Sicily: Eastern Sicily in Autumn September 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 'steppingstone' for migratory birds moving South from Europe to Africa. 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 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. Out on the rugged black lava slopes, we will look 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. Over the slopes and the hills to the North, raptors pass through as they head Southwest towards Africa.

 

Leaving Etna, we follow the coast South to the headland and coastal scrub of Murro di Porco and the ancient ports of Siracusa and Ortigia – two of the most beautiful and historic towns in Europe.

 

Nearby is Penisola Magnisi, where passage birds may drop in on their way South and the likes of Stone-curlew and Calandra Lark are resident. Audouin’s Gulls fly along the clifftops and local wetlands harbour Ferruginous Duck, Slender-billed Gull and the incongruous Western Swamphen.

 

The hotel garden and nearby groves of almond, olive and carob can be attractive to migrants, as well as being home to resident Sardinian Warblers, Tree Sparrows and fluting Crested Larks.

 

We will spend some time in the South checking the limestone headlands and coastal macchia for warblers, wheatears and other passerine migrants. Also nearby are important wetlands and saltpans (salinas), well worth checking in autumn for shorebirds heading South with anything from Glossy Ibis and Spoonbill to busy Kentish Plovers and Little Stints likely to be seen.

 

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 – it is impossible to imagine a trip here without him!

 

Our September 2022 visit will be Limosa’s 22nd tour to Sicily with Andrea.

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