Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean and lies in the Tyrrhenian Sea, south of Corsica. It is a land of contrasts, ranging from beautiful white sandy beaches and coves to a rugged mountainous interior and quieter southern areas. Great care has been taken to ensure that Sardinia has escaped the ravages of tourism which many other Mediterranean islands have suffered. The natural scenery is extremely varied, providing a wide range of habitats for the plants, animals and birds that live here. For the naturalist it is the island’s abundant coastal lagoons, extensive forests, mountains and rugged limestone hills that are of particular interest, as they are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Human settlements have existed here for thousands of years and Sardinia is studded with traces of ancient civilisations, such as the curious stone tower monuments called nuraghi, built by Bronze Age inhabitants.
This tour visits the island’s wild and little visited western coast and, if you love dragonflies, this is the trip for you! There are some amazingly colourful dragonflies here — indeed you would need to travel to Africa to see some of these species elsewhere. At this time of year more than 20 species can be seen, most of which are not found in Britain, including Green Hooktail, Bladetail, Banded Groundling, Island Bluetail and Long Skimmer. The island also boasts a rich diversity of other wildlife and is home to many endemic species; we will explore its marshes, lakes and other wetland areas in search of a tapestry of southern European insects, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Above us, the majestic outlines of Griffon Vultures will rise into the deep summer-blue sky. Closer to the ground we will be hoping to encounter some of the island’s smaller inhabitants, such as the Tyrrhenian Tree Frog and Italian Wall Lizard, while Red and Fallow Deer and Wild Boar live in the scrub and forests. In summer the aromatic maquis delivers scents of thyme, myrtle, rosemary and lavender which blow across the island and flamingoes, known to the locals as ‘rose-coloured folk’, strut about in the numerous lagoons. Turquoise sea and lovely beaches also help provide a marvellous backdrop to our main quest — dragonflies!
After a flight to Alghero we will transfer to Porto Torres in the north-west of the island for a 3-night stay. The Sardinian coastline offers secluded inlets, golden sand dunes, wild lilies and Cistus as well as rugged cliffs that plummet to the sea, and from our base in Porto Torres we will visit nearby lakes and marshes that are excellent for birding and dragonfly watching. Numerous Banded Groundlings will be flying around our feet as we walk along, making the ground appear to shimmer underfoot. Island Bluetails, Lesser Emperors and Long Skimmers will be among the special dragonflies to look out for in these wetlands, darting around the long pink legs of Black-winged Stilts which pick their way daintily through the shallows here.
We will drive to the small reserve of Isola dell’Asinara, home to a large population of the rare Dark Spreadwing. Other dragonflies we’ll hope to see on our guided tour of this uninhabited island are: Small Spreadwing, Broad Scarlet, Dainty Bluet, Blue-eyed Hawker, Southern Darter, Small Redeye and the distinctive Red-veined Darter. We will keep a look-out for the island’s white donkeys, wild horses, Wild Boars and Mouflons, too. Lago Baratz is the only natural freshwater lake on Sardinia and offers one of the best places on the island for dragonfly watching: 15 species can be seen among the reeds and scrub! At the nearby area of Bosa, situated between the west-coast towns of Oristano and Alghero, the small streams are awash with Copper Demoiselles, and we’ll be watching for their fluttery, butterfly-like flight — the males of this stunning damselfly perform dazzling display flights to attract females into their territories! Small Red Damsel, Green-eyed Hawker, and the glorious Violet Dropwing are found near these streams. We’ll hope to round off our time here with views of Griffon Vultures and the romantic sunsets the area is famous for.
For the final part of our holiday we journey three hours south to Pula, near Cagliari. Purple Gallinule, Little Bittern and Red-crested Pochard are among the rare breeding birds we may see in this part of the island and we will visit the Isola di San Pietro, off the south-west corner of Sardinia to see its colony of Eleonora’s Falcons which breeds there every summer. We can hope to add more than 10 species of dragonflies during our leisurely walks in the surrounding countryside, and top of our list of hoped-for last finds will be the Orange-winged Dropwing — a new species for Europe, coming from Africa and only recently discovered in the Cagliari area!