Sicily: Eastern Scilly in Spring April 2022

Separated from the toe of Italy by the Strait of Messina, and with Tunisia just 100 miles to the Southwest, Sicily has long been known as an important 'stepping-stone' for migratory birds moving between Africa and Europe. This mountainous Mediterranean island is also one of the most fascinating regions of Europe, its landscape the product of a rich blend of history, archaeology, art and culture. Sicilian food and wine are wonderful, and the local people are as warm and friendly as the island’s climate.

Largest of all the Mediterranean islands, first-time visitors may be surprised at just how big Sicily is and for this reason, our Spring tours focus on the island’s bird-rich Eastern side, where we will watch birds amidst a landscape dominated and shaped by the immense smouldering cone of Europe’s largest volcano, Mount Etna. We will scour the rugged slopes for three of the island’s special birds: the endemic Sicilian race of Rock Partridge (still awaiting promotion from its mainland cousin); the distinctive ‘Sicilian’ Long-tailed Tit (which breeds in the mountain oak woods and scrub) and the enigmatic ‘Sicilian’ Common Crossbill.

 

To the South, the ancient port of Siracusa is one of the most beautiful and historic towns in Europe. In Spring, the coastal scrub of Murro di Porco or Penisola Magnisis has breeding Stone-curlews and Calandra Larks, whilst Audouin’s Gulls float by and nearby wetlands harbour breeding Kentish Plovers, Slender-billed Gulls, Ferruginous Ducks and the rare Western Swamphen. Our hotel’s gardens and nearby groves of Almond, Olive and Carob lure migrants from Nightjar and Hoopoe to Golden Oriole and Collared Flycatcher.

 

To the West of Siracusa is the beautiful and unspoilt Iblei region: a rough, sheep-grazed limestone plateau cut by deep valleys such as the Cava Grande del Cassibile, Sicily’s ‘Grand Canyon’, where we will look for migrating raptors and scarce local specialities such as Rock Sparrow and Spectacled Warbler. North along the coast are various wetlands and jutting headlands which can hold exciting breeding and migrant species. In April, birds of prey on the move could include Pallid, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers.

 

We shall be based at a comfortable family-run hotel which is a fully renovated 19th century former winery near Siracusa. Set amidst lemon and orange groves, its grounds are alive with the sound of Sardinian Warblers and Crested Larks, while nearby fields hold Zitting Cisticolas and Tree Sparrows. Meals and hospitality at the ‘Pozzo’ are simply a delight.

 

As a tourist destination, Sicily has enjoyed a surge in popularity recently following the BBC’s screening of the Italian TV series Inspector Montalbano, which was filmed in the stunning southeast of the island.

 

Our local expert Andrea Corso lives in Siracusa and is Sicily’s foremost ornithologist. Author of the Avifauna di Sicilia and one of the leading lights in birding and conservation in Italy, he also has a wonderful sense of humour. Andrea possesses an infectious enthusiasm for his country and is passionate about its birds. Indeed, his knowledge of Sicily’s birds and where to find them is unsurpassed; frankly, it is impossible to imagine a trip here without him!

 

Our April 2022 visit will be Limosa’s 21st tour to Sicily with Andrea, 14 of them having been in Spring. Guide David Fairhurst led our April 2015, 2019 and 2020 trips to Sicily with Andrea and our April 2022 tour will be his fourth visit to the island.

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