Wednesday, 15 May 2013

CORSICA May 2013: Haut Asco

Wednesday 08 May.  Our last full day in the mountains.  Before breakfast I walked down to the footbridge over the Restonica/Tavagarno rivers and was immediately rewarded with two Dippers chasing each other around - a long time favourite of mine.  Very pleasing after two days of unsuccessful random stop and scans along suitable looking rivers.
Black-bellied Dipper - one day perhaps in Sussex
Great Spotted Woodpecker -endemic race parotti
Serin - nice to become reacquainted with its song and call
our usual view of Corte catching the early morning sun

I needed little excuse to visit another mountain site while Megan was very keen to see a Mouflon (Wild Sheep).  The old ski resort of Haut Asco, an hours drive away, seemed to offer the best chance, albeit still a slim one.   Another narrow winding road led up a long valley but being fairly early we were virtually the only car on it.  A few brief stops, hoping for Subalpine Warbler, were unsuccessful.  The large car park at Haut Asco was almost empty and we set off to climb above the tree line but soon missed a marker and lost the trail.  Rather than retracing our steps we followed the route of the old chair lift up a quite steep slope.  After a stiff hours climb, which produced a rather pale looking Wren and a male Corsican Finch, we reached an initial ridge above the tree line.  We continued and after a short while picked out two Mouflons walking away on an adjacent slope which slowly wandered away and over another ridge.  A bit further on we rejoined the trail we'd briefly started on although if we'd been on it from the outset we probably wouldn't have seen the Mouflon so there was some benefit in going the wrong way!  Above the tree line we saw a summer-plumaged Water Pipit and male Stonechat while my scanning of distant peaks produced 3 Ravens and a very distant Alpine Chough (given the range it was fortunate that Alpine was the only Chough occurring).  By now a few walkers had appeared and we decided to return to the car for lunch.  We followed the marked trail (it turned out to be the GR20, the famous cross-island hiking track) back for an hour down through open wooded slopes, the old Corsican Pines looking very impressive.  Back at Haut Asco car park, just as we were about to leave, a Lammergeyer flew along one of the nearer ridges. 
view from the road to Haut Asco
looking back down the Asco Valley, note snow in he foreground, a Water Pipit was wandering around on it!
panorama of the Asco Valley from above the tree line
the two Mouflon we saw crossed the small middle patch of snow and disppeared over the ridge to the right
we turned back about here, the GR20 was below us and appeared to cross a ridge to the far left, still under a lot of snow in May.

Corsican Pine
not the only thing with a lot of character on the GR20 that day!

On our return down the valley I was determined to make more of an effort for Subalpine Warbler and on our first stop, at the edge of the conifer forest, one showed well right by the road.  Before rejoining the main road we drove up to the ruined Convent de Caccia .  Back in Corte our after dinner walk produced the expected Cirl Bunting.
Moltoni's Subalpine Warbler
considered a potential split by some
very smart and pleasing to see whether it is or isn't
ruined Convent de Caccia

that more of the roof had not fallen in was testament to its construction

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