Stephen Burch, England
This is an
illustrated trip report on the birding, dragonfly and
other wildlife highlights from a two week family holiday
to Calvi, Corsica in June/July 2009.
Apart from the
first two days, the weather by the sea at Calvi was
almost uniformly sunny and hot, getting up to the high 20's
or low 30's. It was however often quite windy. Up in the
mountains it was a different story - on the two days we
were there it rained, or threatened to, in the afternoons.
On many other days from Calvi we could see cloud building
up over the mountains in the afternoon, and then
dispersing again in the evening. No doubt a well known
Prior to the
trip, I spent some time searching the web for suitable
trip reports. Most were for early spring or later in the
year. It seems most birders do not go to Corsica in
summer, but these reports did give a good idea of the
best sites for the endemics.
the 1:150,000 yellow Michelin map was OK for general
driving around, but the IGN 1:25,000 blue maps were
essential for walking in the mountains and for searching
for dragonfly sites around Calvi.
Sunflower guide for Corsica was good for some local walks
in the Calvi area, and in the Restonica valley.
the web for information on the best sites for the two
Corsican endemics, I decided that the Col de Sorba
sounded the best from the point of view of access,
likelihood of success and the possibility of photography
of the Nuthatch. Other sites for the endemics include the
Restonica valley, which we visited the day after the Col
de Sorba, and the very long drive up to Haut Asco.
the Col de Sorba area, some 20+km south of Corte on the N193,
and just south of Vivario, take the D69 to the east. To
start with, we followed this road for about 3km to an
obvious track which heads off above the road to the right.
This was the spot mentioned in at least two other trip
reports. However, despite walking along this path some
distance, after about 1hr we had neither heard nor seen a
hint of either of the endemics. In fact all we saw for
our efforts was several Jays and the odd
Coal Tit. It also tried to rain.
we carried on up the road. At about the 5km point from
the N193, the road emerged briefly from the pines where
there was a sharp hairpin bend to the right. Here my son,
on a financial incentive to act as a spotter, pointed out
a couple of small birds by the road! These turned out to
be Corsican Finches! There was no chance
of any photos, though, as the birds seemed quite wary and
were soon spooked by passing traffic. Setting off again
up the road, a Blue Rock Thrush flew
over, and even stopped and perched, allowing itself to be
clearly on a roll, so I decided on another stop at the
next available parking place in the pines. Almost as soon
as we got out from the car, we first heard and then saw Corsican
Nuthatches. These were quite confiding, and at
one point we had 3 birds in the same tree quite close to
the road, and low enough down for some moderate
photography, albeit hampered by poor light and their
somewhat frustrating behaviour. Nevertheless this had
been a very successful excursion, with both endemics
ticked without too much difficulty.
Nuthatch - Col de Sorba, Corsica. 29 June 2009
overnight stay in the comfortable Dominique Colonna hotel
at the foot of this valley (see accommodation section
below for details), we were up and off reasonably early
in the morning. Having already seen both endemics, there
was no need to dwell in the valley floor, so we headed
straight up to the car park at the end of road, to make
sure we could get in before it filled up.
We then did the most
popular walk in Corsica up to the Lac de Melo. We took
the left hand track which was much quieter than the main
right hand one (they diverge at a large cairn just above
a cafe). This route was also easier, and avoided the
fixed chains and step ladders. Even so, it was a very
stiff climb, with an ascent of over 1000ft. Eventually,
reaching the pretty lake, there was a reward in the form
of tame groups of Alpine Choughs that
descended hoping for food the moment you sat down! The
problem then was that the birds were too close for the
400mm lens! Some of our party headed on up to the second
lake, but I slowly picked my way down the way we had come
up. Resting by a stream at the foot of the steepest
section, near the large cairn, I was delighted to see a
splendid Lammergeier - soaring over the
ridge and cliffs high up to west.
Lac de Melo. 30 June 2009
|Lac de Melo
Panaroma shot - stitched from two originals
The Calvi area
did not seem particularly birdy. Probably the best site
we found was the headland with a lighthouse at the end
just to the west of Calvi called Revellata, which
involved a fair walk from the nearest road. On the way
out, the path that meandered along the eastern coastline
wasn't particularly productive. However the central
lighthouse track was more productive on the return, with
at least two views of Marmora's Warblers,
including a family party. Also seen on this walk were Alpine
Swift, Crag Martin, a possible Blue
(scarce) Chaser dragonfly and various
butterflies. Back at the road, I decided a group of
passing swifts were probably Pallid.
There were also some Ravens.
Elsewhere in the general
Calvi area, we came across various Cirl Buntings,
and the odd Bee Eater (on a walk high
above the village of Lumio and also by the road up to
|Marmora's Warbler, La
Revellata, near Calvi. 23June 2009
Our villa was
right on the southern edge of Calvi, and had just enough
'garden' for some wildlife (mainly butterflies and
Hummingbird Hawk Moths). The only birds actually in the
garden included nesting Spotted Flycatchers
that fledged within a few days of our arrival, Serin,
Cirl Bunting and Spotless Starling.
Other birds only heard included a possible Bee
Eater (one brief call), Nightjar
and Scops Owl.
Flycatcher in villa garden, Calvi. 22 June 2009 (click
right to enlarge)
In the absence of too
much birding interest around Calvi, I turned my
attentions to looking for dragonflies. With no prior site
information, I simply looked for places with water on the
local 1:25,000 IGN map and tried my luck.
Etang de Crovani
lake was the best dragonfly site I found in terms of
numbers. It was just behind a beach, on the west coast,
about 30 min south of Calvi along the narrow and bendy D81b.
There was a convenient parking area for beach users, on
the right of the road. From here it was just a short walk
down to the lake. In two visits here, I found and
photographed a reasonable range of species, some of which
were new to me. The local speciality is the Island
Bluetail which is endemic to Corsica and a few
of the other nearby islands. There were plenty of these
Bluetail - the local speciality endemic to a
small number of Mediterranean islands
more notable were the larger hawkers, which comprised
Emperor and the new to me Southern Migrant Hawker.
There was also a single obscure damselfly that turned out
to be a Dark Spreadwing, which
unfortunately disappeared before I could get good pics.
Migrant Hawker (click to enlarge).
dragonflies included numerous mostly immature Red-veigned
Darters and Black-tailed Skimmers.
Darter (immature) - click to enlarge
Artisanale de Cantone
This was an
obsure site, which is probably rarely visited! I found it
using the 1:25,000 map which showed a small temporary
pool next to the industrial estate of this name, a kew km
to the east of Calvi on the D151. This is very close to
the Calvi airport runway. To find this hidden pool, get
the 1 in 25,000 map! Turn right at the roundabout into
the estate, then follow the road round to the left. Take
the first right that leads down to a rough area at the
bottom, with a track going left and right. Go left along
the track. The pool is then off to your right over some
rough ground. On some of my visits, the track was closed
with a locked gate and fence either side. No matter,
follow the fence down to the pool, and squeeze round the
end, avoiding falling in the water!
Both the pool and the
surrounding bushes were good for a range of species, many
the same as at the Etang de Crovani. On the pool, were Emperor
and Lesser Emperor (one visit only), and
Scarlet and Red-veigned Darters.
There was also a good variety of damselflies, including Small
Red-eyed, Willow Emerald and Dainty.
The bushes held several Keeled Skimmers.
So a reasonable number of non UK species, as well as some
very familiar ones!
||Willow Emerald Damselfly
|Small red eyed Damselfly
This river was
the only one within easy reach of Calvi and fed the pool
described above. Further upstream, there was good access
to the river, with plenty of water coming down, at the
Pont de la Figarella (off the D251 beyond Calvi airport).
Here the only dragonfly I could find was a few Copper
Demoiselle. Further upstream, the D251 ends in a
large car park, from which a number of paths lead off up
into the mountains. We followed the river path as far as
the first suspension bridge, which included some quite
steep stretches. The first section was however quite flat,
and ran along the river. Again there were a few Copper
Demoiselle and probably Beautiful
Demoiselle as well. The whole walk was good for
various butterflies but there wasn't much bird or other
Copper Demoiselle - by the Figarella river in the
Copper Demoiselle at the Pont de la Figarella
Here are a few pics of
some of the other wildlife I bumped into. Butterflies
|Scarce Swallowtail - Sant
Antonino 3 July 2009 (click to enlarge)
||Worn Two-tailed Pasha -
Villa garden 24 June 2009
|Silver washed Fritillary -
Bonifatu valley 27 June 2009
||Italian Pool Frog, Etang
de Crovani 4 July 2009. These were super abundant
all over this shallow lake.
Thanks to Pierre-André Crochet for providing the
but not cheap hotel well situated by the river at
the foot of the Restonica valley. We were
upgraded to a palatial suite instead of two rooms
for no extra price! Downside was the expensive
breakfast (about 11 euros each). The Auberge wasn't
particularly cheap for dinner either.
||Nice villa with
pool, and a small garden with flowers and fruit
trees. Excellent views over the Citadel and sea,
in the distance. Available from VFB holidays.
Very expensive in peak season - we were just
early enough to pay substantially less!
© All pictures
copyright Stephen Burch