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France and Corsica

24th December 1977 - 8th January 1978.

25th December.

After an overnight ferry journey and long drive, myself, Laurel, Roy Smith and Dave Willis stopped near the village of Chabrieres in Southeastern France, where we saw 2 Alpine Accentors, new birds for us, we then continued to Nice to catch the ferry to Bastia in Northern Corsica.

26th December.

Leaving the ferry port in Bastia we drove south to Etang de Biguglia, the largest lake on Corsica, where we spent the rest of the day.

Searching the lakeside vegetation was time consuming, we saw lots of Cetti's Warblers, Fan-tailed Warblers or Zitting Cisticolas, Stonechats and Meadow Pipits. Also, 4 Sardinian Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap, 2 Cirl Buntings and finally good views of 2 Moustached Warblers.

We heard lots of Water Rails and on the lake saw around 50 Pochard, 25 Tufted Ducks and about 400 Coot, by the lake were about 60 Lapwings and 80 Golden Plovers.

Also seen were a few Skylarks, a Curlew, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Kestrel and 2 Hooded Crows.

Later, we found a rubbish tip at the southern end of the lake where there were 5 Red Kites, 10+ Ravens, 2 Hooded Crows and 2 Kestrels.

We then drove around looking for somewhere to camp and saw a flock of about 20 Spotless Starlings.












Photos: Etang de Biguglia.


             Sardinian Warbler.

27th December.

We set off early travelling to the mountains and forests in the central part of the island. At Vizzavona Forest, in sight of Mt D'Oro, we stopped to search the Corsican Pines, there were lots of Coal Tits and Crossbills, mainy of them singing.

We also saw Treecreepers, Wrens, Mistle Thrushes, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, heard Ravens and had a Dipper in a nearby stream.

We kept hearing a nuthatch, but it was difficult to pin down, eventually we did have good views of a Corsican Nuthatch and heard another close-by.

Later we searched for a place to camp, which was easy as mainy of the villages in this area had been deserted for years.



Photos: Vizzavona Forest.


              Corsican Nuthatch.

28th December.

We spent the first hour at Vizzavona trying to see another nuthatch, without any luck, but did see lots of Jays, Coal Tits, Mistle Thrushes, Chaffinches and Wrens.

Also here and on stops during the drive southeast to St. Antoine we saw 2 Ravens, a Kestrel, Blackbirds, 5 Redwing, 2 Great Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Chiffchaff, 4 Grey Wagtails, around 10 Cirl Buntings, 3 Blackcaps, a Firecrest, a Goldcrest, 20-30 Crag Martins and a female Blue Rock Thrush.

At a place called Mignatara we saw a Brambling, 2 Blackcaps and several Italian Sparrows.

We continued east towards the coast and stopped at Etang de Palo, where we saw 3 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Fan-tailed Warblers, 12 Stonechats, a Wryneck, 3 Wrens, a Marsh Harrier, around 30 Coot, a Buzzard, 5 Cirl Buntings, a Sardinian Warbler, a Grey Heron, a Reed Bunting, 5 Chiffchaffs, 5 Little Grebes, 10+ Skylarks and 3 Kestrels.

Later we drove to Etang de Diane and found a place to camp.

Above: Camp site at Etang de Diane. 

29th December.

The first few hours birdwatching around Etang de Diane, where we saw 2 Kestrels, 2 Black-necked Grebes, 32 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Sardinian Warblers, 12 Herring Gulls, 6 Blackbirds, 30+ Chiffchaffs, 4 Wood Larks, a Grey Wagtail, 58 Cormorants, 30 Wood Pigeons, 2 Dartford Warblers, 6 Song Thrushes, a Blackcap, a Dunnock, 2 Linnets, 30+ Goldfinches, 4 Hooded Crows, a Red-legged Partridge, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 5 Grey Herons, a Buzzard, a Marsh Harrier, 3 Wigeon, 2 Jays, a Cetti's Warbler, 6 Tufted Ducks and 3 Little Egrets.

Later we drove to the lakes near Point d'Araso, where we saw 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Sparrowhawk, a Marsh Harrier, about 40 Coot, 3 Kingfishers, 14 Crag Martins, 3 Stonechats, 2 Reed Buntings, 3 Moorhens, 2 Cetti's Warblers, as well as several Sardinian Warblers, Dartford Warblers and Blackbirds.

At the Golfe di Sogno we saw 3 Kentish Plovers, a Cormorant, a Black-headed Gull and about 50 Herring Gulls.

At St. Manza, while looking for somewhere to camp we saw an owl in the car headlights, possibly Long-eared.

Above: Etang de Diane.

30th December.

The morning was spent visiting places along the southern tip of Corsica looking for seabirds.

At Calalonga Plage we saw a Gannet, 200+ Herring Gulls which would have been Yellow-legged Gulls, around 35 Cormorants, 2 Kestrels, a Dartford Warbler, a Dunnock, 3 Wrens and 4 Blackbirds.

At Phare de Pertusato it was very windy and from the lighthouse we saw 300+ Yellow-legged Gulls, masses of Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Sardinian Warblers and a Black Redstart.

At Tonnara Plage there was another Black Redstart and we counted 20+ Balearic Shearwaters going past in 5 minutes, also more Yellow-legged Gulls, but we couldn't find an Audouin's.

Our last coastal stop was at the Golfe de Ventilegne where we saw a Kingfisher, then we headed back inland towards Vizzavona, on the way seeing 2 Buzzards, 2 Grey Wagtails, a Jay and 2 Ravens.

We had time to look around other forest areas, at Aullene we saw 30+ Ravens and a Red Kite, at Zicavo 40+ Ravens and a Grey Wagtail.

Mt. D'Oro, Vizzavona Forest.

31st December.

The morning spent in Vizzavona Forest where we had excellent views of Corsican Nuthatch, 3 males and 3 females at least, also seeing 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 2 Treecreepers, 2 Wrens, Coal Tits were everywhere calling from all directions. There were Crossbills, Mistle Thrushes, 2 Great Tits, a Blue Tit and several Wood Pigeons.

Later we drove north to Corte, seeing a Buzzard and 2 Grey Wagtails on the way, from there we turned southwest and followed the road through the Gorges de la Restonica to the end, Here we saw a Raven, an Alpine Accentor, a Goldcrest, lots of Coal Tits, a Blue Rock Thrush and the bird we had hoped to see, an adult Lammergeier.

We also saw a distant flock of 100+ Chough, which were probally Alpine, but too far away to be certain.


Photos: Dave Willis and Laurel in Vizzavona Forest.


             Mt. Rotondo at the end of the Gorges de la Restonica.


             Laurel in the Gorges de la Restonica.

1st January 1978.

Our last day in Corsica, we had travelled to the north of the island, to an area called Desert des Agriates. 

In an area of farmland and scrub we found a flock of about

40 Citril now called Corsican Finches, also lots of Sardinian Warblers,

12 Dartford Warblers, a Wren, 2 Dunnocks, 12 Robins, a Wood Lark, 8 Crag Martins and saw 2 more Corsican race Buzzards.

Further west we entered an area of maquis where we eventually saw 4 Marmora's Warblers, also a female Blue Rock Thrush, 6 Cirl Buntings, masses of Blackbirds, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Ravens, 30+ Linnets, a Blue Tit, a Long-tailed Tit and a single Redwing. 



Photos: Desert des Agriates.


             Corsican race Buzzard.


              Marmora's Warbler.

2nd January.

Arrived in Nice on the overnight ferry, where Dave left us to go in search of the Algerian Nuthatch. We travelled west towards the Camargue, stopping enroute, firstly at the airfield at Le Luquie where we saw 2 Marsh Harriers, 2 Red-legged Partridges, about 15 Corn Buntings, 2 Goldfinches, 12 Magpies and a Green Woodpecker.

At the Etang d'Entressen there were 44+ Great Crested Grebes, around 500 Black-headed Gulls, a Chiffchaff, about 200 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 Green Woodpeckers and 2 Stonechats. Between Le Mas and Chauvet we saw a group of 30 Cattle Egrets, new birds for us, and outside of this area rare in France.

We also saw another Green Woodpecker, about 20 Skylarks, 6 Tree Sparrows, 2 Stonechats, around 450 Lapwing, a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap. At Entressen rubbish tip there were hundreds of gulls and crows and one Little Egret. Between Le Retour and des Aires we only saw 10 Skylarks and a Meadow Pipit.

3rd January.

A day spent in the Camargue, near or by the Etang de Vaccares, where todays new bird was Greater Flamingo of which we saw well over 100. There were lots of duck, including good numbers of Wigeon and surprisingly a female Eider. Only small numbers of waders with Lapwing being the commonest, but also 5 Ruff and a Common Sandpiper. Small groups of Little Egrets were widespread and a total of 90 were counted, along with a single Cattle Egret. Marsh Harriers seemed to be everywhere with a total of 28 seen. Of the passerines, the best we saw or heard were 8 Cetti's Warblers, 3 Serins, several Tree Sparrows, 5 Fan-tailed Warblers, a Chiffchaff, a Cirl Bunting and a Dartford Warbler. And we also saw several small herds of the famous White Horses.

On the drive back to our campsite 2 Barn Owls were seen.

4th January.

Another morning spent in the Camargue, again near and around the Etang de Vaccares, on the smaller lakes there were many more ducks and a few waders, only 39 Greater Flamingoes and 34 Little Egrets, but we did see 36 Bewick's Swans. In an area of extensive reedbed we heard several Bearded Tits and heard and had brief sightings of 2 Penduline Tits, but not good enough views to count. Marsh Harriers were seen at every site with a total of 21 seen, but the most exciting find was an immature Spotted Eagle, which we had been told was wintering, but hadn't held out much hope of seeing in such a large area. In the afternoon we drove east of Arles towards Saint-Martin-de-Crau and stopped at a place called La Samatane, which isn't marked on the maps, an area of arid scrub, where we saw 30+ Corn Buntings, over 100 Meadow Pipits, 25+ Skylarks, 50+ Linnets, 5 Rock Buntings 2 males and 3 females, new birds for us, and a flock of 43 Little Bustards, again new for us.


Photos: Immature Spotted Eagle & Little Bustards.

5th January.

Our last morning in the Camargue and a visit to the reedbed at the Etang de Vaccares near La Capelliere, where this time we had excellent views of a Penduline Tit and heard 3 more. Also in the area we saw 4 Cetti's Warblers and 6 Marsh Harriers. Then a drive northeast of Arles to Les Baux, to search the walls and cliffs around the ruined castle for Wallcreeper, a renowned wintering site for this species, and eventually we found one. We also saw a male and 2 female Blue Rock Thrushes, 2 Alpine Accentors, a flock of at least 50 Serins, 4 Sardinian Warblers, 3 Dartford Warblers, 2 Black Redstarts and a Chiffchaff.

6th January.

Overnight in Les Baux, this morning we explored the road west of the village, seeing 2 Blue Rock Thrushes, 2 Sardinian Warblers, 4 Jays, a Dartford Warbler, a Chiffchaff and a male Blackcap. We drove south to revisit the area at La Samatane, where this time there were 59 Little Bustards, lots of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Linnets, 50 Corn Buntings, 2 Cirl Buntings, 5 Fan-tailed Warblers, a Black Redstart, 3 Stonechats and 3 Red-legged Partridges. From here we began our long drive back north.

7th January.

After an overnight drive and a few hours sleep in the car we arrived at Fontainebleau Forest, where most of the day was spent walking through the woodland. There were lots of tits including 8 Crested Tits, 2 Firecrests, masses of Nuthatches, but only a single Hawfinch and only 1 Red Squirrel. But, it was the woodpeckers we were there for, seeing 12+ Great Spotted, 1 Lesser Spotted, 1 Middle Spotted and eventually a male and female Black Woodpecker, both new for us.

8th January.

The last day of the France / Corsica trip, we made a brief stop at Lac de la foret d'Orient, but didn't see much, a few ducks, 2 Willow Tits and a Hawfinch. From there we drove north and the ferry back home.

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