Ciao Sicily.

Finally our adventure comes to an end.

Today was spent around time and down by cable car to the beach. Should have bought the snorkel as the fish in the bay looked amazing.

While on the beach we still managed two more honey buzzard which came in off and flapped over our heads.

The new highlight being last night we discovered our place has Geckos so tonight we will be back to watch them hanging as only they can.


Etna and beyond.

Much of the early planning centred on going up Etna. No euphemism intended. Anyway today with clear sky a flat calm sea we headed inland to Etna Sud.  You go up through lava flows some as young as 2001. And then reach a rather commercial district of tourist trinkets and fast food.  Go past that get the cable car and the bus up as far as you can go. This is 2500m above sea level. To see steam coming from a live volcano that last erupted in May 2016 and deposited the ash on witch your walking is amazing.  There is even a bit of snow buried under the ash from the spring just visible.  There are a few flies and I guess that’s what the 2 black eared wheatear were after but they were the only birds.

On the way down we stopped randomly for a scan. 1 calandra lark , 1 kestrel and three Chocolate Marsh Harriers .

In the woodland nuthatch and short toed treecreeper but no Sicilian long tailed tit . Have to come back this cop pice chestnut woodland is incredible. Fungi hunters coming out of the woods in battered Fiats and truffle hounds gave authenticity and we even got good information on Nesting Bonnelis eagle for next time.

We had sun all day but came down into cloud as we headed up the eastern side of the mountain to San Alfio to see the Hundred Horse Chestnut reputed to have been planted in Roman times it is a colossal beast of a coppiced sweet chestnut protected by a fence with its own viewing platform. It was surrounded by a communal nuttery. Further north to Linguaglossa and its vineyards took us through a green and pleasant land unexpected when we first saw the dry island two weeks ago.

20 year journey 

We travelled to Taormina a two and a half hour journey but with the detours it was nearly dark by the time we got parked.

First stop Milazzo on the face of it a medium sized port with its associated heavy industry. But head north along a long finger of land that points out at the Aeolian Islands and you are in a magic world which on a less suitable day i.e. 29c in the shade migrants from central Italy and else where would drop in.  Best we could do was a hooded crow and a great tit.

Then to Messina into the city turn left at the water and head right out to the point.  From here 3km of water separates the Calabrian toe of Italy from the kicking the rump of Sicily. Right on the quayside past the marina and lagolungo we had a great lunch. Too stuffed to take in the home made ice cream the only thing that let us down was a large bird coming high across the water. We had to settle for a Yellow wag while up on the watch point they were excited by their Slovakian Imperial Eagle.  This was the end of a 20+ year dream and in some ways felt like a pilgramage. 

However to get back out we had to go back through town and watched as an African guy begged for money at cars stopped at traffic lights. What are we doing wrong?

I am sure Taormina will b e lovely but getting up to the place started badly with having to climb out of the car window to get an Autostarda ticket from the lorry height (car one not working), getting off the machine did not take notes ( in the end they let us through without paying ) and then the windy roads of Taormina are hard work. An Alba wagtail from the hotel window and house martins overhead.

Etna and Honey Buzzards

At last after all this time on the island we have seen Etna arising in the morning sun.

With the sun came the heat and above the Greek Theatre 3 Honey Buzzards rose circled and soon lost the Buzzard that had set off after them. OK it is not Eilat or the Bosphorus or for that matter Messina, but this is what we came for -migrant raptors.

There were no more until after lunch when after a hot spell with the weather clearing a thunder storm came out of the humidity. In total 9 more Honey Buzzards were seen losing height and flapping hard as the went south from Taormina. 

New holiday birds included Tree Sparrow, coal tit and a good look at Sicilian Goldfinch. Possibly it does look browner but as an indicator it did sound different as a family fed on flowers in the garden. Good views of male and female Sardininan Warbler too.

Life’s a beach.

Or it was today.

Plan A stay on beach to lunch then drive to Madrione mountains. Turned into watch clouds build on mountains and stay on beach.

4 ‘yellow wags’ two sounded familiar and one sounded like a citrine so presumed Black head. The other half way between. Moral don’t race yellow wags they always win especially as Cefalu has no water to pull them down.

After lunch a March harrier and two Honey Buzzards in off. Followed by the second new bird of the holiday as 17 white stork went west out to sea. An Alba wagtail and YLGull were the other highlights.

Tomorrow we move for the last time.

Bright sun. Dark shadows.

Today we went to Palermo.  Not great for birding four species included Kingfisher in the Marina.

The guide books do not prepare you for the elegance of Italy with the proximity of down town Manila.

There are some incredible sights but some things we have seen will need a proper blog. Not one written after catching one train that broke down and then standing all the way to Cefalu.

Live with your scope!

Cefalu is an amazing town, made more so by the huge rock with the castle on the top -La Rocca.

It’s a hot hard slog but it gives great views from the top.

For the eagle eyed yes they are YLgulls and Crag Martins in the pics.  Also at the top Blue Rock Thrush and Eastern Black eared Wheatear.

We spent the afternoon sunning ourselves in the garden. Swallows and martins hunted insects and Sardininan warbler was entertaining. Then in the distance a large BOP just on the limits of judging shapes. Big bird small tail probably a buzzard scale next to that swift looks about right. Until the swift banked and revealed it was a falcon mobbing the BOP and as it disappeared out of sight realised I may have thrown away an eagle.

Got the scope and two buzzards appeared but by then it was too late. So at 6 we he added up for a cupp a before going down to night two of the street food festival.

From the balcony the air was full of gulls and a booted eagle flew directly over us.  And then best of all really high up 24 black stork heading directly west. That was great as so far only 7 all Autumn have come across the Straits of Messina.