Corsica. April 30th May 17th A Trip Report by Tim Hajda

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1 Corsica April 30th May 17th 2012 A Trip Report by Tim Hajda

2 Introduction Corsica is a stunningly beautiful French island in the western Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to its relatively low population density (90 people per square mile) and large amount of protected areas, much of Corsica remains fairly undeveloped. Corsica has many bird highlights: one endemic (Corsican Nuthatch), several regional endemics and endemic subspecies, and a nice variety of southern European species. With its straightforward public transportation system and numerous campgrounds, I decided that Corsica would be a good destination for my first trip to Europe. Last May I spent 15 days birding around Corsica using public transportation and tent-camping most nights at campgrounds. Overall the trip was a success: the weather was great, there were very few logistical issues, and the scenery was fantastic. I ended up with a fair 90 species, including the nuthatch and all of the regional endemics. Difficulties included covering large distances on foot, not knowing French, and poor access to food. Most of the bird misses were migrants and high-altitude species. Itinerary April 30 Depart Grand Island May 1 Arrive in Nice May 2 Nice to Bastia May 3 Bastia to Étang de Biguglia May 4 Étang de Biguglia May 5 Étang de Biguglia to Restonica Valley May 6 Restonica Valley May 7 Restonica Valley May 8 Corte May 9 Corte to Bonifacio May 10 Bonifacio May 11 Bonifacio May 12 Bonifacio to Porto-Vecchio May 13 Porto-Vecchio May 14 Porto-Vecchio May 15 Porto-Vecchio to Bastia May 16 Bastia to Nice May 17 Nice to Grand Island Flights I booked my round-trip Grand Island to Nice flight directly on the American Airlines website. The total was $910.80, which was actually a better price than I was able to find on any of the consolidator websites. Ferry After doing some research, I figured the cheapest way for me to get to Corsica would be to fly into Nice and then take the ferry operated by Corsica Ferries to Bastia. I purchased the ferry tickets on the Corsica Ferries website. They cost round-trip. The ferries boarded at the Corsica Ferries terminals at the

3 ports in Nice and Bastia. Getting Around For most of the trip, I used the train and bus system to cover the long distances and then walked the rest of the time. Trains: the train network in Corsica is limited (map: and infrequent but it got me where I needed to go. I rode from Furiani to Corte and then Corte to Ajaccio. The Furiani station was closed when I got there, so when I got on the train I was asked where I wanted to go and then my fare was calculated on a little machine. It was around 9. When I got on at Corte, I was able to purchase a ticket at the ticket counter in the station. It was I got the timetables and other information off of this website: There were also timetables posted at all of the stations and at some of the campgrounds. Buses: there were no buses running when I arrived in Nice due to Labor Day, so I walked from the airport to the hostel. To get to the airport for my return flight on my way home I took the airport express bus from Place Massena to the airport for 4. I got my Nice bus travel information from the hostel staff. The buses on Corsica were nice and comfortable albeit expensive. I took a bus from Ajaccio to Bonifacio ( 22), from Bonifacio to Porto-Vecchio ( 9), from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia ( 22). I got my route information and timetables off of this website: Accommodation I chose to sleep in my tent at campgrounds as much as possible to cut down on costs. The Corsican campgrounds were quite nice with hot showers, electricity, washing sinks, and helpful staff. I also spent two nights in a hostel in Nice and one night in a hotel in Bastia because there were no campgrounds near enough to the ferry ports. I found all of the accommodations using Google. Nice: Villa Saint Exupery Beach Hostel. Website: Bastia: Camping L Arinella/Camping Les Sables Rouges. No website but here s a map: Hotel Posta Vecchia. Website: Étang de Biguglia: Camping San Damiano. Website: Restonica Valley: Camping de Tuani. Website: Corte: Camping le Restonica. No website but here s a map: Bonifacio: Camping l Araguina. Website: Porto-Vecchio: Camping U Stabiacciu. Website: Food I purchased most of my food at supermarkets, sandwich shops, pizzerias, and bakeries. Getting food was a challenge while I was staying at the more remote campgrounds, namely Camping San Damiano by Étang de Biguglia and Camping Tuani in the Restonica Valley, as they were relatively far from any supermarkets or restaurants. If you are on foot and are staying at campgrounds out of the towns, be sure to bring plenty of food with you. Also, most businesses are closed on Sundays, so plan accordingly. Equipment and Other Resources

4 I brought along my spotting scope and tripod, which proved to be more of a burden than an asset due to the extra weight and bulkiness. It was great to have at Étang de Biguglia and while seawatching at Bonifacio, but I didn t use it very much the rest of the time. It really was a pain to lug around and I would discourage anyone travelling by foot and public transportation from bringing theirs along unless they re planning on spending the majority of their time looking at far away waterbirds. I got a lot of my site information from various trip reports on the Travelling Birder website. Unfortunately the website has been down recently and I don t recall the authors names. I purchased the Lonely Planet Corsica guidebook which proved to be fairly useless. I ended up leaving it at home. It s mostly full of information on touristy spots, hotels, and restaurants. Birding Sites Nice: I wandered around the Place Masséna and the Cimetière du Château before catching the ferry. Just city birds around most of Nice. The Cimetière had a lot of trees and was a good introduction to some of the common woodland species. Nice-Bastia Ferry: There were several open decks where I could scan the sea. However, there were no birds until we started down the eastern side of Cap Corse, where I got brief but good looks at Yelkouan and Cory s shearwaters. Étang de Biguglia: You probably need a car to make the most of this huge wetland. I was only able to cover a small part of the eastern side but did end up with some very nice birds. There is a footpath that runs along the Route de la Lagune; I walked along that and scoped the lagoon from any open areas in the trees (which were few). I also walked a short ways west on the dead-end dirt road that goes out onto the peninsula. A scope is essential here as most of the birds were quite far away. Restonica Valley: The majority of the pine woodland is in the upper part of the valley. I walked along the main road (D623) and hiked the trail that climbs the ridge to the north towards a couple sheepfolds and eventually the Refuge de la Sega; the latter was definitely the most productive for birds for me (specifically Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Finch). You ll probably need a car to get to the really high altitude trailheads at the end of the road. It was too far for me to walk so I missed a lot of the alpine species. Bonifacio: For maquis-dwelling species I focused on the area northwest of Bonifacio along N196. I wandered around some trails south of the road and didn t come up with much. The maquis south of the road was very tall and lush so I walked north onto D60. The maquis around here was much shorter and sparser and fortunately turned up all of my targets (Red-legged Partridge, European Turtle Dove, and Dartford and Marmora s warblers). For sea-watching in Bonifacio, I found the best spot to be the overlook right beneath the entrance to the citadel, where I got fantastic looks at both shearwaters. Porto-Vecchio: This portion of the trip was mostly focused on the wonderful beaches of the area. It was a more developed area and most of the birds were just the common species. List of birds observed Red-legged Partridge 4 north of Bonifacio (5/10) Common Pheasant 1 north of Bonifacio (5/11) Mute Swan 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4) Mallard 4 in Nice (5/2); 6 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4, 5/5) Red-crested Pochard 2 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4)

5 Cory s Shearwater 1 near Cap Corse (5/2); 8 in Bonifacio (5/12) Yelkouan Shearwater 12 near Cap Corse (5/2); 30 in Bonifacio (5/12) Little Grebe 10 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4) Great Crested Grebe 30 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4, 5/5) Greater Flamingo 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/5) Grey Heron 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/5), 1 in Bastia (5/15) Purple Heron 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4) Great Egret 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/5) Little Egret 4 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4, 5/5); 1 near Porto-Vecchio (5/13) European Shag 8 north of Bonifacio (5/10); 8 in Bonifacio (5/11, 5/12) Red Kite all areas on Corsica Western Marsh Harrier 2 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4) Common Buzzard 3 at Étang de Biguglia (5/3, 5/4); 2 in Restonica Valley (5/5); 1 in Bonifacio (5/10) Common Kestrel all areas Common Moorhen 3 at Étang de Biguglia (5/3, 5/5) Eurasian Coot 150 at Étang de Biguglia (5/3-5/5); 4 near Porto-Vecchio (5/13) Common Sandpiper 2 south of Bastia (5/3) Black-headed Gull 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/5) Audouin s Gull 1 in Bastia (5/15) Yellow-legged Gull all coastal areas Stercorarius sp. 1 near Cap Corse (5/2) Rock Dove all cities as well as some pairs nesting on seacliffs in Bonifacio Common Wood Pigeon 3 in Nice (5/2); 4 in Restonica Valley (5/5-5/7) European Turtle Dove 1 north of Bonifacio (5/10) Eurasian Collared Dove all areas Common Cuckoo all areas on Corsica Eurasian Scops Owl 2 at Étang de Biguglia (5/3) Alpine Swift 10 in Restonica Valley (5/7); 2 in Bonifacio (5/11) Common Swift all areas, especially cities Common Kingfisher 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/5) European Bee-eater 25 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4, 5/5); 6 north of Bonifacio (5/10, 5/11); 1 near Porto- Vecchio (5/13) Eurasian Hoopoe 3 near Porto-Vecchio (5/13) Great Spotted Woodpecker all areas on Corsica Woodchat Shrike 1 at Cimetière du Château (5/2) Eurasian Golden Oriole 1 south of Bastia (5/3) Eurasian Jay all areas on Corsica

6 Eurasian Magpie 3 in Nice (5/1, 5/2) Western Jackdaw 1 in Nice (5/2); 1 in Bonifacio (5/11) Carrion Crow 1 at LHR (5/1); 1 that appeared to be paired with a Hooded Crow in Nice (5/2) Hooded Crow 1 that appeared to be paired with a Carrion Crow in Nice (5/2); all areas on Corsica Northern Raven 3 in Restonica Valley (5/5-5/7); 2 north of Bonifacio (5/10, 5/11) Coal Tit 25 in Restonica Valley (5/5-5/7) European Crested Tit 1 at Cimetière du Château (5/2) Great Tit all areas Eurasian Blue Tit all areas Eurasian Skylark 1 at LHR (5/17) Sand Martin 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/3) Barn Swallow all lowland areas Eurasian Crag Martin 15 in Restonica Valley (5/7) Common House Martin all areas on Corsica Long-tailed Tit 2 in Restonica Valley (5/5-5/7); 2 north of Bonifacio (5/10); 2 near Porto-Vecchio (5/13, 5/14) Common Chiffchaff 1 south of Bastia (5/3) Eurasian Blackcap all areas Dartford Warbler 1 north of Bonifacio (5/10) Marmora s Warbler 2 north of Bonifacio (5/10) Moltoni s Warbler 1 in Restonica Valley (5/6); 3 north of Bonifacio (5/10) Sardinian Warbler 1 south of Bastia (5/3); 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/3, 5/5); 15 north of Bonifacio (5/10, 5/11) Common Firecrest 5 in Restonica Valley (5/6); 2 north of Bonifacio (5/10, 5/11); 2 near Porto-Vecchio (5/12-5/14) Eurasian Wren 4 in Restonica Valley (5/6, 5/7); 2 in Corte (5/8, 5/9); 3 north of Bonifacio (5/10, 5/11); 1 near Porto-Vecchio (5/12, 5/13) Corsican Nuthatch 3 in Restonica Valley (5/7), heard and then seen in patches of pines along the trail to Refuge de la Sega about half-way up the ridge Eurasian Treecreeper 3 in Restonica Valley (5/5-5/7) Common Starling 1 at LHR (5/1) Spotless Starling most lowland areas on Corsica Common Blackbird all areas Mistle Thrush 1 in Restonica Valley (5/6, 5/7) European Robin all areas on Corsica Common Nightingale all lowland areas on Corsica Whinchat 4 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4) Northern Wheatear 1 at Étang de Biguglia (5/4); 2 in Restonica Valley (5/7) Common Rock Thrush 1 in Restonica Valley (5/7)

7 Blue Rock Thrush 1 in Restonica Valley (5/7) Spotted Flycatcher all areas European Pied Flycatcher 1 at Cimetière du Château (5/2); 2 at Étang de Biguglia (5/3) White-throated Dipper 1 in Corte (5/8) House Sparrow 5 in Nice (5/1, 5/2) Italian Sparrow all areas on Corsica Eurasian Tree Sparrow 1 south of Bastia (5/3) Western Yellow Wagtail 2 south of Bastia (5/3) Grey Wagtail 4 in Restonica Valley (5/5-5/7); 4 in Corte (5/8) Common Chaffinch all areas European Serin all areas European Greenfinch all areas on Corsica European Goldfinch all areas on Corsica Corsican Finch 10 in Restonica Valley (5/7), seen in scrub above treeline along the trail to Refuge de la Sega Cirl Bunting 10 in Restonica Valley (5/5-5/7); 3 north of Bonifacio (5/10); 2 near Porto-Vecchio (5/12-5/15)

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