everywhere, warblers were calling and I managed to see a Spectacled Warbler briefly. Later we searched also some farming areas nearby and we found Hoopoes, Stonechats and Bee-eaters but soon we decided to drive back to Bosa. We wanted to photograph vultures and partridges.

We decided to drive different roads and luckily we found a feeding place of Griffon’s Vultures. Hanna managed to get good pictures while we were trying to do binoscoping with Potu. Three species of Swifts were also present.

The Griffons weren’t in Bosa now, but soon the birds which we had seen leaving the feeding place arrived. But the birds were all the time flying on the top of the hills, so we couldn’t get pictures anymore. So we drove back to Fertilia to have another look at the lagoon. There we found, as our last tick from Sardinia, an Osprey which was extremely pale.

We drove to the airport early and waited for our flight to London that left 8.40 p.m.

Some more waiting and then to twitch

We landed to London 10.10 p.m. and there we had 17 hours wait before our flight to Tampere! Se we slept again on the floor in our sleeping bags and we weren’t disturbed even 5 a.m. there were atleast 400 people in check-ins!

We spent the day also in the airport. Hanna was reading the new Harry Potter in English, so we could slip out with Potu. We left Hanna to keep eye of our luggages and had a short walk around the Stansted airport. Abd we were surpriced to see quite a lot of English-ticks: 29 species. Green Woodpecker, Cormorant, Stock Dove ja uuttukyyhky were amongst them.

On 13th of August at 5.20 p.m. our flight left to Tampere where we landed 10.10 p.m. We were already so tired that we could have never driven to Parikkala. Luckily we knew there had been a Roller in Pori so we decided to drive 100 kilometers to opposite direction so we could twitch this Finnish-lifer in the next morning.
After an hour driving we bought something to eat from a grill and drove to Toukari birdtowers parking place to sleep.

Quality birding

I woke up before Hanna and Potu because my bad sleeping bad was again wet! But before the sun rose we were driving to twitch a Roller. It took some time to find the right place but when we found it the Roller was already waiting for us. It was perching on an electris line.

The weather was bad so we just took the document pictures and we decided to go to do some more birding and then come back to try to get better pictures. First we went to Kirrinsanta which was told to be the best place for waders because of the high tide.

There weren’t many waders in Kirrinanta but Caspian Terns and Little Terns were year-ticks. Next we continued to Preiviikki where had been Montagu’s Harriers breeding. After some waiting we found 4 young Montagus Harriers. We tried to get some pictures of them but we couldn’t get very good ones. A flock of Barnacle Geese were easier to photograph. After all we went back to photograph a Roller and we managed to get some good ones before we ran out of batterys!

In the afternoon we started our long drive to across the Finland to east. Soon we passed Tampere again where we had to come back again after a couple of days because we were going to British Bird Fair to England.

In Lahti we saw a Red-footed Falcon crossing the road but the place was impossible to stop – so we just continued. In the evening we dropped Potu in Mikkeli, went to see my grandmother for a half an hour and continued to Parikkala. 11 p.m. we finalle arrived at home and we were extremely tired! We had had good trip again and we had seen everything we had hoped. But now it was good to get bed to sleep – first time for 10 days!