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.

To the North

We were sad to leave Agrigento especially as we could of got a lifer. The Italian PM was visiting the temples to sign some declaration or other but after a last spell pool side with the lizards a fly over buzzard and two fly over ‘yellow wags’ we headed inland.  More fires raged across stubble fields and some huge ones were burning through some trees which here were mainly Eucalypts so go well.  The interio was dry and apart from the motorway we zoomed along barren until we got through the road tunnel and neared the coast. He different crops were being grown in damper more fertile areas. 

The view from t he hotel was of Cefalu and the first bird from our balcony was an in off Marsh Harrier.  This is going to be a good place.  Crag martins were new for the holiday as were blackcaps but Blackbird remains the constant 

As the sun sets swallows are arriving and a Cetti’s warbler is singing from an ordinary suburban garden.

Late news yesterday included a fly over Green Sand at dinner and what sounded like a Tawney Owl reminding me we had seen a road side Barn Owl -obviously dead.

BOPs in the sun.

Trying to judge rush hour at the valley of the temples we stayed pool side.  It’s a surprise that Sardinina warblers can eak out an existence when there are no native plants but they seem to mange as do the variety of lizards.

Overhead 4 buzzards went north as did a ring tail harrier at height that ll the best I can say was it was a ring tailed probably Monty’s.  The site is dry and dusty and in spring may throw up more birds. But if you go ensure you get a ticket for the site and the museum up the hill towards the town.

As we walked there a kestrel sp was being chased by jackdaws. And a booted eagle went north.

The museum is next to an ancient church that uses some of the building stone of the temples and also a roman low tiered circle where decisions with the public were taken. The museum is out of this world.  The temples are 6th c BC and so are the earliest of these delicate artefacts. On the way out a wedding was arriving at the church.  It is wrong but hard not to expect to see Marlon Brandow at such an affair.  Opposite the hotel 20 Bee-eaters were gathering and as we took in the the last sun by the pool 40 circled and spiralled high and out of sight. 

A male Marsh Harrier circled low and two chocolate brown ones were higher as 3 Alpine Swift flew north.