16th-23rd April 2000

by Simon Woolley and Julia Casson

See photo page here

We toured northern Corsica, with birds as the prime objective, and notably the endemics, near endemics and forms of taxonomic controversy. But we were also after plants, sunshine and superb scenery and walking.Weather wise, the 3rd week of April seems OK - our first day was appalling (low cloud and rain), but after that it improved every day, and ended up hot and sunny (24 degrees C?). The plants are also superb - loads of maquis specialities, including Provence, Tongue, Green-winged and Early Spider Orchids, and the scenery is among the best anywhere in Europe. If you fancy a low pressure Mediterranean break, with a (very) few very special birds, and lots of beaches/mountains/whatever, then Corsica could be for you!In terms of spring arrivals, we were a bit disappointed. Bee-eaters were only just arriving (we saw none...), and we had neither Woodchat nor Red-backed Shrike (though the former was seen by others). Migrants were about, but in quite low numbers. If you simply want greater diversity and higher numbers of birds, go to Spain. For instance, we saw only one Black Kite all week, plus no Acrocephalus warblers at all, and no ducks!We also failed on the true alpine mega-stars (Alpine Accentor, Wallcreeper, Snow Finch), since the snow was still quite low, and we couldn't penetrate the high mountains, although all three are reputed to be extremely hard anyway! No serious attempt was made for Moustached Warbler.I have not included here specific site details (except for ultra specifics on some of the specials), since there seems to be plenty of that information out there anyway. But do e-mail us if you could do with any further tips or details. Only too happy to help.The following systematic list follows Howard & Moore (1994) order, but there are some taxonomic variations from that list! For what its worth, I can't see Corsican Citril Finch being regarded as a sub-species for long!Potential splits, most recognized non-nominate sub-species, and forms with interesting or contentious taxonomic status are denoted by a '#'.

Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus

About 20 at Etang de Biguglia

Cory's Shearwater

Calonectris diomedea

Over 30 were off Barcaggio and Macinaggio, mostly quite close inshore


Mediterranean Shearwater

Puffinus yelkouan (yelkouan?)

Two were seen briefly off Macinaggio, but much more satisfactory was a feeding flock of over 300 off Scandola. These birds are highly distinctive, resembling Manx rather more than Balearic Shearwaters. From any range, they appear basically monochrome, without obvious buffy or pale brown tones

Northern Gannet

Morus bassanus

Two first year birds off Macinaggio

Great Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo

Two at Etang de Biguglia, and another at Scandola


European Shag

Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii

Around 25 off Cap Corse, and probably over 100 off Scandola

Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

One at Etang de Biguglia

Purple Heron

Ardea purpurea

One at Etang de Biguglia

Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

One, rather surprisingly, at Calvi, and another 10 or so at Etang de Biguglia


Pandion haliaeetus

Three separate sightings at Calvi, and three birds at Scandola. The birds here nest on offshore volcanic rock pinnacles - an extraordinary sight!

Black Kite

Milvus migrans

Only one seen, at a rubbish tip on Cap Corse

Red Kite

Milvus milvus

Notes daily in small numbers, max. 5+. Most common near Calvi


Gyptaeus barbatus

A subadult (probably 3rd or 4th year?) was seen at very close range in the Asco Valley. We were directed precisely by some French hikers who'd seen one earlier in the day, and connected within 30 seconds of arriving! From Haut Asco, descend about 4 km, and the road swings sharp left over a very narrow bridge, then hard right by a recent landslide. The bird favoured the obvious rock pinnacle just up the valley from here.

Montagu's Harrier

Circus pygargus

A subadult male was at Macinaggio

Marsh Harrier

Circus aeruginosus

A subadult male was at Macinaggio, and a further two were at Etang de Biguglia


Accipiter nisus

One in the Asco Valley, and another 2 at Calvi

Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis

One (probably a male) in the Fangu Valley


Buteo buteo

Seen almost daily, max. 5

Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

When all hope seemed gone, one was located soaring high over the Gorge de Restonica, about 1 km below the highest car park

Common Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

Seen daily, max. 3

Eurasian Hobby

Falco subbuteo

One hunting at dusk over Calvi

Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

One over Calvi, and a further 3 sightings at Scandola

Red-legged Partridge

Alectoris rufa

A total of seven was noted

Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus

A very few noted at the foetid lagoon near Galeria and at Calvi

Common Coot

Fulica atra

Only noted at Etang de Biguglia, where perhaps 50 were seen


Haematopus ostralegus

Two at Etang de Biguglia

Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus

Two at the foetid lagoon near Galeria

Ringed Plover

Charadrius hiaticula

One flew past at Barcaggio

Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius

Two at the foetid lagoon near Galeria

Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia

One at the foetid lagoon near Galeria

Green Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus

One at the foetid lagoon near Galeria

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

One on the rocks at Scandola

Audouin's Gull

Larus audouinii

About 10 around Cap Corse, and another at Etang de Biguglia. All the birds were adults


Yellow-legged Gull

Larus (cachninnans?) michahellis

Very common all around the coast

Rock Pigeon

Columba livia

Many feral birds, but potential candidates for 'the real thing' were at Cap Corse and Scandola

Common Wood Pigeon

Columba palumbus

About 25 seen, mostly in the upland areas

European Turtle Dove

Streptopelia turtur

A total of six was noted

Collared Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

Common everywhere

Common Cuckoo

Cuculus canorus

Two heard near Calvi

Scops Owl

Otus scops

Heard every night from the hotel - but despite searching, no sightings!

Short-eared Owl

Asio flammeus

One was picked up at about a mile's range off Macinaggio, and took a good ten minutes to come close enough to be identified. Has anyone else watched a Short-eared Owl being mobbed by Audouin's Gulls?

Alpine Swift

Apus (Tachymarptus?) melba

Ten near Galeria, and another 20 or so near Calvi

Common Swift

Apus apus

Numbers built steadily through the week, and by Easter, very common

European Bee-eater

Merops apiaster

Two heard only in flight over a low pass on the Galeria road south of Calvi


Upopa epops

Five noted at widely scattered localities


Great Spotted Woodpecker

Dendrocopos (Picoides?) major harterti ('parroti')

Very common, in a wide variety of habitats, from dense forest to open maquis

Wood Lark

Lullula arborea

About ten noted in open agricultural habitats and maquis

Sand Martin

Riparia riparia

One at Macinaggio

Eurasian Crag Martin

Ptyonoprogne rupestris

Quite common in all upland areas

Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

Seen daily in varying numbers, max. c.600

House Martin

Delichon urbica

Up to 50 seen on all days bar one

Blue-headed Wagtail

Motacilla flava

A total of 18 noted, with most at Macinaggio

Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea

Noted frequently in the Asco and Restonica Valleys , and also in the Fangu Valley

White Wagtail

Motacilla alba

About 5 on the beach at Macinaggio

Meadow Pipit

Anthus pratensis

Two noted at Macinaggio

Tree Pipit

Anthus trivialis

Four at Macinaggio

Water Pipit

Anthus spinoletta

Three at Haut Asco and another 8 or so at the head of the Gorge de Restonica


Northern Wren

Troglodytes troglodytes koenigi

Heard every day, and seen a few times. Obviously warmer, plainer brown than the British form


European Robin

Erithacus rubecula sardus

About a dozen or so noted

Common Nightingale

Luscinia megarhynchos

About 5 heard, and one finally seen on the last day

Black Redstart

Phoenicurus ochruros

A pair was at the top of Gorge de Restonica

Common Redstart

Phoenicurus phoenicurus

A total of 4 noted at various sites


Saxicola rubetra

Nine noted at various sites

Common Stonechat

Saxicola torquata

Seven noted at various sites

Northern Wheatear

Oenanthe oenanthe

Two at Haut Asco, 2 males at Macinaggio, and another 2 at Scandola

Blue Rock Thrush

Monticola solitarius

A male at the head of the Gorge de Restonica, and a female just south of Calvi

Common Blackbird

Turdus merula

Seen frequently

Mistle Thrush

Turdus viscivorus

Three noted, in the Asco and Restonica Valleys

Cetti's Warbler

Cettia cetti

About 7 heard, with most at Etang de Biguglia

Willow Warbler

Phylloscopus trochilus

One at Macinaggio, and another in song near Calvi

Common Chiffchaff

Phylloscopus collybita

About 10 noted


Sylvia atricapilla

Common in a variety of habitats

Common Whitethroat

Sylvia communis

Three males noted

Sardinian Warbler

Sylvia melanocephala

Noted almost daily in low maquis and scrub

Subalpine Warbler

Sylvia cantillans

About 12 singing males noted, mostly in quite tall and shrubby maquis


Dartford Warbler

Sylvia undata undata

Three seen and another heard in scrubby maquis. This form is rather grey, though not particularly dark, and lacks entirely the brownish upperparts of British birds


Marmora's Warbler

Sylvia sarda sarda

Found to be common in almost any patch of low maquis, notably on Cap Corse and near Belgodere


Regulus ignicapillus

About four singing males in the Fangu Valley



Regulus regulus interni

Frequently recorded, mostly in areas of pine forest

Pied Flycatcher

Ficedula hypoleuca

Five noted around Calvi


Long-tailed Tit

Aegithalos caudatus irbii

Five noted, mostly in upland areas, but also in the lower Fangu Valley


Coal Tit

Parus ater sardus

Very common in all areas with pines


Great Tit

Parus major corsus

Abundant throughout


Blue Tit

Parus caeruleus ogliastrae

Not common - a max. of 3 per day

Corsican Nuthatch

Sitta whiteheadi

At least one singing male heard, and a female seen, in very poor weather conditions at Col de Sorba. A singing male showed superbly in far better weather at Haut Asco. From the foot of the car park, head immediately off to the left past a refuge hut, then follow the orange waymarked trail for about 200m - the bird showed in the tree tops downslope from here


Eurasian Treecreeper

Certhia familiaris corsa

About six noted, mostly in the uplands

Corn Bunting

Emberiza calandra

About 20 singing males noted, mostly in agricultural areas


Cirl Bunting

Emberiza cirlus nigrostriata

Common in all habitats

Common Chaffinch

Fringilla coelebs

Abundant throughout

European Serin

Serinus serinus

Common in all habitats


Corsican Citril Finch

Serinus (citrinella?) corsicanus

Noted in a wide variety of habitats, but most common at Haut Asco, where upwards of 30 were seen

European Greenfinch

Carduelis chloris

Seen daily, but in low numbers

Eurasian Siskin

Carduelis spinus

A few in upland areas, notably Haut Asco, where about 20 were present


European Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis tschusii

Very common throughout

Common Linnet

Carduelis cannabina

Ten noted in the lowland areas


Common Crossbill

Loxia curvirostra corsicana

A flock of about 10 was seen briefly at Haut Asco


Italian Sparrow

Passer (hispaniolensis? /domesticus?) italiae

Very common in the lowlands and around habitation

Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus

Noted in very small numbers around Calvi harbour

Spotless Starling

Sturnus unicolor

Up to 25 noted daily

Eurasian Jay

Garrulus glandarius

Noted daily, in a variety of habitas, from pine forests to low maquis

Black-billed Magpie

Pica pica

Just one seen, on the beach at Etang de Biguglia

Yellow-billed Chough

Pyrrhocorax graculus

10+ seen in the Asco and Restonica Valleys, and more surprisingly, one just south of Calvi at c. 200m

Hooded Crow

Corvus corone cornix

Common throughout

Common Raven

Corvus corax

Up to 10 seen daily