Corsica - the Scented Isle - is one of the most rugged and mountainous of all Mediterranean islands, and still largely untouched by tourist development. From the clear, deep blue seas of the coast, up through the lush green forests of the lower slopes to the white snow-capped peaks of its 3000m (9850ft) mountains, the island offers a superb variety of scenery and wildlife. Much of the northern half of Corsica has been declared a National Park - just recognition for its stunning scenery, amazing birdlife and rich natural history.
The island’s long isolation from mainland Europe has resulted in a high incidence of endemism in its flora and fauna. Our May tour is carefully timed to maximise the variety of birds and other wildlife we should see - and to take advantage of the first direct flights of the season from London to Bastia. In May, butterflies that should be on the wing include the endemic Corsican Heath, Corsican Red Underwing Skipper and Corsican Small Tortoiseshell, and wildflowers can also be superb at this season with more than 15 species of orchid to look for.
We begin our tour in the central mountains, seeking the endemic Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Finch – the former is restricted to Corsica's ancient pine forests; the latter rather more widespread on the island. We spend our first four nights at a family-run hotel at the start of the enchanting Restonica Gorge, in the heart of the picturesque Corsica National Park. It makes the perfect base from which to search for high-level specialities such as Lammergeier (now rare), Golden Eagle, Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and Alpine Chough, as well as 'Corsican' Crossbill, the island's own endemic race. Red Kites are everywhere and we will also enjoy seeing Italian Sparrow and getting to grips with Mediterranean Flycatcher, learning how to recognise this 'new' species - recently split from Spotted Flycatcher - in the field.
We leave the mountains and drop down to Corsica's northeast coast for the second part of our holiday. Audouin’s Gull and Scopoli’s Shearwater may be seen around the shore, plus an excellent range of other Mediterranean birds - from exotic Bee-eaters to Moltoni’s Warbler (another recent taxonomic ‘split’, this one from Subalpine Warbler), and the localised badius form of Woodchat Shrike that is unique to the region. Included in our itinerary is a visit to the island’s most important wetland, the Étang de Biguglia, which in May can hold numbers of herons, waders, gulls and warblers - our May 2018 tour found a Northern Bald Ibis here!
May is also an important month for migrants passing north through Corsica to their breeding grounds elsewhere in Europe. Most choose to avoid the mountainous interior and instead skirt along the island’s spectacular coastline - so at Bastia, we shall be ideally placed to encounter some of these.
North of Bastia, Cap Corse is one of the most important migration watchpoints in the western Mediterranean. We will look for Scopoli's Shearwaters offshore here as well as the resident Marmora’s Warbler - yet another warbler ‘split’, with those occurring on Corsica now being recognised as a distinct species to that found in the Balearic Islands.
Limosa guide Mike Crewe is both a first-rate birder and an excellent field naturalist. Join him for Corsica in May and let us introduce you to this breathtakingly beautiful island, on a two-centre tour that’s designed to show you the very best of Corsica's birds and wildlife - at quite the loveliest time of year!