(Corse) Corsica Birding, Dragonflies and Butterflies) 1-8 August 2010

More images on the gallery, click here…. http://www.anserbirding.com/photos/svmanager/g24/

The big three….all images by MJMcGill.

Corsican Nuthatch


Corsican Citril Finch


Marmora’s Warbler

Birding in Corsica (Corse).
Dragonflies in Corsica
Butterflies in Corsica
by M.J.McGill

1-8 August 2010

Two tailed Pasha

I took time to write this report and carefully record what I saw as I found very little for insects but quite a few bird reports on the web, many of which are very helpful. Corsica looked a very good prospect offering a bit of everything. We booked our flight six days before leaving and arranged accommodation, a car, maps and guidebooks in less than five. It was actually a family holiday with me looking for wildlife early when they were asleep, getting ready for the day (thanks to Harriet for sorting that) or when they were on the beach fully occupied and I had done a decent shift of fun-filled activity. My family did come with me on a few walks and saw a lot of stuff from the car and on our travels. It is a great place for any type of holiday but ticks the boxes for active families too. We ate in a few nights and out on four, between the supermarket and favoured restaurant we ate very well all week being a vegetarian family. A huge choice of Corse produce, much of it free range is on offer, fish and meats are all excellently prepared and presented and full of taste. I know many of my birding/travel friends and Anser regulars would find plenty to keep them occupied. Mint is used in many dishes which I have not found anywhere else. For those on a budget pizzas are probably the cheapest way to eat out and offered everywhere, the supermarkets are an even cheaper option. We got bread from our local bakery every day and ate outside for every meal as the weather was very warm all week.

1 August

Arrived in Bastia after flying from Bristol, picked up hire car and drove straight to (Corti) Corte arriving by lunch. Plenty of Red Kite and Buzzards on the drive in but most notable were a pair of Pallid Swift that were visiting the eaves of a house near where we are staying. After finding and settling into our apartment we headed to the Plage de Tignalle (50 minutes) for a swim, I also spotted some vineyards and scrub and checked it over for 30 minutes where Bee Eaters, Zitting Cisticola and other passerines were seen and Mediterranean Shags, Cormorants, Little Egrets and terns were present on the Etang d’ Urbine.  In the evening back at Corti there were plenty of bats catching moths outside our apartment in the evening.

2 August 2010

Had a lie-in and headed out after picking up provisions from the Casino supermarket and Boulangerie in Corte, breakfasted on the patio where a Spotted Flycatcher was hunting insects. We explored the Restonica valley but did not get very far as we were distracted by the cool, clear mountain stream and climbed down from the road for a swim and spa treatment under the cascades and waterfalls, cold water but very refreshing. We carried on up the to the head of the valley but turned around as the 5 euro parking charge was not worth it as it was a flying visit so we descended to a restaurant for a cold drink. The buddleia and daisies in the garden were swarming with butterflies and I photographed a decent variety.

Beautiful and Copper Demoiselles (Damselflies) representing the odonates were along the river.Wall Brown
Silver Washed Fritillary
Argynnis paphia immaculata (Corsican sub-species, c6 seen)
Southern Grayling Hipparchia aristaeus aristaeus (Corsican/Sardinian sub-species) one basking on a granite boulder by the river.
Small Copper
Clouded Yellow

Common Blue
Brown Argus
Large and Small Whites
Fritillary (very common)
Speckled Wood.
Later in the day I saw a Swallowtail sp fly across the road plus a few unidentified sp.

After lunch back at the apartment we set of for the beach, this time the Plage du Padulone near Aleria. Again after a swim to cool off and the usual beach fun with the children I went for a walk. A covey of Red-legged Partridge burst out from the vines and a few Bee Eaters flew overhead. On leaving a Honey Buzzard flew out of the pines near the road, a pleasant change from the numerous Red Kites.

3 August 2010

A twenty minute drive from Corti (Corte) to a junction above the village of Vivario  and I was soon out and birding by 0700, this little road leads to the Col de Sorba and seems to be a regular stop-off for birders. I stopped in a layby opposite the first track to the right and explored along the track, within minutes I was watching Corsican Nuthatch and had great views of perhaps 2 pairs over a prolonged period. They are very agile and active but I was surprised to see one parachute out of the tree and pursue a moth that it chased looping and dancing after it and caught it on the wing. This area was very rich in passerines, family parties of Cirl Bunting, Coal, Blue and Great Tits, Blackcaps and to my delight Corsican Citril Finch, like my other target bird they showed very well. The males were very bright and juveniles streaky but all showed the streaky back pattern. A Woodlark sang and a Crossbill called from the tops of the pines. I spent a couple of hours here as there were butterflies as well as birds. My first Great Banded Grayling alighted upon the ground near me and allowed a couple of shots. It is very much like a White Admiral in flight but bigger.
After breakfast back at our apartment we set out for the day stopping first at A Capulatta tortoise village. www.acapulatta.com . A collection of terrapin and tortoise from around the world were on show but I found myself totally distracted by the dragonflies and damselflies that were around the ponds at this site. After an enjoyable couple of hours here we headed off toward the West coast. A low soaring Honey Buzzard was a treat to see near to the Ajaccio turn off N196. We spent most of the afternoon at the Plage de Verghia swimming etc. We ended the day by driving to the Filitosa prehistorique site, an excellent way to spend the late afternoon early evening among the menhirs with carved faces (Easter Island like) and dolmens. Well worth a look. www.filitosa.fr

As impressive as the carved stones was the Olive tree flanking the line of menhirs, it is the oldest in France at 1200 years and still bearing fruit, some of the occupants of the ancient village may have planted it. Unfortunately a migraine for me saw us heading home without hanging about so I could get an early night.

Dragonflies and Damsels seen at the tortoise sanctuary included…
Scarlet Darter-common
Southern Skimmer, egg laying and males resting.
Blue-tailed/Island Bluetail– in the pond closest to the road in far W corner of sanctuary. The Blue tailed does not appear to occur in but the 2-3 I saw look like this species.
Small Red Damselfy-two.
Black-tailed Skimmer– a few seen.

4 August 2010

Still suffering from a night of migraine I decided it was best to stay local and stay cool, he best places were the refrigerated sections of the Casino supermarket or the Haut Asco area, the latter offered more wildlife. An hour drive to the head of the valley was well worth it, I did see a Corsican Citril Finch on a roadside rock which was just feet away but as a car was waiting on the bridge I had to keep going and not hang about to take a picture. At the top we wandered up the slope and sat for a picnic under the pines. The Alpine feel was topped off by the chalets, snow on the highest peaks and the views. A chap was playing classicaI guitar on his veranda, very nice and set the scene. I was going to search for the ‘bone breaker’ Bearded Vulture but found myself looking at the ground at the numerous butterflies, there were hundreds on the wing. I also noted a male Southern Skimmer holding territory on seepage near the main stream. This area is about 1500m above sea level. Birds noted were Crag Martins, Alpine Swift, Alpine Chough (3 high over the peaks) and 2 Raven.

Butterflies noted on the slope most coming to thistles above the car park included

Cardinal Fritillary (very common)
Corsican Fritillary
Argynnis elisa (common)
Corsican Heath
Coenonympha corinnaa few seen
Corsican Grayling
Hipparchia neomiris
Corsican Silver-studded Blue
Plebejus argus corsicus
Small Tortoiseshell Aglias urticae ichnusa (Corsican sub-species)
Clouded Yellow
Blue sp x2 -have not got an id as yet
(possibility of idas bellieri)
Brown Argus
( I saw one on the trip but cannot remember where)
Corsican Swallowtail

On the drive back down we spotted a male Red-backed Shrike on wires above Asco village, in the village a Corsican Swallowtail drifted along the road and up the slope. We headed for a beach for a swim and ended up at the Plage de Lozari where the waves were rough and quite a challenge when getting in and out of the surf. I noted a Mediterranean Shag fly past but was focussing on the waves and not getting bowled over to do any birding. We headed back late in the day and ate in Corte in the evening, the food was excellent, a good variety of vegetarian grub on the menus in this very interesting town. We very much enjoyed eating at the U Museu restaurant at the foot of the citadelle. We ate here every night as the menu was varied, extensive and the staff accommodating for our vegetarian requests, my wife speaks French and would ask the chef to leave things off to suit. I was also pretty good value as Corsica can be expensive.  The Chevre Chaud (hot goats cheese salad) was a very good meal especially with Leek or Chestnut and cheese fritters starter and chestnut cake to finish, the Corsican wine was also very good.

5 August 2010

I headed out at 0800 and drove up into the Restonica valley. At a decent spot that looked good for Corsican Nuthatch I parked and listened from the road and scanned the peaks spending about an hour out. This spot was above the main bridge and where the trees thin out.

Raven; a pair were perched up in roadside trees.
Crag Martin-dozens were on the wing high above the valley with House Martin also.
Alpine Swift– a few were feeding over the nearer peaks.
Corsican Nuthatch– a pair were calling and feeding on pines cones either side of the road.
Corsican Citril Finch– heard and seen fluttering from rock to rock before dropping into the scrub to feed. I had another two perched on a roadside rock but they were flushed by a passing car.
Crossbill– one flew across the valley.

After breakfast I headed to the beach at Plage de  Padulone near Almeria, I saw a Honey Buzzard on the way soaring low along the road a few km from Corte. After arriving and setting up the kids on the beach with Harriet I explored the same vineyards that I was birding in earlier in the week. I spent 45 minutes searching the area for California Quail as the scrub meets the vineyards here which is what I believe they prefer as habitat of choice. To get there…there is a left turn before reaching the beach, sign says Plage, it leads onto rough tarmac if you go straight on rather than following it right to the vineyard shop, if you carry on and follow it around to the beach car park where the vines end there is a lot of scrub which meets the Etang D’ Diane (famous for oysters which the Romans sent to Rome and Napoleon has sent by the boatload to France). This area has many tracks which I explored I found a party of three Tawny Pipit which were calling and running around near the hilltop. A Sylvia sp was calling from scrub probably a Dartford plus Red Kites and Hooded Crows

Swallowtail (20+ noted)
Mallow Skipper
Carcharodus alceae 1
Southern Gatekeeper
Pyronia cecilia 3
Two tailed Pasha
Common Darter

Plus a crushed Heerman’s Tortoise

After a few hours we headed for the Ancient site known as the Aleria mound, mostly Roman but also Greek settlements in good condition and in a great spot that commands views over the whole area. It was only 5 euros for the whole family to visit this and the museum both of which were very interesting, the swords and pottery were outstanding and the situation of this settlement perfect for the occupants then and visitors now.

Swallowtail 3
Common Quail calling from the fields to the N of the museum between here and the river.

To return home we took a drive up over the mountains across to the Col de Sorba stopping at a gorge near Ghisoni for a few minutes where many Crag Martins were buzzing around. A patch of thistles on the road side had 3 Scarce Swallowtail. Apart from butterfly/scenery stops I returned for a short walk at the same site where I had my first Corsican Nuthatches on the 2nd, there was a family party of Corsican Citril Finch feeding along the track and lots of tits and Spotted Flycatcher. Continuing down to Vivario we stopped for five minutes at the junction of D193/D69 where a Great Banded Grayling flew by. In the village of Vivario I noted the second Hummingbird Hawk Moth of the day, this one visiting buddleia near the war memorial. This spot must be good for many butterfly species when the sun shines on the bushes on it.

6 August 2010
I got up earlier than the others for an hour to look around the lower Restonica Valley but we drove 1.40hrs to the stunning and safe Plage de Pinarellu, the best beach of the trip. A Grey Heron and Little Egret were the only birds noted but after swimming and enjoying the scenery I went for walk checking the tracks through the scrub between the beach and the lagoons that are found behind. It was great for dragonflies and damselfies with Two tailed Pasha and c 20 Red –crested Pochard, a few Coot and Little Grebe were also present. A juvenile Sparrowhawk was calling in the treetops and making short flights. This area is excellent and deserves a really good bashing for insects and birds, looking at the map it shows much the same habitat along the Porto Vecchio coast and could be a great base for insect lovers. After four hours at the beach we headed back via Ghissonicia (and a crepe) and then home.

Dragonflies seen…
Southern Migrant Hawker 3 were hawking along the road/rides, very approachable.
Lesser Emperor 1 male hawking a ride
Island Bluetail Damselfly 2
Scarlet Darter many
Ruddy Darter 3
Southern Skimmer female

After returning from a meal in Corte centre ville I picked up the call of a Scop’s Owl from the hillside above the campsite (Restonica valley entrance), it was vocal at 1100pm.

7 August 2010

I went out early to explore the Vivario area or the maquis above it. I had a really good couple of hours walking the hillside tracks and was rewarded with lots of great views of Marmora’s Warbler, most were family groups and I logged about 30 individuals. A couple of juvenile Subalpine Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a family of Woodlark, a family of Red-backed Shrike, Long-tailed Tits and a few other common passerines kept my binoculars busy.  A scan of Monte de Oro gave me an adult Golden Eagle to complete a really good start to the day. I headed back for breakfast on our balcony. After breakfast we headed up the Restonica Valley, paid and parked and walked up the road to where it opens out. I spent most of the time here building a dam in the coldwater stream with the children but kept an eye on the sky. A flock of c80 Alpine Chough or Jackdaw were high over the ridge, a party of 4 Alpine Chough hopped around the rocks near us. Coat Tits were common throughout the valley. A Corsican Painted Frog was found in a drying rock pool. We descended and spent the rest of the day exploring Corti including turning stones on the river. No amphibians but a Western Spectre (Dusk Hawker) flew by and Beautiful and Copper Demoiselles.

8 August 2010

We were up early to head to the airport and home leaving at 1050.


Corse (Corsica) is a very beautiful island, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen much of which is only found here or Sardinia at least. I did look for fifteen minutes with the children under stones etc for Corsican Fire Salamander and Brook Newt in Corti and with more time reckon I would have found them.  Mouffllon occur in a few places high in the mountains, c 600 apparently. I could easily locate the speciality birds if doing an Anser trip, a 3-4 night trip would be enough to see the birds well and take in a fair bit of the island.  A visit earlier in the year would make it easier to find the introduced California Quail but may not be so good for insects. Good weather and being in the right place in the morning would deliver Bearded Vulture I was looking a bit too late in the day and not giving it enough attention to locate them.

Other stuff      

With more time I would have liked to have visited some of the WW2 aircraft wrecks that can be found around the clear Corsican waters, the Heinkel 111 in Bastia harbour, the P47 Thunderbolt also N of Bastia are perhaps too deep for snorkelling and good views, diving to them is probably the only way to get good views, trips do go out from the harbours. The B-17 bomber in Calvi is more accessible to view but I did not have the time to try to see them as a family holiday was the priority. Check out the links.




Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina-seen on lagoons near Pinarellu
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa-a covey flushed near Aleria
Quail Coturnix coturnix-calling near the Aleria mound
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis-seen on lagoon near Pinarellu
Great Cormorant
Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis-seen at Etang D’Urbino
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos-over ridge W of Vivario
Red Kite Milvus milvus-common
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo arrigonii-common
Honey Buzzard Pernis aviporus-three seen in different parts of the island
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus wolterstorffi-three seen inc a juv at Plage du Pinarellu
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Fulica atra
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Common Tern Sterna Hirundo
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus- c15 seen in different areas
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur-a few seen on wires around Aleria/Ghissonacia
Scop’s Owl Otus scops-one calling Corte
Common Swift Apus apus-common
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus brehmorum- seen well at Corte
Alpine Swift Apus melba-seen at Vivario, Haut Asco and Restonica valley
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster-seen around Aleria/Ghissonacia
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major parroti-common in the upland areas
Woodlark Lullula arborea-seen around Vivario
Sand Martin Riparia riparia-seen among hirundines in the North
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris-seen in many upland places
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
House Martin Delichon urbicum
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris-three near Aleria/Plage de Padulone
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea-common along rivers/streams
Spotted Flycatcher Musciapa striata tyrrhenica- common everywhere, feeding fledged young and carrying nest material.
Stonechat Saxicola torquatus-a family near Vivario
Blackbird, Turdus merula
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla paulucii-common and many still singing
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala-saw and heard a few
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans moltonii-two juvs near Vivario
Marmora’s Warbler Sylvia sarda-c30 seen near Vivario
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes koenigi-saw/heard c5 in upland areas.
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus irbii-a party of c25 seen near Vivario
Coal Tit Parus ater sardus-many fledged young and adults in upland areas
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus cogliastrae- many fledged young and adults in upland areas
Great Tit Parus major corsus- many fledged young and adults in upland areas
Corsican Nuthatch Sitta whiteheadi-seen well near Col de Sorba and Restonica Valley
Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla corsa-seen and heard in a few upland forests’
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio- a male at Asco and a pair near Vivario.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator badius-two seen between Ghissonacia and Plage de Tignalle
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius corsicanus-very common
Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus-three Haut Asco and four Restonica, poss 80 here also.
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix sardonicus-common
Common Raven Corvus corax
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
‘Italian‘ House Sparrow Passer domesticus italiae-common
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs tyrrhenica-c20 seen in upland areas with a few at A Capulatta
European Serin, Serinus serinus-
Corsican Citril Finch Serinus corsicanus-seen near Vivario, Col de Sorba, Restonica and Asco.
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis tchusii-common
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris madarszi-three seen near Col de Sorba
Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra Corsicana-one near Col de Sorba and one Restonica
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus nigrostriata


Italian pool frog Pelophylax bergeriseen at A Capulatta and Filitosa.
Hermann’s tortoise Testudo hermanni-crushed specimen near Aleria
Turkish gecko Hemidactylus turcicus-seen in Corte
Italian wall lizard Podarcis sicula-common
Tyrrhenian wall lizard Podarcis tiliguerta– common
Corsican painted frog Discoglossus montalentii –one Restonica

Thanks to the following website


Red-backed Shrike, male

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