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-   -   Abruzzo and Gran Sasso National Parks, Italy, July 2020 (https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=392802)

3Italianbirders Monday 3rd August 2020 21:22

Abruzzo and Gran Sasso National Parks, Italy, July 2020
 
3 Attachment(s)
We spent 5 days in Abruzzo, a region in central Italy with three National Parks and a couple of regional ones. It also happened to be one of the areas in Italy that had been less affected by the COVID pandemic and thus presumably safer, although we weren’t planning to spend a lot of time in crowded places.

We had one avian target, White-Backed Woodpecker, hopes for the two great carnivores that inhabit these parts: Wolf and Brown Bear, and also expected to see the resident alpine species, such as Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor etc. We stayed in a small town just outside the Gran Sasso National Park and travelled twice to the Abruzzo NP in the south of the region, spending the remaining three days in the Gran Sasso area, where the scenery is truly breathtaking.

To cut a long story short, we dipped on both carnivores, despite having detailed inside information and not for lack of effort (including dawn jaunts in recommended sites). In the hamlet of Gioia Vecchio, in the Abruzzo NP, we also met two French birders who had seen a pack of 7 wolves a few hours before in a place which is usually recommended for bears and where we spent a couple of hours on two different days, seeing (twice) the only Golden Eagle of the trip and the only Raven.

We did see White-backed Woodpecker at the third attempt, thanks to the detailed information received by several of our fellow EBN-Italy members who know the area well.

The first day we tried twice in the same beech wood on the border with Lazio, the next region to the west, but it was fairly empty although we did hear Bullfinch.

We returned the next day and tried instead a trail departing from the town of Pescasseroli, the “hub” of the NP, in a gorge with huge beech trees and meadows full of wildflowers. We walked for a while along an almost dry stream with puddles full of tadpoles, marvelling at the scenery, at the carpet of wild strawberries underfoot and at the abundant birdlife (Red-backed Shrike, Cirl Bunting, Nuthatch, various Tits, and a fantastic male Bullfinch found by the teenager, a first for me in Italy). We first heard a White-backed Woodpecker without managing to see it but then it flew across the trail as we were heading back. Tick! 3 happy birders grinning all the way back to the car.

Other interesting sightings in the Park were Yellowhammer, a delicacy for us, 4 Griffon Vultures, a few Honey Buzzards, and Crag Martins in the splendid Sagittarius Gorges.

The Gran Sasso NP is completely different, a majestic plateau snaking for kilometres between rocky peaks going up to 3000 m., the access roads climbing through a landscape of grassy hillocks with mind-blowing views opening here and there.

The prize bird here was Snowfinch, with a few pairs nesting at the end of the road at 2000 metres around the ski station and the observatory buildings. Here we saw also Water Pipit, Wheatear (together with Red-backed Shrike probably the most abundant species of the trip), Black Redstart, House Martins (!) and White Wagtail. Along the plateau lots of Skylarks Linnets and Quail (which we also saw - it must have been 20 years since I had seen one!), more Wheatears and a large flock of Red-billed Choughs. Here we also had a couple of flyover Alpine Accentors.

Along the access roads and various tracks, the only interesting mammal of the trip, a Weasel, then more Wheatears, Red-backed Shrike, Yellowhammer, Rock Sparrow, Hoopoe, Cuckoo, brief views of Alpine Accentor, an unexpected Marsh Harrier, Kestrels, Sparrowhawk and, on the last day, a few Rock Buntings, which were a good way to end our brief holiday.

Unfortunately we dipped on Rock Thrush, despite looking in all the right places and again, not for lack of effort on our part: one reason to go back!

3Italianbirders Monday 3rd August 2020 21:24

5 Attachment(s)
Snowfinch galore!

3Italianbirders Monday 3rd August 2020 21:25

5 Attachment(s)
The full checklist:

1. Cormorant
2. Grey Heron
3. Great White Egret
4. Little Egret
5. Mallard
6. Honey Buzzard
7. Black Kite
8. Griffon Vulture
9. Marsh Harrier
10. Sparrowhawk
11. Buzzard
12. Golden Eagle
13. Kestrel
14. Hobby
15. Peregrine Falcon
16. Pheasant
17. Quail
18. Moorhen
19. Coot
20. Yellow-legged Gull
21. Woodpigeon
22. Collared Dove
23. Turtle Dove
24. Cuckoo
25. Scops Owl
26. Swift
27. Hoopoe
28. Green Woodpecker
29. Great Spotted Woodpecker
30. White-backed Woodpecker
31. Woodlark
32. Skylark
33. Crag Martin
34. Swallow
35. House Martin
36. Tawny Pipit
37. Water Pipit
38. White Wagtail
39. Grey Wagtail
40. Wren
41. Alpine Accentor
42. Robin
43. Nightingale
44. Black Redstart
45. Common Redstart
46. Stonechat
47. Northern Wheatear
48. Blackbird
49. Mistle Thrush
50. Zitting Cisticola
51. Whitethroat
52. Blackcap
53. Bonelli’s Warbler
54. Chiffchaff
55. Coal Tit
56. Blue Tit
57. Great Tit
58. Nuthatch
59. Red-backed Shrike
60. Jay
61. Magpie
62. Red-billed Chough
63. Hooded Crow
64. Raven
65. Starling
66. Italian Sparrow
67. Rock Sparrow
68. Snowfinch
69. Chaffinch
70. Serin
71. Greenfinch
72. Goldfinch
73. Linnet
74. Bullfinch
75. Yellowhammer
76. Rock Bunting
77. Cirl Bunting
78. Corn Bunting

MKinHK Tuesday 4th August 2020 12:16

Sounds like a nice trip but I’m surprised at the low diversity of warblers.

Jos Stratford Tuesday 4th August 2020 14:46

Nice locality, and very nice photos of Snow Finch 👍

3Italianbirders Tuesday 4th August 2020 20:35

Quote:

Originally Posted by MKinHK (Post 4040657)
Sounds like a nice trip but I’m surprised at the low diversity of warblers.

I hadn't thought about it, but probably we didn't really visit suitable habitats, especially in the Gran Sasso area. Had we spent more time in the Abruzzo NP we might have added a couple of species: the French birders we met had seen Subalpine Warbler in the next valley.

I should probably add a few landscape pics!

foresttwitcher Tuesday 4th August 2020 21:01

Nice trip and photos. Looking forward to the landscape pictures. I like the idea of a visit to Abruzzo.

opisska Tuesday 4th August 2020 21:34

So that's where you went after all! My friend has been in Gran Sasso area and his photos were stunning, so that must have been great. I always thought that eventually there will be a chance to visit with work (considering the huge particle research lab in the Gran Sasso massive itself) but it never happened.

The snowfinches on flowering meadow are simply outrageous :)

3Italianbirders Wednesday 5th August 2020 09:07

Quote:

Originally Posted by opisska (Post 4040835)
So that's where you went after all! My friend has been in Gran Sasso area and his photos were stunning, so that must have been great. I always thought that eventually there will be a chance to visit with work (considering the huge particle research lab in the Gran Sasso massive itself) but it never happened.

The snowfinches on flowering meadow are simply outrageous :)

Jan, I hope you get to go! I think the lab is practically underneath the Snowfinches ;). And if you go let me know and I can provide some info on off the beaten track places to bird.

And I promise to post landscape pics asap!

3Italianbirders Wednesday 5th August 2020 09:57

5 Attachment(s)
1) the valley of the wolves (which we didn't see) in the Gran Sasso area
2) the plateau at Campo Imperatore, Gran Sasso NP
3) Looking for White-backed Woodpecker in Abruzzo NP
4) More of the same
5) The enchanted forest near Pescasseroli, Abruzzo NP

3Italianbirders Wednesday 5th August 2020 10:00

5 Attachment(s)
1 to 4: views from the approach roads to Campo Imperatore in the Gran Sasso NP
5) another view of the plateau

Dutchbirder64 Wednesday 5th August 2020 10:02

Great photos of the scenery.

foresttwitcher Wednesday 5th August 2020 22:19

Stunning landscapes, thanks for posting.

Torview Wednesday 5th August 2020 22:48

Great photo`s, really taken me back, I was there in 2006, really enjoyed Campo Imperatore seeing Golden Eagle after climbing out of Castel Del Monte, was in Pescasseroli in a thunder storm.

wolfbirder Thursday 6th August 2020 15:55

Looks a stunning place!

3Italianbirders Thursday 6th August 2020 16:49

Quote:

Originally Posted by Torview (Post 4041290)
Great photo`s, really taken me back, I was there in 2006, really enjoyed Campo Imperatore seeing Golden Eagle after climbing out of Castel Del Monte, was in Pescasseroli in a thunder storm.

ha! We got a thunderstorm in Pescasseroli too! You can see the storm clouds gathering in the 4th photo.


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