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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

A week in the Dolomites - late June 2021 (1 Viewer)

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
First of all apologies for the lateness of this trip report, which was almost ready weeks ago, but somehow I kept on postponing the final touches.

Like last year, we had decided not to book any holiday in advance because of Covid-induced uncertainty. The original idea of the French Pyrenees and Atlantic coast with a jaunt across the border in Spain looked like a real nightmare as we would have had to produce negative tests (the EU Green Pass started on July 1st and we wanted to travel in June) at each border crossing. An Italian staycation would have been appealing in the off-season, but with Covid restrictions recently relaxed, most holiday destinations were going to be pretty crowded, which, on top of the lateness of the season (we had to wait for the school holidays) is something not normally conducive to good birdwatching.

We had few places in mind: Sicily (hot and far away), a return to Abruzzo, and somewhere in the Alps for more mountain species.

After consulting with some fellow birders we settled on the latter, specifically on one valley in the Dolomites, where we had been for a weekend last October, on which I culpably failed to report (lockdown-induced laziness) and which had proved very pleasant despite the horrible weather.

So off we went, with only two days’ notice (thus forgetting several important bits of equipment), having secured a reservation at the Hotel Teresa in San Vigilio di Marebbe, which has an onsite nature/birdwatching guide and a deal with a famous Austrian optics manufacturer whereby you get to try their latest gear.

The total species tally was 78, probably not very exciting, but considering the alpine environments and that it was a bit late in the season it was probably very reasonable. We also got two lifers, in the form of Grey-headed Woodpecker and Lesser Whitethroat, and almost had a third in Capercaillie, which we only heard (but we are not counting it until we see it).
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
June 22

We headed north at lunchtime, clocking the usual species en route: Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Swallows, Corn Bunting, Italian Sparrow, Serin, Bee-eater, Hooded Crow, House Martin, Swift, Magpie, Wood Pigeon. Then a Little Egret just outside Florence and a probable Hobby (which we didn’t count in the final checklist as there was no way of being sure) on the other side of the Appennines, before Bologna. A few wetland species livened up the crossing of the Padana plain: Cormorant, Night Heron, Lapwing (rare in summer chez nous), several Cattle Egret, and Grey Heron. Near Bolzano we added a Yellow-legged Gull and then the first Carrion Crow (only found up north in Italy) soon after getting off the motorway at Bressanone.

When we got to San Vigilio it was already dinner time and we could only add Black Redstart and House Sparrow (another northern specialty for us).

Wednesday June 23

First thing in the morning, among the whirlwind of Swifts and House Martins from our balcony we spotted the first Crag Martins, a White Wagtail and the first Fieldfares.

We drove to the Pederù mountain hotel car park at the end of the Tamers valley in the Fanes-Sennes-Braies park and followed our guide up the path that leads to the Fanes plateau, just above 2000 meters in a breathtaking natural amphitheatre. I have to admit that more time was spent marvelling (and snapping) at the scenery (the cliffs! The streams! The wildflowers!) than birdwatching, but in the end we didn’t do too badly, with the final tally of the day including: Mistle Thrush, Crossbill, Nutcracker, Alpine Chough, Chiffchaff, Willow Tit, Ring Ouzel, Song Thrush, Lesser Redpoll, Chaffinch, White and Grey Wagtail, Wren and Robin, plus unexpected high altitude waterfowl: Mallard and Coot. The mammals were forthcoming too: with Chamois and a group of 14 Alpine Ibex. This is a highly recommended hike for anyone who likes mountains - it’s a bit of slog at 13 km (round trip) and 650 metres height gain, but it’s well worth it and the valley that leads from San Vigilio to Pederù is also beautiful.

We were pretty knackered at the end of the day, but very much looking forward to the rest of our stay.

June 24

No hiking today but a gentle stroll around the Col d’Ancona, just above San Vigilio. Driving there we connected with the first Buzzard of the trip, then Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Sparrow, White Wagtail, Red-backed Shrike, Kestrel, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Jay, Great and Coal Tit, Tree Pipit, Goldcrest and finally the delicacies we were looking for: Treecreeper (we only get Short-toed where we are), Crested Tit and two fabulous Grey-headed Woodpeckers, very vocal but never still (hence the poor photos).

In the afternoon we drove back to Pederù, where we had lunch and another target: Lesser Whitethroat. Sure enough as we walked between the Mountain Pine bushes around the hotel we heard the song and then an obliging individual of Lesser Whitethroat landed on a branch in front of us, soon joined by another one a bit further away. Another good day!
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
the birds!
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
June 25

We drove 1.5 hours to the Val Venosta, west from Bolzano, to look for Lammergeier, as a couple of pairs inhabit this area. We were lucky with two individuals circling above us as well as 2 Golden Eagles, Raven, Alpine Chough, Kestrel, Crag Martin, Bonelli’s Warbler, Willow Tit and Buzzard. Big grins all around.

Driving back towards San Vigilio we stopped at Lake Caldaro, which was very busy with beach-goers and completely devoid of birds, apart from Greenfinch and Nightingale.

June 26

After the long drive of the previous day we decided on a later start and a shorter drive just across the border into Austria through the Antholz valley and the Stalle Pass, where the road is so narrow that the pass is open just for 15 minutes in each direction in order to allow vehicles plenty of time to reach safely the other side. The drive was pleasant and the scenery on the Austrian side (less steep than the Italian one) breathtaking, shame about the hundreds of roaring motorbikes that made it impossible to enjoy the view in peace (blast the damn things!) (it was a Saturday). New additions to the list included Water Pipit and Cuckoo, besides House Martin, White Wagtail and Golden Eagle.

Heading back towards San Vigilio we stopped for a fantastic lunch in the Antholz valley and decided to pay a late afternoon visit to the Tamers valley. We stopped at a clearing right below a massive rock face, where we had spent some time during our october visit and which had produced 4 Golden Eagles. And indeed a Golden Eagle flew across the valley and then perched on a rock on the other side. We also had Nutcracker, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Alpine Choughs high up and discovered a tree trunk almost completely destroyed by woodpeckers (presumably Black).
 

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dragnil

The glass is half full, but the bottle is empty.
Supporter
Who needs a tally greater than 78 when it's quality like this. I love the Dolomites too, I saw my first Nutcracker in these mountains many years ago. The scenery is just glorious, glad you enjoyed it.
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
June 27

Our guide at the hotel suggested a dawn trip to a site in the Tamers valley where sometimes Rock Partridge is seen. The teenager was offered the option to stay in bed as we would be going back to the hotel for breakfast but she decided to join us. It was a foggy morning, thanks to a thunderstorm the previous night, and the forest shrouded in mist was magical in the dawn light. We reached a point at the base of the cliff, where the trees thinned out and the scree began. We couldn’t see much but could hear Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Willow Tit, then a pair of Crested Tits showed up and two Black Woodpeckers chased each other between the pine trees. A lone Chamois appeared in the fog halfway up the scree and then we heard a mighty fluttering of wings not too far away. The guide whispered “big grouse” and to our “how big?” questions replied with “VERY big”. And that was it: our closest encounter with Capercaillie so far, after having looked for it in vain in three different countries (Sweden, Scotland and Spain … all beginning with an S - I wonder if there is a hidden meaning), and indeed the sound was identical to the recordings in the Collins app. We traced our steps back to the car through the wet undergrowth in silence, hoping to flush the big beast and looking up in case it had removed itself to a perch on a tree. Needless to say we had no luck, but that eerie noise in the misty forest at dawn remains one of the highlights of our week, despite dipping on Rock Partridge.

After a much needed hearty breakfast, we spent the rest of the day exploring an area on the southern side of the valley, opposite where we had been earlier on. Our targets here were Woodpeckers, Goshwak and Black Grouse: we dipped again (it was a hot day) but the walk was very pleasant especially in the clearings, which were full of wildflowers. We had Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Tit, Bullfinch, lots of Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest and Song Thrush.

June 28

For our final full day we had planned an excursion to a site about 45 minutes away, an area around another mountain pass (passo delle Erbe) in the Puez-Odle Park, with more fantastic views and the hope of getting to actually see a Capercaillie, as a rogue one apparently roams this area regularly. It was not to be, but we did add several new species for the trip: Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle (at 2000+ metres altitude!), Wheatear, Skylark, Dunnock and Nuthatch, plus Crossbill, Lesser Redpoll, Water and Tree Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Treecreeper, cracking views of Nutcracker (apologies for the pun), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush and Lesser Whitethroat.

But mostly, believe me when I say that the hike that took us to 2200 metres altitude through a variety of landscapes, with
breathtaking views on the peaks all around us was truly memorable.
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
The flowers!

(And my pics don't do them justice!)
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
June 29

After breakfast, goodbyes and a stop to buy local cheese and wine, we were on our way home. We decided to drive the longer way through the Val Badia, the Gardena Pass and the Val Gardena, just to prolong that holiday feeling.

Once on the motorway we added two new species: a Black Kite just south of Trento and an unexpected Pygmy Cormorant between Verona and Mantova, then it was a long slog back to southern Tuscany.

I just want to add my personal opinion on the Alto Adige (South Tyrol) area, which is a fantastic place to visit: it was definitely a bit late in the season for birdwatching (hence the various dips) but we had the bonus of all those wildflowers and the sunny weather (bar the customary evening thunderstorm), the hospitality is outstanding, as is the food (and wine!). It’s ok if you hike, but also if you don’t and there’s something for everyone in the family (castles, world-famous museums - the Iceman in Bolzano is unmissable - , scenic drives and quaint mountain villages). I swear that I am not being paid by their tourist board, I just love the place (which accidentally is also where the offspring and I go skiing in winter - or used to, until Covid put an end to that as well).

The Final Checklist
  1. Mute Swan
  2. Mallard
  3. Night Heron
  4. Cattle Egret
  5. Grey Heron
  6. Great White Egret
  7. Little Egret
  8. Cormorant
  9. Pygmy Cormorant
  10. Lammergeier
  11. Honey Buzzard
  12. Short-toed Eagle
  13. Golden Eagle
  14. Black Kite
  15. Buzzard
  16. Kestrel
  17. Coot
  18. Lapwing
  19. Yellow-legged Gull
  20. Wood Pigeon
  21. Collared Dove
  22. Cuckoo
  23. Swift
  24. Bee-eater
  25. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  26. Black Woodpecker
  27. Grey-headed Woodpecker
  28. Red-backed Shrike
  29. Jay
  30. Magpie
  31. Nutcracker
  32. Alpine Chough
  33. Carrion Crow
  34. Hooded Crow
  35. Raven
  36. Marsh Tit
  37. Willow Tit
  38. Coal Tit
  39. Crested Tit
  40. Great Tit
  41. Skylark
  42. Swallow
  43. Crag Martin
  44. House Martin
  45. Chiffchaff
  46. Bonelli’s Warbler
  47. Blackcap
  48. Lesser Whitethroat
  49. Goldcrest
  50. Wren
  51. Nuthatch
  52. Treecreeper
  53. Starling
  54. Ring Ouzel
  55. Blackbird
  56. Fieldfare
  57. Song Thrush
  58. Mistle Thrush
  59. Robin
  60. Nightingale
  61. Common Redstart
  62. Black Redstart
  63. Wheatear
  64. Tree Sparrow
  65. Italian Sparrow
  66. House Sparrow
  67. Dunnock
  68. White Wagtail
  69. Grey Wagtail
  70. Tree Pipit
  71. Water Pipit
  72. Chaffinch
  73. Bullfinch
  74. Greenfinch
  75. Lesser Redpoll
  76. Crossbill
  77. Goldfinch
  78. Corn Bunting
 

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foresttwitcher

Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
Great report and some fantastic photos of the stunning landscapes.

Brings back some good memories of a brief visit to the Dolomites (for some via ferrata climbing) where I awoke in my tent on the first morning to an amazing early morning vista and a couple of Rock Partridge calling and flying down a small valley.
 

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
Wonderful stuff, thanks for posting your report. I agree about the motorcycles, weekends are full of their noise in our part of the Alps too, we’re thankful we live on a dead end road and not one that leads up to the nearby pass!
I didn’t réalise Carrion Crow was resident in that part of Italy, I seem to recall Collins showing it as a winter visitor?
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
Thanks, all!
Richard: yes they are certainly more numerous in winter, but a small number seem to like it in the summer too. Not sure if they breed though...🤔
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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