Linosa Island – a paradise for Mediterranean birders

Ten years ago, a small group of intrepid fanatic birders decided that big national parks, nature reserve and woodlands were not their favourite birding destination. Instead, they love small islands and peaceful places where they can observe migrant birds and dragonflies.

So they decided to visit Linosa Island, one of the Pelagie Islands (Sicily, Italy). The name they gave to their team was MISC (Malati di Isolitudine allo Stadio Cronico), an acronym almost impossible to translate. It would be something like: “Chronically sick of lonely islets”).

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As soon as they reached Linosa, it was soon was clear that they found their own little place of heaven on Earth! What a magic volcanic little jewel! And, what’s more – the magic birding site they discovered! Within a few hours, they already observed some birds previously considered rare vagrants in Italy, such as several Red-breasted Flycatchers, Yellow-browned Warblers and one Dusky Warbler (the third altogether spotted in Italy!) and  much more.

After a few days, an amazing Red-flanked Bluetail (now also called Orange-Flanked Bluetail) was added to the bird list, plus many many other rarities. The birders (being Andrea Corso, Hans Larsson, Ottavio Janni, Lucio Maniscalco, Igor Maiorano and Michele Viganò) were watching these crazy guys continuously, scanning every single bush or tree.

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Since then, we returned every autumn and spring to Linosa, and the team MISC achieved amazing results, adding several new species to the Italian bird list, new species of dragonflies and other insects to the Italian, European and Western Palearctic fauna (Sympeturm sinaiticum, Trithemis kirbyi, Pantala flavescens, Tramea basilaris, Chiloneus hoffmanni ).

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The phenology of most of the Italian vagrants were changed as Yellow-browed Warbler prove to be regular and increasing migrants, with record numbers for the whole Mediterranean basin. The same applies to the secretive (and previously, to Italy almost unknown) Olive-backed Pipit (with an autumn record ever of 11+), the  Red-breated Flycatcher as well as the Little and Rustic Buntings and the Western Olivaceous Warbler. We added two more Red-flanked Bluetails to the list and think we are seeing a new migratory pattern.

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Since our first visit, many things have changed in Linosa: first the islanders not only got to know us better and understood what we are doing there. Many are slowly changing their attitude towards the birds and the nature, many realised that the birds and the island’s nature is something precious, something they need to protect. We also organised several photo exhibitions and invited local school kids to accompany us on one of our birding trips.

1 Pallas Warbler

Pallas Warbler

Now some “fun facts”:  Last autumn 2016, the MISC/Leica team was field testing the new Leica NOCTIVID 10×42 and spotted with it more than 75 Yellow-browed Warblers, 2 Pallas’s Warblers, 2 Dusky Warbler, 1 Siberian Stonechat, 2 male  Caspian Stonechats, 1 Little Bunting, 1 Moussier’s Redstart, 1 Rosy Starling, 1 Scarlet Rosefinch, 1 Isabelline Wheatear, 4 Olive-backed Pipits and many more.

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The crisp, almost 3-D-image was sharp and clear at any time, from the very early sunrise to the very last light of the day… watching any single bird, from the most common and numerous species such like Black Redstart and White Wagtail to the rarest. It was a real pleasure, as it seemed as we could literally touch every single feather, almost feeling the texture and the softness. The very close minimum focus distance made it possible to study dragonflies in every detail.

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It was another unforgettable visit on Linosa Island – a place I recommend anyone who loves nature to visit and enjoy.

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