Visited Sardinia from 9th - 16th May 2015 staying at the Baia Di Conte in the heart of Porto Conte Natural Reserve. The huge nature reserve is very well protected in parts especially the forest reserve around Mont Timidone. It includes extensive forest, massive areas of unspoilt maquis, reed beds, coastal cliffs and non-intensive farming just on the edge.
The Porticciolo Track
If you hire a car then park at the car park overlooking the Porticciolo Tower and do the walks I describe in reverse. If staying at the hotel walk to the Sassari road,head north and take the first track on the left.
I suspected I was in for a good week when I found a Wryneck in the shrubs and trees at the junction of the Sassari road with the road to Alghero. This was on our first day there! Joining the track the next bird I found was a migrating Common Redstart. The Sardinian Warblers began here in earnest. Before long a huge fenced of field comes into view on your left. I dubbed this 'Bee-eater Field' for obvious reasons. On our very first visit we were greeted by 15 European Bee-eater launching off from the bordering trees and surrounding field border fence. They were here all week.
During the week I heard at least one Stone Curlew in the field but I reckon there was another further away. The latter was more distant when calling.
On the 12th May I recorded an impressive 25 Whinchat on this walk, many in this area. As they are irregular breeders in Sardinia and had disappeared by the last day I assume they were migrating. On the same day I found 21 Spotted Flycatcher, many along the fence bordering the field. They too diminished in numbers as the week progressed so maybe some were migrants.
Turtle Doves were seen or heard every day and I located 3 Eurasian Golden Oriole in the trees surrounding the field. Cirl Bunting was recorded most days and a Corn Bunting too. Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and a few Barn Swallow were often seen overhead.
Hearing a Raven up high I saw it being harassed by a Hooded Crow. A stroke of luck, because as I was looking I caught sight of an Eleonora Falcon drifting through. Carrying on west along the field boundary I saw a Spectacled Warbler and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. One evening I glimpsed a larger warbler which was either a Melodious Warbler or Icterine Warbler. I did not see it long enough to properly identify it.
At the end of the field the track turns north towards the Portociolo Tower. Another European Golden Oriole was seen as well as a Woodchat Shrike. Also seen were Linnet, a Turtle Dove, Blackcap and of course, Sardinian Warbler. A pair of Peregrine Falcon suddenly emerged one morning in hot pursuit of a Rock Dove.
Numerous Yellow-legged Gull were seen along the coast or over the bay. Returning to Bee-eater Field it is well worth carrying on east to Sassari Road. On the way there were more Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher, Jay, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Corn Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Linnet.
On the other side of the road was another impressive bird- rich field where I found Stonechat, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher, Cirl Bunting, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Short-toed Lark, Spanish Sparrow, Barn Swallow, Hooded Crow, Yellow-legged Gull, Spotless Starling. Linnet and a Woodchat Shrike. On the final day I heard yet another Stone Curlew! What a brilliant habitat!
I have found some great birdwatching patches over the years but this one would take some beating!
Still part of the Porto Conte reserve there is a dense forest surrounding Mont Timidone. There is a reserve HQ where you pay 3 Euros entry fee to climb Mont Timidone or go around the base to Isola Piana, an impressive island on the west coast.
We did the latter which takes around 90 minutes to reach. When we got there I found my one and only sighting of a Griffon Vulture as I scanned the area around Christallo Peak. There were also 2 Common Buzzard, a Raven, Common Kestrel and a Peregrine Falcon on the cliffs.
Several Crag Martin and Alpine Swift were recorded. There were some Shag on the water and many Yellow-legged Gull too.
Yet another Turtle Dove was heard along the path,a species which is obviously doing fairly well around here.
Other birds seen were:Linnet, Hooded Crow, Spotless Starling, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Spectacled Warbler, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blackbird, Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon.
Annoyingly there were two birds I could not positively identify due to poor, snatched views. The first was either a Collared or Pied Flycatcher. The other was possibly a Tree Pipit[more likely] or a Meadow Pipit.
The local bus takes you to the entrance of the cave via the steps [2.40 euros return]. A marvelous lofty location to see Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-legged Gull, Crag Martin, Alpine Swift and Pallid Swift. I found a Subalpine Warbler in the maquis near the car park as well as a Garden Warbler. Many Sardinian Warbler were heard or seen.
Also recorded Linnet and the inevitable Hooded Crow.
Porto Conte Bay
An impressive huge sheltered bay. We walked east from the hotel and found a colony of 41 European Bee-eater near the camp site - another prolific species hereabouts.
There were 8 Shag on the rocks not far away with many Yellow-legged Gull. A Common Sandpiper was seen flying away near the Shag.
There is an extensive area of reed beds behind the beach. On exploring them I heard a Cetti's Warbler. The usual Sardinian Warbler were seen and one Spectacled Warbler and Blackcap were heard. Several Spotted Flycatcher were seen in the trees just behind the beach.
The Hotel Grounds
There are extensive gardens and greenery around the hotel. I had a great view of a Turtle Dove one night just peering out of some shrubs and trees. Many Alpine Swift were seen flying over during the week.
Other birds: Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Collared Dove, Blackcap, Yellow-legged Gull, Blackbird and Spotted Flycatcher.
A huge colony of House Martin were nesting in the airport buildings.