Birdwatching in Sardinia is becoming increasingly popular with British birders. If for nothing else because of the abundance of species not able to be seen in this country and the amazing ease with which you can find them and unlike Malta the Sardinians themselves are rapidly becoming some of the most conservationists minded of Europeans.
Yes illegal shooting does go but it is sporadic and definitely on the decline when you talk to the locals and the children in particular. The following piece combines two weeks birding on the island one in early September and one in mid- October with the latter proving the much more productive. Also as we found out September can produce monsoon like rains and is generally not the best month to see all the possibilities. I would recommend you fly into Alghero on the west coast and set up base somewhere to the south of it around the Bosa area.
Bosa is only 40 minutes for the airport but it is well worth going to as Sardinia two remaining colonies of Griffon vultures are found here. A good tip here is that if you have the time before you fly back nip out to Cape Caccia (about twenty minutes west of Algerho) where in the car park right at the end you can look down the cliffs and it’s possible to pick up excellent views of Crag Martin, Pallid and Alpine Swift.
Melodious Warbler is also possible here and if you get there early in the morning before the tourist buses start arriving to visit the huge cave you may even see Barbary Partridge feeding on the side of the road.
You can travel to Bosa by car, from Alghero and you have two choices of road. The inland route on the SP292 via Villanova Monteleone or the SP49 that hugs the coast. The former twists and turns up into the mountains and affords some incredible views back to Alghero. The lower more direct route, has the mountains to one side and a very long drop to the sea on the other. The road is well surfaced and there are lay bys all along the route where you can stop and enjoy the views and scan for species.
Actually finding the vulture colony is as easy as falling off a log as just outside Bosa on the coast road is a pizzeria conveniently called the Grifone, even more conveniently there is large layby just opposite where you can park up and scan the cliffs behind. We managed to get four birds soaring above as we pulled up. Our friends however got nearly into double figures when they took the high road back to Alghero behind the colony. This road is also good for Little Kestrel.
We stayed in Magadomas one of the small hill top villages to the south of Bosa and I would recommend staying in or going to one of these villages to any one as you are already some 400 feet up and you can look down on or are level with some amazing raptors. From here we got Golden and Bonnelli’s Eagle, Goshawk, Red Kite and Monatgus Harrier and of course Sardinian Warbler.
Generally speaking Sardinia has far more scrub and oak forests than mainland Italy and has been nowhere near as intensively farmed. It also has tremendous number of salty lagoons that are important sites for superb species (Purple Gallinule, Greater Flamingo, & Slender-billed Gull). In the southwest San Pietro island hosts one of the best known Elanora`s Falcon colonies in the Mediterranean, Marmora`s Warbler and Blue Rock Thrush can also be picked up here.
We drove up along the coast to get the ferry from northeast port of Palau on the La Maddelana Archipelago some twenty minutes by ferry. Here we had two nights and you can actually explore two islands as a bridge lets you cross over on to Carpera. This island has a lot of forest on it and according to the book the Corsican endemics are often seen. Try as we might we didn’t get any though!
An hour’s drive to the south from Magadomas brings you to Oristano and the riches of the lagoons around it. I would recommend exploring for a couple of days here as the possibilities are endless. In October we got Marsh Harrier feeding no more than fifty yards away and Greater Flamingo really close in. Purple Gallinule, Ferruginous duck, numerous herons and Great White Egret are all possible in the water systems to the south and west of the city. The village of Cabras is also worth while exploring around for the species that can turn up here.
The road to Tharros from Cabras is well worth turning off on to the dirt tracks that lead down to the sea as you can pick up some interesting warblers. A night spent down at Cagliari is also well worth it. The huge lagoons around the city will give you Greater Flamingo and the full range of herons.
To sum up Sardinia is well worth a visit. It’s cheap and easy to get to. Know where is really more than a couple of hours away if you position yourself correctly although we found that having a two centre break made for all the difference. The road system is excellent and you will have no trouble finding anywhere. Also many of the little dirt tracks leading off can be highly productive.
The birds here are amazing and very obliging when they do display. Feathered Tamarisk, Little Bustard and other cracking species too numerous to mention are all a possibility but you will need to do your homework before you go.
I haven’t mentioned a lot of the places we went as Caroline is not really a birder, although she is learning! A simple type in to Google “ Birding in Sardinia” will bring up several really excellent reports from people before which will help dramatically in finding the species.
You’ll get excellent information from www.sardegnaturismo.it. Also www.algherosardinia.net is a really good place to visit before you go. You can download maps of Sardinia to plan your trip free of charge at www.discover-sardinia.com. We used the Michelin 366 which is superb but beware as a map is only as accurate as the day it is printed and some new roads have been built around the bigger towns.
The nearest airport is Alghero is served by Ryanair. You can also fly into Olbia on the east coast and take just over an hours drive on the 199 to get to the area. Olbia is served by easyJet, Ryanair, Jet2.com and a host of other carriers from Italy and Europe.