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Post Info TOPIC: Northern Italy.


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RE: Northern Italy.


Got back yesterday from a brilliant family holiday in Italy, 6th-20th August. We stayed in Piedmont, in the winemaking hills around Asti, which are around 200-300m above sea level. This is less than 200km from the high Alps, but it was >30 degrees pretty much the whole time. Our villa was about 3/4 up a hill overlooking a sea of vines but also abundant stands of pruned Hazel trees. Some woodland sat at the bottom of the hill. I mostly birded this area. The hazelnuts apparently go off to be made into Ferrero Rocher by the way!

It was bone dry with the nearest proper water being a few miles away. Stacks of insects with a massive abundance of wasps, dragonflies, butterflies and grasshoppers. Lots of lizards. A nice mix of birds, I got to 50 on my trip list. Not many small birds in the local area, mainly Italian Sparrows (a lifer), Great Tits and Black Redstarts. I did find a Spotted Flycatcher and a couple of Melodious Warblers. Brief showings by some UK staples like Blue Tit and Blackbird. No Robins, or any Larks, Buntings or Pipits. On the last day, after some mixed weather, some passage was evident, with Redstart, Serin and Nightingale turning up briefly in the same hedge while I was watching the warblers. I also saw my first Golden Orioles, which was a real highlight, with a peak count of 7. The singing is blissful.

For larger birds, it was mainly Hooded Crows, Jays and Magpies, Woodpigeons and feral Pigeons. Amongst these, Turtle Doves in the vineyards below our villa (max of 6 together, a family group), 1 Hoopoe (4 together somewhere else when I went for a walk one day), 2 pairs of Green Woodpecker and a similar number of Great Spotted.

Raptors seen were Hobby and Kestrel, both holding territory in the valley, Sparrowhawk, Buzzards and a single Peregrine over one day, which was mobbed by one each of the other 2 falcons. 3 falcon species in the air together, crazy! Best of all, 2 Honey Buzzards, a juvenile and female, seen individually and once together. There were plenty of places they could have bred locally, looking at the landscape. Very happy to ID them myself, and without having to stand around in Yorkshire for 3 hours first. The small falcons mobbed the Honeys and the Buzzards as well as the Peregrine.

There were 2 trips out that provided good sightings. One was to a lake called Viverone north of Turin. Our route to it passed over the Po floodplain and some well-known birding areas in the wet rice fields near Vercelli. This is the place where most risotto rice in Italy is grown. The lake itself is apparently good in winter but was quiet. On the rice fields, seen from the car at 90kph unfortunately, lots of Great White Egrets, 3 Cranes and a lifer for me, Purple Heron, plus a few of the feral Sacred Ibis. Cranes pass through the area on migration but apparently not for another month, but what other massive grey bird could they be? When we visited Turin itself, the city turns out to have a colony of Pallid Swift nesting on a palace in the city centre, so that was another lifer. Also a really smart Night Heron on the River Po.

All in all another great birding experience



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Just back from a week's non birding holiday in Limone on the north western shore of Lake Garda. Had the bins with me more or less permanently which were used mainly on the pleasant twenty minutes walk into the village and to scan the large cliffs immediately behind the hotel and which also fronted the village itself. Spent an hour and a half around the summit of Monte Baldo (5774') late one morning. That was about it. Birds of note :-

Red-crested Pochard
Eider (1)
Black Kite (c.6)
Cuckoo (1)
Skylark (1)
Crag Martin
Grey Wagtail (1)
White Wagtail
Black Redstart (c.4)
Northern Wheatear (c.6)
Whitethroat (1)
Blackcap
Bonelli's Warbler (1)
Alpine Chough (1)
Serin
Italian Sparrow
Linnet
Bullfinch

Supporting cast :- Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Jay, Magpie, Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Greenfinch.



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Spent a week staying at the southern end of Lake Garda from 15th to 22nd August, with 2 days driving each way through variously France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Switzerland.

Notable birds seen on the journey down.
Black Kite, White Stork, Black Woodpecker, Nutcracker, Common Buzzard.

Birds seen around and on Lake Garda, (hope it was the time of year for the reason of lack of birds in the trees and bushes).
Commonest birds on the lake were Great Crested Grebe, Coot and Mallard. Other birds on the lake were a small group of 6 Black-necked Grebe also Little Grebe, Goosander, Mute Swan and Little Egret. Ring-necked Parakeet were around Peschiera, Firecrest and Spotted Flycatcher were seen at the north end of the lake. Italian Sparrows were everywhere.

A drive from Bolzano to Cortina and Canazei through the Dolomites was spectacular for the scenery but not for the birds. At a couple of stops there was Peregrine, Kestrel, Little Grebe and good views of Nutcrackers at a pass between Cortina and Canazei.

The only chance I had to spend time observing at my own pace was for a couple of hours trip up onto Monte Baldo one morning. Absolutely stunning views down the lake from the cable car station. Birds seen from the area to the east of the station were Alpine Chough, Northern Wheatear, Whinchat, Sparrowhawk, Goldfinch, White Wagtail, lots of Black Redstart, Kestrel, Raven, Hooded Crow, Common Buzzard, fabulous views of 2 Honey Buzzards soaring together directly overhead, 2 Rock Thrush one male starting to moult into winter plumage and a female/juv. Also 2 possible Alpine Accentors, definitely Accentors/Dunnock but not seen well enough to be certain of ID. Very brief views of 2 Pipits possibly Tree and Water Pipit.
Lots of Marmots in this area.

Some birds seen on a spectacular drive back through Switzerland over the Grimselpass to an overnight stop at Interlaken with a loop to Grindelwald at the foot of the north face of the Eiger.
Very close scoped views of subadult Golden Eagle at one point being mobbed by a Kestrel, (an analogy would be an Elephant being attacked by a Meerkat), amazing to watch.
2 Accipiters, brief views and difficult to judge size so another unidentified sighting. These were seen at one stop in a ten minute period. Also seen on the drive, lots of Water Pipits some Nutcrackers, at other stops Swallowtail Butterfly, a herd of Alpine Ibex and more Marmots. A large raptor was spotted drifting across the higher slopes of the Eiger probably struggling to avoid the many paragliders.

Not much seen from the drive back through northern France other than lots of Common Buzzard and the curious sight of a White Stork in a field dwarfing about 6 or 7 Grey Herons that were feeding nearby.

Lack of numbers of birds was made up for by a few specials and the magnificent scenery.




-- Edited by simon ghilks on Thursday 27th of August 2015 07:06:31 PM

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Just returned from a coach tour to Lake Iseo, a lake between Como and Garda. Near the hotel was a wetland nature reserve called Torbiere.

Enroute:

White Stork 25+ near Basle.
Black Kites
Kestrels
Buzzards
Red Kite 1
Fulmar 1 (Dover).
Gannet 1 ad in Channel.

Lake Garda:

Red-crested Pochard 3

Lake Iseo/Torbiere:

Serins
Kingfishers
Osprey 1
White Wagtails
Italian Sparrows
Firecrests
Cetti's Warblers
Savi's Warblers
Great Reed Warblers
Spotted Flycatchers
Pied Flycatchers
Redstarts
Blackcaps
Whitethroat 1
Yellow-legged Gulls
Peregrine 1
Water Rail 1
Hooded Crows
Mute Swans
Great-crested Grebes
Coots
Mallards
BH Gulls
Cormorants
etc.etc.


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