20–26 April 2017
In southeast France we will search for three introduced species: Reeves’s Pheasant, Fischer’s Lovebird and Red-billed Leothrix. On Corsica, looking for the two island endemics, Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Finch, will take priority, although we will not ignore Cory’s and Levantine Shearwaters, the introduced California Quail, Audouin’s Gull, Moltoni’s and Marmora’s Warblers and Italian Sparrow.
Day 1 We will take an early-morning flight from London Gatwick to Nice. On arrival we will drive north to the town of Vence where we will look for the introduced Red-billed Leothrix. Other birds we may find in the area include Short-toed Snake-eagle and Western Bonelli’s Warbler. Overnight in Vence.
Day 2 If need be we will make a further attempt this morning for Red-billed Leothrix before driving to Hyeres where we will look at the saltpans, which should be full of gulls, terns and waders. Afterwards we will leave our minibus and catch a ferry to Ile Porquerolles where, after checking into our hotel, we will explore the fields and woods near the lighthouse looking for the elusive Reeves’s Pheasant together with the much commoner Ring-necked Pheasant. All travel on the island will be on foot as there are no taxis or public transport.
Day 3 Unless we saw Reeves’s Pheasant last night we will make a pre-dawn start back at the lighthouse and surrounding fields and woods. Successful or not, by mid-morning we will have to return to our hotel, check out and make the return ferry crossing to the mainland. We will now head back east to Nice and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat where we will look for our last and probably easiest introduced species: Fischer’s Lovebird. Returning to Nice airport we will catch a late-evening flight to Bastia in Corsica and, on arrival, we will make the hour-long drive to our hotel in Corte, in the centre of the island, for a three-night stay.
Day 4 We will make an early start to look for our first target bird, Corsican Nuthatch. As we will already be high up in the mountains we will not have far to travel and hopefully we will soon be watching this delightful little bird foraging and possibly feeding young in the endemic Corsican Pines. While Corsican Nuthatches are very selective about their habitat the other endemic species, Corsican Finch, is more widespread. Unlike its cousin, Citril Finch, which is found above the tree-line in the mountains of mainland Europe, Corsican Finch occurs in a wide variety of habitats. We will spend the whole day in the mountains seeking out these two endemics and will almost certainly also encounter the highly-localised Marmora’s Warbler. Since Balearic Warbler was split from Marmora’s Warbler, Corsica has proved to be the easiest place to see the latter. Other birds we may encounter include Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Blue Rock-thrush, Yellow-billed Chough and Cirl Bunting. Dinner will be taken at a restaurant in Corte.
Day 5 Today we will head down to the east coast where we will explore several habitats ranging from vineyards to coastal scrub and lagoons. Birds we may encounter during the day include Purple Heron, Western Marsh-harrier, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford, Melodious, Sardinian and Moltoni's Warblers. Additionally we should find Firecrest, Spotless Starling, Hooded Crow, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Petronia and European Serin. One of the special birds of the area is the introduced California Quail. Although well-established, nowhere is it common so we will hope to have luck on our side. In the afternoon we will visit a headland to do some seawatching. Audouin’s and Yellow-legged Gulls should be present and we will see more Cory’s and Levantine Shearwaters as well as the Mediterranean race of European Shag. Around the cliffs, Alpine and Pallid Swifts and Eurasian Crag-martin can be found. In the evening we will visit several local sites to listen for European Scops-owl and, hopefully, to see one.
Day 6 A mid-morning start will be made on our return drive to Bastia to catch our flight back to Nice where we will board a connecting flight to London Gatwick.
General Information The pace of the tour is moderate with only a reasonable degree of fitness required as walks will be just a couple of miles each day except on the Ile Porquerolles. The weather can be highly variable so appropriate clothing and footwear will be required. Visas are not required for EU citizens.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6 with 1 leader, maximum 12 with 2 leaders.