EBN ITALIA Bird Trips

Sardinia
Late June, 2001

By Steve Webb, England

Sardinia is an easy place to bird with an excellent road system. With careful planning it should be possible to see all the key species within 3 days. I went in late June and already the Sylvia warblers were not responding to tape (except Spectacled warbler at one location). I had a return flight to Alghero at a total air flight cost of 43 due to a cheap deal with RYAN AIR which happens every 3 months or so. Sardinia is also a cheap way to get to Corsica being a short boat crossing from north Sardinia.

The best map is the Touring Club Italiano Sardegna scale 1:200000. I also used the 1994 edition of Where to Watch Birds in Italy, although I found this to be somewhat out of date. For example, the book states that access to Molentargius Marsh is easy when the opposite is true - it is very difficult to find. There are no sign posts to the reserve. Access is best from the east side because of good reeds as well as salt-pans. Start from the coast where a road goes north between the Quartu Marsh drive for about 2 km. Take the third left and continue to the end of the road then turn right (i.e. going north), continue for about 0.6 km. Access to the marsh is a dirt track on the lest hand-side (i.e. track going west). Go down the dirt-track about 600 metres and then north into reeds. The book also talks about Giara Di Gesturi for Barbary Partridge — do not waste time going to this area.

For my trip I spent an excellent day with 2 local bird-watchers (Francesco Mascia and Marcello Grussu) who were great fun to be with at Molentargius Marsh and the island of San Pietro. I took my very large hire car across to the island at cost of 35000 lire and 9000 lire per person which is probably cheaper than hiring another car. Although the site I went to is within walking distance for all the birds on the west side so perhaps it might be cheaper to get a taxi. There is plenty of information about this island in English e.g. car hire, ferry times at http://www.careloforte.it

I wasted a large amount of time due to a brand new car breaking down (fan belt broke) and not being able to meet up with a local birdwatcher in the north of the country so that I would be able to see key birds quickly. Hence I drove around 1200 km when it should have been around 800 km. I saw and heard 100 birds and if the car had not broken down and I had met up with the northern birdwatcher I suspect it could have been about 107 birds.

My itinerary was:

25th June: Late arrival at Alghero. Under 2.5 hours drive from Alghero (at 130km/hour — the speed I did when in a hurry to Elmas near Cagliari airport by 21.00 hours.

26th: 3 hours morning birdwatch at Quartu Marsh, Molentargius Marsh. Drive to Portoscuso birding en-route on minor coast road for Blue Rock Thrush and with luck Eleanor’s. Also looked for Eleonora’s on dirt track that leads NW out of Portoscusa. Decided to go across to San Pietro for the afternoon for Eleonora’s — a good move saw many some within 30 feet!!! Drove back to Elmas to stay with local birdwatcher Franceso Mascia.

27th: Out of the house by 5.30 drove fast to Oristano to get there by 7.00 am. An excellent place to bird with plenty of potential. An area where I could have birdwatched all day but my car broke down on marshes north west of Cobras. The car broke down by 9.00 am and I had to walk 6 km to get help. It took 5 hours to get the car fixed. Then carried on birding in the area plus went south of Oristano for more water birds. Then drove very fast to Macrome, then on to Bosa. Started birding at 17.30 driving slowly from Bosa towards Alghero. Saw Griffin Vulture but had to be at Algerho airport by 20.00 hours to meet a local birder. However due to poor communication did not meet him. Drove from Alghero to near Tula to be ready first light for Little Bustard. Slept in the car.

28th: Eventually saw Little Bustard but not till 11.00 and luckily for me it was an overcast day with no heat haze so got good views. Drove to the highlands and saw plenty of Citril Finches on the roadside near Cas Forestale Fiorentini. Drove mid-afternoon to Cape Caccia (west of Algerho) for excellent views of Crag Martin, Pallid and Alpine swift. Drove towards Argentiera (for no good reason) and then to Algerho airport for 20.00 hours. Again no luck with meeting up with the local birder. Brief search for owls but instead saw Nightjars about 8 km from Cape Caccia. Slept in the car.

29th: Birding by 05.30 driving the road to Cape Caccia — had partridge by 6.30 in the morning. Watched them for about 20 minutes then drove Nur S. Antine (near Torralba) for better views of Calandra Lark which I did not see. At 11.00 hours started drive to Alghero, then a bit of sea watching, drove to airport and flew back home.

This itinerary was OK but perhaps a better itinerary could have been:

Day One: 6.30 — 11.00 Quartu Marsh and Molentargius Marsh. Drive to Portoscuso birding en-route on minor coast tarmac road north of Portoscuso. Early afternoon ferry to San Pietro (Eleonora’s, swifts, warblers, shearwaters, Blue Rock Thrush, Swifts, Crag Martin).

Day Two: 6.30 — 13.00 Oristano Marshes. Abbasanta (Roller), Near Ottana (Little Bustard)

Day Three: 5.30 — 7.30 Cape Caccia (Barbary Partridge), 7.30 — 9.30 (swifts, warblers) Spare time to find Calandra lark somewhere, 14.00 Drive to Bosa for Griffin Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, Swifts, Crag Martin, shearwaters, possible Barbary Partridge, possible Lesser Kestrel)

Oristano Marshes: An extensive area of different habitats. Due to my car breaking down I only spent about 3 hours birding and driving around looking at all the bird locations: There was some excellent habitat and with more time should have seen: Purple Gallinule, Ferruginous duck, better views of Calandra Lark, and perhaps Great White Egret.

General bird comments: Some birds have a limited distribution which I was unaware of so it is possible to miss then once out of their breeding areas. For example, Roller.

Cory’s and Yelkouan Shearwaters: easy to see provided you put the time in e.g. south of Alghero, north of Portoscuso, San Pietro island.

Shag: also common

Great White Egret: possible at Oristano

Glossy Ibis: not possible in June

Griffon Vulture: very easy to see about 5-8 km north of Bosa coast road. Probably could have seen many more than I did if I spent the time there.

Lesser Kestrel: a difficult bird perhaps possible north of Bosa about 12 km on the coast road? The best place is around 14 km from Bosa but via the inland road north of Bosa and then take a minor west that ends south of M. Mannu (802 metres height) i.e. about 4 km due east of the coast. I did not have time to do this location.

Eleonora’s Falcon: very easy on San Pietro island. Seen within 30 feet. A good place was Capo Sandalo below the lighthouse and for us an even better place was on the main road south of the junction to Cala Fico on a sharp hair-pin bend. Park the car near the bend and walk down a gully westwards for about 150 metres to cliffs.

These can also be seen 4 km — 8 km north of Portoscuso. I saw 1-2 birds in the distance but do not compare with the birds on the island.

Barbary Partridge: A difficult bird. 90% chance of seeing the bird west of Alghero at Capo Caccia in the first few hours of light before the huge number of tourists arrive. Saw a family party very near the Cape itself where the telegraph lines cross the road. Were feeding on the road edge and then moved onto the telegraph track — watched them for around 20 minutes.

Purple Gallinule: Only heard them at Molentargius Marsh due to low water level and also not really giving the site enough time. Started birding the site after 8.00 and really need to be there by 7.00. Also Oristano area also a good site and other water birds is 3-5 km north-west of Cabras but due to car breaking down little time to do any walking.

Greater Flamingo: Easy at Molentargius Marsh and 3 km north-west of Cabras at the start of marshes. It is not easy to find the marshes. From Cabras head out in a north-west direction.

Little Bustard: I found them difficult but had excellent views at 11.00 on an overcast day with no heat haze. On the 597 find the cross-roads of the 132 north of Ozieri by 11.4km. From this cross-roads go north for about 3 km and turn right on a small road heading towards Tula. Continue about 4 km to T junction turning right will led to Tula. I saw my birds about 400 yards south of the T junction on the west side in a small field of grass. The other place to see them but which has taller grass is go to the junction, turn right and start looking on the left hand side for about 800 metres.

A better place for Little Bustard is near Ottana (east of Abbasanta). I did not go there.

Stone-curlew: common in the area of the Little but not easy to see.

Collared Practincole: in flight 5 km north-west of Cabras going north. Told also seen west of Cabras by 5km.

Kentish Plover: not difficult at Molentargius Marsh and large numbers on the beach east of Tharros.

Slender billed gull: easy in the south

Audouin’s gull: Quartu Marsh, Molentargius Marsh, and San Pietro. Can be seen at other sites but did not have time to check every gull.

Gull-billed tern: Molentargius Marsh

Rock dove — common on cliffs

Scops Owl: Meant to be common but I did not have time to look.

Nightjar: Good views north of Capo Caccia about 6 km north on a peninsular east of the road.

Pallid Swift: excellent views by the café at Capo Caccia. One would appear every 20 minutes.

Alpine Swift: excellent views on large breeding colony in the cliffs by the café at Capo Caccia.

Crag Martin: excellent views on the cliffs by the café at Capo Caccia. Also along the coast south of Alghero.

Bee-eater: common in the north

Roller: only saw one bird when I was driving at 130km/hour with no time to stop. It was north of Abbasanta (4 km from the centre) on the west side of the main road and just north of a main river.

Hoopoe: widespread distribution

Calandra lark: poor views of 2 at 5 km north-west of Cabras. One of the problems is the large numbers of skylark everywhere in Sardinia. Calandra Lark I was told was easy so perhaps I do not go to the right places.

Short-toed lark: big numbers at 5 km north-west of Cabras in fields at edge of marshes.

Tawny Pipit: seemed to be common in some places e.g. where I saw Little Bustard, south-west of Torralba, beach area west of Tharros.

Blue Rock Thrush: near or on coast cliffs San Pietro island, 3 km to 15 km north of Portoscuso. I would probably have seen more on the trip if I was not in such a hurry.

Great Reed Warbler: 2 at Molentargius Marsh. There are other sites.

Marmora’s warbler: widespread

Dartford warbler: the only certain one was one female 3 km of north of Portoscuso on a dirt-track near the coast.

Spectacled Warbler: The ones I saw were all in very low scrub on coastal flats. The scrub was not dense so it was easy to see them. 4 east of Tharros in the saline area. 8 by a dirt-track i.e. go on the main road from Cabras to Tharros. Just after the water bridge turn onto a dirt-track that goes south. Follow it down to the fishing boats (about 2 km).

Sardinian warbler: widespread

Sylvia warblers of different species — a good spot was on San Pietro island just north of the junction of the main road and minor road to Cala Fico

Woodchat: all of the race badius. 2 birds 4 km of north of Portoscuso. 6 on minor road 5-8 km south-east of Torralba.

Spotless Starling: Widespread

Rock Sparrow: one on minor road 5 km south-east of Torralba.

Citril Finch: Very easy to see perhaps due to mixed flocks of finch species by side of road 1-3 km south west of M Paidorzu (1002 metres height) which is about 10 km south of Pattada.

Cirl Bunting: widespread.

Day-list now follows. - The number of birds in the list are approximate numbers only. - H denotes heard only.

  26th 27th 28th 29th
Tuffetto Tachybaptus ruficollis Little Grebe   1    
Svasso maggiore Podiceps cristatus Great Crested Grebe   8    
Berta maggiore Calonectris diomedea Cory's Shearwater 4      
Berta minore Puffinus yelkouan Yelkouan Shearwater 20      
Cormorano Phalacrocorax carbo Great Cormorant Yes Yes Yes  
Marangone dal ciuffo Phalacrocorax aristotelis Shag 40      
Tarabuso Botaurus stellaris Bittern        
Tarabusino Ixobrychus minutus Little Bittern        
Nitticora Nycticorax nycticorax Night Heron 6      
Sgarza ciuffetto Ardeola ralloides Squacco Heron 4      
Airone guardabuoi Bubulcus ibis Cattle Egret 6      
Garzetta Egretta garzetta Little Egret Yes Yes    
Airone bianco maggiore Egretta alba Great White Egret        
Airone cenerino Ardea cinerea Grey Heron   8    
Airone rosso Ardea purpurea Purple Heron 8 4    
Mignattaio Plegadis falcinellus Glossy Ibis        
Ibis sacro Threskiornis aethiopicus Sacred Ibis        
Spatola Platalea leucorodia Spoonbill        
Fenicottero Phoenicopterus ruber Greater Flamingo Yes Yes    
Volpoca Tadorna tadorna Shelduck 6 6    
Germano reale Anas platyrhynchos Mallard Yes Yes    
Fistione turco Netta rufina Red-crested Pochard   2    
Moriglione Aythya ferina Pochard        
Moretta Aythya fuligula Tufted Duck        
Nibbio reale Milvus milvus Red Kite       1
Grifone Gyps fulvus Griffon Vulture   4    
Falco di palude Circus aeruginosus Marsh Harrier   2 2  
Albanella minore Circus pygargus Montagu's Harrier        
Astore Accipiter gentilis Goshawk        
Sparviere Accipiter nisus Sparrohawk        
Poiana Buteo buteo Common Buzzard 1 2 3 2
Aquila reale Aquila chrysaetos Golden Eagle        
Falco pescatore Pandion haliaetus Osprey        
Grillaio Falco naumanni Lesser Kestrel        
Gheppio Falco tinnunculus Kestrel Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lodolaio Falco subbuteo Hobby        
Falco della regina Falco eleonorae Eleonora's Falcon 10      
Falco pellegrino Falco peregrinus Peregrine Falcon   1 1  
Pernice sarda Alectoris barbara Barbary Partridge       5
Quaglia Coturnix coturnix Common Quail   15H    
Porciglione Rallus aquaticus Water Rail        
Schiribilla grigiata Porzana pusilla Baillon's Crake        
Gallinella d'acqua Gallinula chloropus Moorhen 1      
Pollo sultano Porphyrio porphyrio Purple Swamp-hen 2H      
Folaga Fulica atra Coot Yes Yes    
Gallina prataiola Tetrax tetrax Little Bustard     3  
Chiurlo Numenius arquata Curlew   1H    
Pantana Tringa nebularia Greenshank   15    
Piro piro culbianco Tringa ochropus Green Sandpiper 4      
Beccaccia di mare Haematopus ostralegus Oystercatcher        
Cavaliere d'Italia Himantopus himantopus Black-winged Stilt Yes Yes    
Avocetta Recurvirostra avosetta Avocet Yes      
Occhione Burhinus oedicnemus Stone-curlew     10  
Pernice di mare Glareola pratincola Collared Pratincole   6    
Corriere piccolo Charadrius dubius Little Ringed Plover        
Corriere grosso Charadrius hiaticula Ringed Plover        
Fratino Charadrius alexandrinus Kentish Plover 3 15    
Pettegola Tringa totanus Redshank        
Gabbiano corallino Larus melanocephalus Mediterranean Gull        
Gabbiano comune Larus ridibundus Black-headed Gull   3    
Gabbiano roseo Larus genei Slender-billed Gull Yes Yes    
Gabbiano corso Larus audouinii Audouin's Gull 10      
Gabbiano reale nordico Larus argentatus Herring Gull        
Gabbiano reale zampegialle Larus michahellis Yellow-legged Gull Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sterna zampenere Sterna nilotica Gull-billed Tern 5      
Sterna comune Sterna hirundo Common Tern Yes Yes    
Fraticello Sterna albifrons Little Tern Yes Yes    
Piccione Columba livia Rock Dove Yes Yes Yes  
Colombaccio Columba palumbus Woodpigeon 1 6 8  
Tortora dal collare Streptopelia decaocto Collared Dove   2 2  
Tortora Streptopelia turtur Turtle Dove   6 4 3
Cuculo Cuculus canorus Cuckoo        
Barbagianni Tyto alba Barn Owl        
Assiolo Otus scops Scops Owl        
Civetta Athene noctua Little Owl       6
Succiacapre Caprimulgus europaeus Nightjar     2  
Rondone Apus apus Common Swift Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rondone pallido Apus pallidus Pallid Swift     4  
Rondone maggiore Apus melba Alpine Swift 1   60  
Gruccione Merops apiaster European Bee-eater   Yes Yes Yes
Ghiandaia marina Coracias garrulus European Roller 1 on 25th      
Upupa Upupa epops Hoopoe 3 on 25th   4 2
Torcicollo Jynx torquilla Wryneck        
Picchio rosso maggiore Dendrocopus major Great Spotted Woodpecker   1H    
Picchio rosso minore Dendrocopus minor Lesser Spotted Woodpecker        
Calandra Melanocorypha calandra Calandra Lark   2    
Calandrella Calandrella brachydactyla Short-toed Lark   15    
Tottavilla Lullula arborea Woodlark     2 5
Allodola Alauda arvensis Skylark Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rondine montana Ptyonoprogne rupestris Crag Martin   2 15 2
Rondine Hirundo rustica Swallow Yes Yes Yes Yes
Balestruccio Delichon urbica House Martin   Yes Yes Yes
Calandro Anthus campestris Tawny Pipit   3 6 4
Cutrettola Motacilla flava flava Yellow Wagtail        
Ballerina gialla Motacilla cinerea Grey Wagtail   1H    
Ballerina bianca Motacilla alba alba White Wagtail        
Merlo acquaiolo Cinclus cinclus Dipper        
Scricciolo Troglodytes troglodytes Wren 1      
Pettirosso Erithacus rubecula Robin       1
Usignolo Luscinia megarhynchos Nightingale        
Codirosso spazzacamino Phoenicurus ochruros Black Redstart        
Codirosso Phoenicurus phoenicurus Common Redstart        
Saltimpalo Saxicola torquata Stonechat Yes Yes Yes Yes
Culbianco Oenanthe oenanthe Northern Wheatear        
Codirossone Monticola saxatilis Rock Thrush        
Passero solitario Monticola solitarius Blue Rock Thrush 3      
Merlo Turdus merula Blackbird Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tordela Turdus viscivorus Mistle Thrush     1  
Usignolo di fiume Cettia cetti Cetti's Warbler H H    
Beccamoschino Cisticola juncidis Fan-tailed Warbler Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cannaiola Acrocephalus scirpaceus Reed Warbler Yes Yes    
Cannareccione Acrocephalus arundinaceus Great Reed Warbler 2      
Magnanina sarda Sylvia sarda Marmora's Warbler 1 1 4 2
Magnanina Sylvia undata Dartford Warbler 1      
Sterpazzola di Sardegna Sylvia conspicillata Spectacled Warbler   12    
Sterpazzolina Sylvia cantillans Subalpine Warbler 2      
Occhiocotto Sylvia melanocephala Sardinian Warbler 4   2 3
Capinera Sylvia atricapilla Blackcap   2 4 1
Fiorrancino Regulus ignicapillus Firecrest        
Pigliamosche Muscicapa striata Spotted Flycatcher 1 1 1  
Cincia mora Parus ater Coal Tit        
Cinciarella Parus caeruleus Blue Tit     1  
Cinciallegra Parus major Great Tit     2  
Averla piccola Lanius collurio Red-backed Shrike        
Averla capirossa Lanius senator Woodchat Shrike 2     8
Ghiandaia Garrulus glandarius Jay     4  
Gracchio corallino Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Chough        
Taccola Corvus monedula Jackdaw        
Cornacchia grigia Corvus corone cornix Hooded Crow Yes Yes Yes Yes
Corvo imperiale Corvus corax Raven   2 2 2
Storno nero Sturnus unicolor Spotless Starling Yes Yes Yes Yes
Passera sarda Passer hispaniolensis Spanish Sparrow Yes Yes Yes Yes
Passera mattugia Passer montanus Tree Sparrow        
Passera lagia Petronia petronia Rock Sparrow       1
Fringuello Fringilla coelebs Chaffinch     Yes  
Verzellino Serinus serinus Serin   Yes Yes Yes
Venturone Serinus citrinella Citril Finch     15  
Verdone Carduelis chloris Greenfinch       1
Cardellino Carduelis carduelis Goldfinch   Yes Yes Yes
Fanello Carduelis cannabina Linnet   Yes Yes  
Frosone Coccothraustes coccothraustes Hawfinch        
Zigolo nero Emberiza cirlus Cirl Bunting   Yes Yes Yes
Strillozzo Miliaria calandra Corn Bunting Yes Yes Yes Yes

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