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There can be no Mediterranean islandso spectacular as Corsica. There canbe no island anywhere, asmountainous. It is truly a green mountain ina turquoise sea. Further, and what is soremarkable, is that an island sowell-deserving of its ancient Greek name,Kaliste (the most beautiful), is sodelightfully free of tourists and touristdevelopment. Corsica's wild and ruggedlandscape is wholly dominated by the hugegranitic mountains which soar to nearly2,740 metres and form a giant spine thatruns the length of the island. Accessibleonly via tortuous winding roads, or prettymountain trails, Corsica provides a nearperfect Naturetrek destination, itsnumerous endemic plant and bird speciesensuring its appeal to the naturalist. On thisholiday we will be staying in two simple butcomfortable mountain hotels, both situatedin fabulous settings. From them we will beexploring the island's wealth of naturalhistory, wherever possible on foot.Corsica is by far the greenest of theMediterranean islands, in part because it isthe least populated of the larger islands,but also because it is so remarkably wellcovered with unspoiled natural forest andmaquis. The riot of colour presented eachspring by the profusion of blossomingplants, the lush green meadows andforests, the towering snow-capped peaks,and the deep blue sea and sky willundoubtedly provide one of the greatmemories of this holiday. It is Corsica'sisolation from mainland Europe, being 160kilometres from the coast of southernFrance, and 80 kilometres from the Italianmainland, together with its exceptionaltopography, that give the island its uniquecultural blend, and cause the high degreeof endemism amongst its flora and fauna(although many of the endemics areshared with neighbouring Sardinia, just 12kilometres away). The endemic CorsicanNuthatch occurs in the island's high pineforests, as do endemic races of the CitrilFinch and Crossbill, amongst others. Theacidic nature of Corsica's rock doesslightly limit the variety of plants, butamongst the many endemics we will hopeto see are Pinguicula corsica,Crocuscorsicus,Leucojum longifolium,CorsicanPine and Corsican Hellebore, plus awonderful range of orchids.We begin our holiday by flying to Bastia inthe north of the island. From here we willdrive south-west through the scented air ofthe maquis to Evisa, taking the scenicroute that winds through the rugged andalmost uninhabited hills that rise abruptlyfrom the island's coastline. This is one of the most beautiful andpeaceful corners of the island, with itsextensive maquis and Holm Oak forestproviding cover for many bird species,including Woodchat Shrike, Marmora's,Subalpine and Dartford Warblers, andBee-eaters. Overhead fly Alpine and Pallid Swifts.Driving on, we will reach Evisa, a beautiful hilltop village in one of Corsica'sfinest settings. High in the mountains, yetoverlooking the sea and the spectacularSpelunca Gorge, the view from our hotelterrace is breathtaking. From this base, we will spend the first part of our holidaylooking for Corsican Nuthatches in theForest of Aitone, enjoying the fabulousscenery and flowers of the SpeluncaGorge, and looking at the exceptionalvariety of coastal and wetland birds and plants to be found on the LiamoneEstuary and the dunes of the Golfe de Sagone.Crossing the Col de Verghio, and drivingthrough the extensive forests of Aitone andValdo-Niello, we will descend to the historictown of Corte, Corsica's ancient capital.Nearby is the beautiful valley of LaRestonica, in the heart of the CorsicanNational Park. This is a long, narrow andspectacular valley, with numerous walkingopportunities and an interesting range ofbirds and plants. To explore the region wewill spend the second part of our holiday ina comfortable auberge between Venaco andthe historic town of Corte, an ideal base forour birding and botanical walks in the area.In the Gorge de la Restonica and thebeautiful high alpine meadows of the AscoValley we will look for Cyclamen repandumand Leucojum longifolium,Lammergeier,Golden Eagle, Alpine Accentor, AlpineChough and Water Pipit. In the forest ofCorsican Pines near Vizzavona we have ourbest chance of finding Corsican Nuthatches,Crossbills and Citril Finches, whilst in thenearby Verghello Valley, that sits betweenthe giant summits of Monte Cinto and Monted'Oro, a range of differing vegetationprovides a corresponding diversity of birdand plant species.Finally, by way of a contrast from theisland's dominating mountain habitats, wewill visit one of Corsica's few goodwetlands, the coastal lake of Biguglia.Here, a good variety of wetland birds isoften supplemented by such specialities asRed-footed Falcon, Moustached Warbler orAudouin's Gull; a final treat perhaps, from atruly special destination! Corsica - The Scented IsleAn 8-day holiday of birdwatching and botanical walks in the rugged mountains of northern Corsica.Sunday 12th May - Sunday 19th May Cost: £1,295Saturday 7th September - Saturday 14th September Cost: £1,295(Focus in September: Walking and natural history)Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationMt. D'OROAJACCIORIVER LIAMONEETANGDE BIGUGLIACAP CORSECALVIMt. CINTOOTAPORTOEVISACORTEVENACOGORGE DE LARESTONICAGOLFE DESAGONECORSICABASTIAOutline itinerary Day 1Fly Bastia and transferto Evisa. Day 2/3Evisa. Day 4/7Venaco. Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA 2-centre holiday usingcharacterful and well situatedmountain hotels with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingB. Day walks only. Between 300 and 1,830 metres.FocusBirds and plants.N.B. In September we will focusmore on walking and generalnatural history (including butterfliesand dragonflies).LeadersDavid Morris (ornithologist) andDavid Tattersfield (botanist).Single room supplement£140.Web quick search: FRA04 and FRA2241Corsican NuthatchCrocus corsicusGorge de la Restonica

Coastal flora, PlakiasCrete is the largest of the GreekIslands, being 258 kilometres longand 56 kilometres wide. To itssouth, across the Libyan Sea, lie theshores of north Africa; to the north lie theislands of the Cyclades and Dodecanese.Crete itself is dominated by four mountainchains which are largely limestone incontent and stretch,like the backbone of agreat sea monster, from its eastern to itswestern shores, rising at their highestpoint to 2,450 metres. From these heights,clear mountain streams empty into the Aegean Sea to the north. To the south thestreams have cut deep gorges beforeentering the Libyan Sea, and many dry out under the intense heat of thesummer sun.Crete's northern coast has been cultivatedfor thousands of years. Here, olives,grapes, melons, peaches, oranges andcereals are grown, and the ubiquitoussheep and goats are still pastured as inBiblical times. The island's climate,position, and variety of both altitude andterrain have created its outstanding -indeed world-renowned-flora. Not onlyare there over 1,600 species of floweringplant, of which at least 139 are endemic,but the display of colour along eachroadside verge is breathtaking. Theintense reds of poppies; the delicate pinkof Silene coloratablending so well with thepale purple of Sea Stock; the red, yellowand white of Ranunculus asiaticus; thepink of gladioli in the fields, andeverywhere the pale yellow of CrownDaisies make Crete a most colourful island in spring.Our visit to Crete will also coincide withthe northward migration of birds visitingEurope for the summer. Greek islands aretheir stepping stones, and indeed the finaldestination of many of the most colourfulspecies. We will watch for herons andbirds of prey as they fly in off the sea, for'falls' of passerine migrants in coastalmaquis and olive groves, and for wadersfeeding in the tiny marshy fields. At thisseason the coastal scrub can holdIcterine, Subalpine, Eastern Bonelli's andOlivaceous Warblers, Collared and PiedFlycatchers, and Black-eared andIsabelline Wheatears. Overhead, Swiftsand Bee-eaters hawk for insects. Cretealso has its own eastern Mediterraneanspecialities; amongst them, the elegantRüppell's Warbler, and the Eleonora'sFalcon which can be seen flying at duskalong most shorelines in late spring. In the mountains, a good population ofGriffon Vultures can be found, togetherwith the rarer Bonelli's and Golden Eagles, and Lammergeier.With the recurring theme of occupationfollowed by heroic battles for liberation,Crete's history is unusually rich, and wedo not plan to ignore it. The Romans,Venetians, Turks and Nazis have all triedto suppress these quiet, cheerful people.All have failed, leaving only the relics oftheir occupation behind them. Mostfascinating of all Crete's settlers were thefun-loving Minoans, the remains of whosepalaces and villages lie scatteredthroughout the island.During our 8-day stay we will be based forthe first four days in the picturesqueseaside town of Plakias on the southcoast. This will allow us the opportunity toexplore the dramatic gorges of Imbros,Kotsiphos and Kourtilotiki and the hillsaround the little town of Spili, famous forits orchids, tulips and other wonderfulflora. Other explorations will include theMinoan Palace of Phaestos which, with itsview of plain and mountain, has the mostawe-inspiring location of all Minoan sites.It also provides an excellent hilltop birdmigration viewpoint and flower-rich slopeswith possible Monkey Orchid and EasternSerapias. We will visit the Late MinoanCemetery at Armeni with its cool ValoniaOak woodland and the atmosphericmonastery at Moni Prevelli. From there wewill explore the back roads of the verdantAmari Valley, famous for itsapple, cherryand almond orchards, and Byzantinechurches.Western Crete is perhaps less well known,but is greener than the east and has somedramatic scenery. On one day we willhead to the top of the spectacularSamaria Gorge, where we will keep oureyes skyward for Lammergeier, butwalking on the Omalos Plateau we shallbe torn between birds and the amazingdisplay of iris, tulips and anemones. Wereturn to Chania via the reed-fringedreservoir at Ayia to look for Great ReedWarblers and Little Crake. On another daywe will visit the peaceful Akrotiri Peninsulaand spend time searching the extensiveolive groves around the monastery of AgiaTriada for migrant flycatchers, warblersand Golden Orioles. By now under theisland's spell, we must return to London,well satisfied with the colour, history andnatural history of Crete.CreteAn 8-day holiday in search of the spring flowers and migrating birds on the island of Crete.Tuesday 2nd April - Tuesday 9th April Cost: £1,395Tuesday 9th April - Tuesday 16th April Cost: £1,295Tuesday 16th April - Tuesday 23rd April Cost: £1,295Outline itinerary Day 1 Fly Heraklion. Day 2/4Plakias. Day 5/7Chania. Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA 2-centre holiday based in smallfamily-run hotels in Plakias andChania, both with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price, except for all evening meals in Chania.Allow £60.GradingA. Day walks only.FocusBirds and plants.LeadersJohn Willsher or Barry Oxley(ornithologist) and DavidTattersfield or Jenny Willsher(botanist).Single room supplement£120.ExtensionsArranged on request.Web quick search: GRC0242Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryCRETEAKROTIRI PENINSULAHERAKLIONPHAESTOSDHIKTI MOUNTAINSCHANIAOMALOSPLATEAUIMBROSGORGESAMARIA GORGEPLAKIASOphrys creticaLammergeier