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A weekend in northern Tuscany (1 Viewer)

3Italianbirders

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Italy
We spent an enjoyable weekend (again without the offspring) with some of our fellow EBN Italy members in the area just north of Pisa, at the northernmost tip of Tuscany.

We got up at 3am on the Saturday morning in order to meet the others at Marina di Vecchiano at 7am for a bit of seawatching. This wasn’t very productive, at least for the local standards (it is a well known spot for pelagic species), but we did have good views of Grey, Ringed and Kentish Plover along with a couple of Sanderlings. A few Swallows passed by heading south. Also Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Cormorants, Yellow-legged and Black-Headed Gulls, a poorly-looking juvenile Flamingo and a lone individual of Mediterranean Gull. Birds of prey were few: mostly Kestrels, a couple of Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and a Hobby or two. But the most astonishing sight was a majestic male Fallow Deer going for a swim among the rolling waves until only its head was visible. We had good binocular and scope views, but unfortunately it was too far away for a photo or a video.

After a lunch of epic proportions we drove just inland to an area of fields criss-crossed by dirt tracks where the nicest sightings were an early Great Northern Shrike and a late Squacco Heron. Some of us also had fleeting views of one or two Red Avadavats. Also, in a grove near our hotel, a few Red-billed Leiothrix.

The next morning the group was booked for a private tour of a fenced-off part of the Migliarino - San Rossore Regional Park, a mix of wooded and flooded areas. The vegetation here was especially amazing, but the birdlife somewhat elusive. Species of note were a Crested Tit, probably the highlight of the trip (at least for us), Firecrest, Hobby and Song Thrush. We searched in vain for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but had instead Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker. Also quite a few Damselflies, apparently (according to Jos ;)) Winter Damselflies and more Fallow Deer.

Driving back towards home we stopped at the Diaccia Botrona Ramsar site near Grosseto, not going into the wetland itself but just driving around the surrounding fields, which can host several species of birds of prey, and in winter Cranes and Geese. Actually it was pretty dead, although we did see an Osprey and also added Crested Lark to the list.
 

3Italianbirders

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Italy
Is that a difficult bird in Italy? I've seen them around Lago Maggiore.

It's easier up north but expanding southwards. A few individuals have been recorded in southern Tuscany (where we live) too, but we haven't managed to see one here yet. We have hopes for our feeders since we have a pine copse at the back!
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
As you have the virtually undivided attention of our resident pedant i might as well chip in fwiw;)

You say ‘Pine copse’. A copse is an area of coppiced trees from the French ‘couper’ - to cut. Broadleaf trees and shrubs are cut to ground level on a rotation from 3-15 years the resulting regrowth yielding different dimensions of wood for a range of utilities. A common woodland management system in Northern France and the UK (what have the Normans ever done for us?) was the ‘coppice with standards system. Hazel was generally the coppiced shrub species with Oak as the standard. Oak was left in situ to grow on and then thinned per acre and Hazel plus the other species present were cut accordingly. The areas were known as ‘coops’. This system is still widely practiced particularly on woodland nature reserves. The material can be used for a range of products from hurdles to charcoal but either firewood or deadwood habitat is the most common. The upper brash is left in ‘windrows’ to provide temporary habitat until regrowth is established. The coops are usually a random plan of an acre here and there and the subsequent ‘patchwork’ effect ensures a range of lighting conditions prevail so as to link associated areas throughout the wood.

In a crowded country such as the UK where natural ‘scrub’ habitat is increasingly scarce the coppice habitat is a good substitute and indeed 5-8yo regrowth has been a favourite of our Nightingales for a long time. Locally in Worcestershire virtually all the returning Nightingales used this habitat and i have spent many hours over the years involved with training people to manage accordingly. Changing climate might favour the return of Nightingale to our area as despite favourable management they have declined as has our remaining Marsh Warblers. Elsewhere in optimum Nightingale continental and Mediterranean areas the species does not need this treatment and i suspect they also benefit from people not having the British ‘tidy’ mentality with every house having a strimmer!

I have only explained all this as ‘copse’ is technically a misused term and the actual etymology is more interesting. Pines do not regenerate in the same way as broadleaf species and people are merely referring to a collection or a group of trees:t:

Laurie -
 

3Italianbirders

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Italy
of course I meant grove, or whatever you call a bunch of pine trees. Not a native speaker and got the two mixed up. We do have coppicing here too. ;)
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
Grove will suffice: a group or clump:t:

I wasn’t being a pedant (i leave that to others;)) just taking an opportunity to explain the history behind the word.

Laurie -
 

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