Monday, 28 July 2014

A breathtaking walk

16 July 2014

Bergeries des Pozzi

I bought a small book of the 75 finest coastal and mountain walks in Corsica, by Klaus Wolfsperger, (Rother Walking Guide) just before our short break. On a fairly casual flick through its pages I stopped at one photograph titled 'The wetlands above the Bergeries des Pozzi'. It showed an extraordinary series of individually shaped fresh water pools on top of a mountain. They looked extraordinary and I hoped we'd be able to visit. 

So when we arrived in Bastelica and I reopened the book to find a walk nearby I was rather excited to find the Bergeries des Pozzi was just 12km from our hotel in Bastelica. After a hearty breakfast we stopped briefly in the village to purchase water and some food and set off up the mountain road. As we drove up through macchia I decided to stop hoping again to see Moltoni's Warbler. I found a lay-by and crossed the road to view down the macchia covered hillside. A few small trees among the low shrubbery suggested suitable song posts. Spotted Flycatchers were evident all along the road, most feeding well grown chicks. I played the tape of Subalpine Warbler and instantly got a reaction as a warbler churred and croaked in the roadside vegetation. I could hear it getting closer and soon it appeared atop the nearest gorse bush - a Mamora's Warbler. 

Mamora's Warbler

With a little gentle 'pishing' it was soon joined by a couple of youngsters which gave close views as they came to inspect the odd noises. 

After a few minutes I could hear a sylvia warbler singing close by and it gradually came towards me and the rest of its family. A superb adult male Mamora's Warbler soon appeared in the gorse, climbed to the top and sang in full, close view for the next ten minutes. What a cracker and not something I expected to see so well in mid July.

Delighted with the views we headed on to the ski station at the Plateau d'Ese where we parked. A steep climb up past the ski lifts got the heart going. There were plenty of birds along the way - Water Pipit, Woodlark, Skylark, Northern Wheatear, Linnet and the odd Corsican Finch. Spotted Flycatcher were nesting everywhere, even in the metal overheads of the highest ski pylon at some 1,955m and Red Kite was seen right up above the peaks.

The view back towards Bastelica
Northern Wheatear
Water Pipit
The last steep section of climb up from Val d'Ese
After a slight wrong turn that at least provided some stunning views down the valley and a brief Mistle Thrush we followed the walking notes along the Scaldasole ridge until the path dropped down towards the pozzi, a lush green marshland of pools and streams in the bottom of a classic U-shaped valley. We walked carefully down to the pools enjoying the ever changing views and reflections.

First view of the pozzi below
A Corsican Finch takes a drink
Corsican Finches fed with Linnets around the boulders

Close up one of the tear shaped pools
The valley from the opposite end

After taking in the stunning views and a well-earned rest we followed the guide book which took us to the far end of the valley and rather pointlessly up around a small waterfall onto the hillside, then back down to the pozzi where we had com from. We walked through the cows feeding in the marsh and got wet feet as we tried to weave around the streams and pools.

The superb U shaped valley in which the pozzi reside
Looking back across the pozzi
We walked along the stream and down the valley passing some small huts at the Bergeries des Pozzi, where a hill farmer makes and sells yoghurt and cheese to the many walkers passing by. We dropped down through some ancient and quite extraordinary Beech woods through the picturesque Marmano Valley, crossing several streams and another marsh before climbing back through the woods over a Col and back through another wide U-shaped valley back to the ski station.

Some of the gnarled ancient Beech Trees in the valley
Ancient woodlands
The climb provided some further views across the mountains. Spotted Flycatchers were commonplace and the odd Red Kite flew overhead. In the woods we heard a few Wren and Robin and saw a Blackbird or two.

Climbing out of the woods
Looking back before the final shallow descent

We finished the walk along the stream into the Val d'Ese passing many Pigs and Cattle roaming wild in the Valley. Four Grey Wagtail, a Coal Tit and some Goldfinch welcomed us back to the car after the most breathtaking walk I have ever done. It is a truly beautiful and magical place and the changes in scenery and habitat are really impressive - the pozzi are just the cherry on the icing on the cake. It took a good six hours in perfect weather - I fully recommend it.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Corsican Endemics

15 July 2014

Col de Sorba

Todays objective was to find some ancient Corsican Pine forest hoping to see the endemic Corsican Nuthatch, which is found nowhere else in the World. We drove north from Bastelica stopping on a mountain pass to enjoy the breathtaking views.

One of the winding roads over the mountains
As a local farmer released some of his cattle herd into the macchia a short scratchy call alerted me to the presence of a Mamora's Warbler, just as a Corsican Finch dropped into the close shrubs. I opted for the finch first not really expecting to see the warbler, and using a recording of Citril Finch managed to get enough interest to grab a few images before it got bored and flew away.

Corsican Finch
Corsican Finch
Fortunately the warbler was still calling and as I turned around I saw it flick into a bush beside the road. I carefully approached and was delighted when the juvenile bird hopped out into view.

Juvenile Mamora's Warbler
Close views as it comes to check me out
We drove further along the road stopping at a panorama where a pair of Woodlark flew up from the track and gave good flight views. The vegetation looked good for Moltoni's (Subalpine) Warbler so I played a recording of Subalpine Warbler and tried pishing to see whether anything would respond. A Blackcap called back and a couple of Spotted Flycatcher flicked around back by the road. As I was about to give up a scratchy warbler song started from a dense bush just below our outlook. I walked closer and despite the bird being only a few feet away I just could not see it before it worked its way back down the hillside. I gave up and we set off down the precarious roads to join the wider and faster main road north towards Corte.

We drove through some ancient Corsican Pine forest but with the trees towering above the road continued on to the well known Col du Sorba road. After about 3km the road cuts through a patch of pine that falls gently below the road affording good views into the canopy. A convenient lay-by allowed us to park safely. Within a few minutes a Corsican Nuthatch trumpeted from the trees below us. We soon had the Nuthatch feeding directly above us and giving great views. A second bird came in from higher up and a Corsican Finch flew over. As I looked up into the canopy a large female Sparrowhawk circled overhead.

After enjoying views of the Nuthatch we moved further along the road stopping whenever the habitat looked good and a safe lay-by was available. After about three stops I was just about to give up when I heard a scratching noise from a nearby tree. It was a feeding Corsican Nuthatch and it gave some really good views lower down on the tree trunk before flicking into cover and disappearing.

Corsican Nuthatch

A large Lizard basking on the mountain road
The view from the Col De Sorb
Delighted with our morning's effort we drove out to the east coast spending the afternoon on the beautiful, deserted sandy beach at Etang d'Urbino. We parked under the trees and enjoyed a swim in the very warm sea, chilling on the beach for much of the afternoon. A few Shag and Yellow-legged Gull plus a single Little Egret were the only birds seen. Along the top of the beach a number of Great Banded Grayling butterflies were feeding in the sparse vegetation.

Great Banded Grayling
A fairly long and challenging drive back to Bastelica produced several Red Kite, a Buzzard and two Kestrel. As we drove back over the pass towards the Col de Sorba a stunning Goshawk circled over the road giving great views from the car, though I lost it as I parked the car in a safer location. The scenery was absolutely spectacular.