Birding in Southern Tuscany and thereabouts (1 Viewer)

3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
New thread!

Same species, albeit with some nice mammals. Also an expedition is planned for tomorrow in a neighbouring region, so something new should crop up.

The usual afternoon drive, with a couple of hours spent stationary in the middle of a field produced more or less the same species of my latest lockdown posts, but with a definitely summery feel (migration is over! :-C ).

Going down we nearly ran over three Pheasant chicks that probably hadn't heard that the lockdown is over and that roads aren't safe any longer.

Then we saw Jay, Corn Bunting, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Crested Lark, Bee-eater, Montagu's Harrier, Roller, Skylark, Red-backed Shrike, Wood pigeon, Turtle Dove and Goldfinch.

While we were in the middle of the field (in the same place where on this very day last year we saw a Black-headed Bunting) we also saw Fox, a Roe Deer, and a cracking and very fast Badger, very hard to see here, especially during the day in the middle of a wheat field! I can't even remember the last time we saw one.

Also another Roe Deer, a common sight this, on the way back home, and of course Swallows, House Martins and Swifts.

We also had a guest on our windscreen for a while (see photo below).
 

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3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Today’s expedition took us just across the border into Lazio, the next region down from us, to one of our favourite “day trip” birding destinations, near the town of Tarquinia, which I have already described here and here. It looks a bit like a Spanish steppe habitat, minus the Bustards and Sandgrouse, but occasionally with the nice addition of Black-headed Bunting, Spectacled Warbler and Short-toed Lark.

Unfortunately it was very windy and the final checklist was a bit underwhelming. Also, most observations were brief and in bad light, due to the terrible whitish sky. Still it was a relief to be able to “travel”, if only for 1 and 1/2 hours each way and to see some species which we don’t normally get to see. On the way back we also stopped to have a look at a couple of sites closer to us that we had somewhat neglected in the past year. And my 2020 checklist (which has taken over the lockdown one and incidentally also coincides with my year list as, due to family issues we hadn’t done much birding before the lockdown https://www.birdforum.net/showpost.php?p=4010111&postcount=255) reached 101 species!

As we got into the car at 6.30 Swifts were already around and Chiffchaff, Blue Tit and Black Redstart were singing, with only the latter visible.

Along the way we had Yellow-legged Gull, Cattle Egret, Black Kite (#98), the first of the several hundred Corn Buntings, and a couple of Roller.

As soon as we turned into the track that leads to the archeological site we saw the first of the many Cattle Egrets on site, probably 40-50, some of them patrolling the edge of the track looking for lizards for breakfast (bad photo below). Corn Buntings everywhere, several Zitting Cisticolas and Crested Larks, a few fleeting observations of Calandra Lark (99), a couple of Whitethroat, some Bee-eaters, a Tawny Pipit (100), Skylarks signing in the background, several Melodious Warblers, a couple of Buzzards and then Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Turtle Dove, Blue Tit and a Short-toed Eagle. We were very disappointed by the lack of birds of prey, usually abundant here both in diversity and in numbers, although there was a distant (too far to identify) group of Lesser/Common Kestrels hovering.

A bit disappointed we moved to Montericcio, two roads south, and drove inland among wheat fields. We saw a few Lesser Kestrels (101) and little else until we reached the point where the valley ends and the narrow road becomes a track that climbs through olive groves. Here we had a sudden three-minute raptor fest with first 2 Red Kites, then Black Kite, Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and a Peregrine Falcon. Here we also heard Nightingale and Cetti’s Warbler. We started up the track and immediately had a Honey Buzzard sitting on a bush by the side of the road, while a Woodlark was singing nearby. A warbler darting between brambles had us hoping for Spectacled, but it was a pair of Sardinian Warblers, with Melodious Warbler soon after. We retraced our steps and saw a few Rollers and 3-4 Lesser Kestrels hunting near the road, and a flyby Hobby.

We went back to the first site in case something had turned up and to eat our sandwiches, but it was more of the same, alhtough we thought we heard a Short-toed Lark (I didn't count it) for a second.

We started back towards home seeing a Kestrel and another one which G said was a Kestrel and I said was a Red-footed Falcon, but it the meantime it had disappeared so we had no means of checking. Also Honey Buzzard, Goldfinch and Jay.

Our first destination of the afternoon, Monte Vitozzo, used to be one of our favourite haunts years ago because it’s a beautiful place with mixed habitats: Beech woods, mountain (800-900 m) meadows with ponds, brambles with gorse and lower vegetation. It also used to have several nesting pairs of Montagu’s Harriers, but the vegetation has grown a lot in the past 10 years and the habitat is not as suitable now. We still managed to see one, as well as Cirl Bunting, Nightingale, a probable Sparrowhawk, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, 4 Mistle Thrush, Robin and Blackcap. Again a bit underwhelming, but the upside was several species of wild orchids, some of which uncommon. There were also some beautiful dragonflies near a pond.

The last stop was the next mountain, which last year had a breeding pair of Rock Thrush, as well as Wheatears. Not so this time: only Red-backed Shrike, Stonechat, a Roe Deer and Cirl Bunting, also a few frogs and a Newt in the tank of a spring.

That’s it! Next target: Bonelli’s Warbler (don’t know when yet).
 

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3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Dragonflies and Deer
 

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3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Orchids
 

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foresttwitcher

Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
Glad you're doing this new thread - it sounds like a nice day out to me. Like Richard, I'm loving the orchid photos.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Wow, casually seeing a Badger during the day!

We have seen some on a combined total of three occasions in our lives - once my wife, in daylight, while relieving herself in some German field during a break in hitch-hiking, once myself from a car in the Czech Republic in the night and now finally really well in Poland, in the night in a grassy protected area. All of that despite many hours of spotlighting for mammals recently. I tend to think it's a pretty though mammal to see :)
 

3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Love that Lizard Orchid! I'll send you a Rock Thrush in the mail;)

That would be very nice indeed! They are disappearing from all known sites around here.

Lovely Roe Deer pic Gi! Wll be following with great interest!

Chris

Thanks Chris! I will tell him!

Glad you're doing this new thread - it sounds like a nice day out to me. Like Richard, I'm loving the orchid photos.

Well after three months, not having to write a post every day I felt a bit like missing a limb, so decided to try again, although posts won't be as frequent also because we are heading into "Corn Buntings, Hooded Crows and Magpies only" territory, but I'll try my best!

Wow, casually seeing a Badger during the day!

We have seen some on a combined total of three occasions in our lives - once my wife, in daylight, while relieving herself in some German field during a break in hitch-hiking, once myself from a car in the Czech Republic in the night and now finally really well in Poland, in the night in a grassy protected area. All of that despite many hours of spotlighting for mammals recently. I tend to think it's a pretty though mammal to see :)

We were pretty astounded ourselves, Badgers are not easy to see here either. I used to see them every now and then when I lived in the countryside in Umbria, up a hill with mixed woodland around, but only at night. Since then (over 15 years ago) I think this must be the 3rd or 4th time. I distinctly remember two, both in the daytime, one in woodland near here, we were in the car listening for woodpeckers and we saw it foraging in the undergrowth a few metres away and once crossing a ditch in the middle of fields adjoining a large wetland area, but that was a good 5-6 years ago.
 

3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Another afternoon jaunt, this time we were looking for one particular species: Western Bonelli's Warbler, a very localised breeder in these parts. Obviously not the best time of the year to look for warblers, but knowing where to look (and listen) makes things easier.

We headed south-east, roughly a 40 minute drive to the western slopes of Mount Cetona (roughly 1100 m), a very nice area with mixed woodland, meadows and some rocky outcrops. It was obvious from the start that summer is unrelentingly setting in with only the usual Corn Buntings, some Swallows and one Buzzard seen on the way (it has to be said that it was 3pm though, but things didn't improve in the evening).

It was quiet at our destination, too, with the only obvious song being Chaffinch. We moved a little further along the track and stopped in the middle of a clearing, where we could hear Blackcap, and a Chiffchaff in the distance. After a while we detected another quieter song: two Western Bonelli's Warblers calling from different directions. With a lot of patience and frantic scanning of the abundant greenery that surrounded us we managed brief views of one specimen, then we retraced our steps for a few hundred metres to another clearing, hoping to get better views, but the calls were even more distant.

We took another track back to the main road, but the only sighting of interest was a male Red-backed Shrike. Back on the tarmac, there were two Kestrels where we had seen the Buzzard before, and further along a nice Woodchat Shrike, Nightingale and Robin.

A brief look around our patch yielded a Roller, some Bee-eaters, the local pair of Crested Larks, Whitethroat, Cirl Bunting, Jackdaw, Zitting Cisticola and another Buzzard just out of town.
 
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3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Yesterday I had to drive to my mum’s where I also spent the night as early this morning I had to take her to a visit in Arezzo the closest city to where she lives. I drove to her place in the late afternoon, taking the route that I have described several times during my lockdown thread. Incidentally this route passes through the reserve where we had seen the Rosy Starlings two weeks ago, so I planned a strategic stop there to see if there were any left.

On the way there I saw a Subalpine Warbler, just outside town, then the usual Corn Buntings. In the same place where I heard a Melodious Warbler there were Swallows and Goldfinches. Further along, a Honey Buzzard flew just over the car, then approaching the reserve a Kestrel and a Buzzard. No Rosy Starlings left, unfortunately, only ordinary ones, the usual Zitting Cisticolas, Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler and Skylark. Leaving the reserve a single Little Egret and in a field after the next village several Cattle Egrets.

When I got to my mum’s the sky was full of Swifts, and looking out of her kitchen window I could see them zooming in the small space (must be 6-8 metres) between her balcony and the building in front, so close that had I put out an arm I would easily have struck down a few!

The 40 minute journey to Arezzo this morning was uneventful, as it’s along a very busy road that goes through several towns and industrial estates and nothing more than the usual Italian Sparrows, Hooded Crows, Magpies and the odd Wood Pigeon was seen on the way back either.

As I was leaving my mum’s town to come back home, I stopped for 5 minutes in a leafy carpark to make a phone call and there was a male Common Redstart on the ground just one metre away. I heard Zitting Cisticolas all the way to the reserve and saw the same Cattle Egrets in the same field as yesterday. The only new birds at the reserve were two Greenfinch and a Great Reed Warbler, plus all the others seen/heard yesterday. No pink birds unfortunately, and just a Buzzard on the way home.

A little drive in the afternoon didn’t yield much: Stone Curlews (heard only), a Hoopoe, Roller, a Little Owl sitting on the corner of a car port in front of a house just by the side of the road, then Bee-eaters, the ubiquitous Corn Buntings, Skylarks, a couple of Buzzards, a flyby Hobby and a couple of Quails hiding very well in a field (heard only…).

But the bird of the day and no. 103 for my year list was going to be much closer to home, in the local pond: a Night Heron bathed in beautiful evening light (unfortunately I didn’t have a camera at hand). There were also Swallows, House Martins, Moorhen, White Wagtail, Black Redstart and the resident Grey Heron which plucked a Goldfish out of the murky water!
 

3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Just a brief update as I have unexpectedly added my 100th e my 101st species to my Tuscany list today and my 104th and 105th to my year list. We have had a busy couple of weeks on the family front so not much birding was done. Also summer has arrived all of a sudden, with temperatures in the low 30s.

Anyway this morning we had planned a visit to a local family-run dairy to buy some of their excellent cheese. The brief but very scenic drive (around 30-40 minutes) winds through chestnut forest first, then as altitude decreases mixed deciduous - pine woodland, then mostly oak and the last bit is open hilly countryside with orchards, bits of woodland and pastures with shrubs and low vegetation. I didn’t have lots of expectations as it was the middle of the morning, but I was hoping maybe for a Short-toed Eagle and/or a Shrike or two. Instead I got something totally unforeseen, a species very common on the coast, that used to be regular here too but has disappeared in recent years: a nice Spotted Flycatcher on a wire just outside the dairy, doing what Flycatchers do. Don’t ask me if it could have been a Mediterranean because I haven’t followed the recent split, but I guess it must have been a striata given that we are a fair bit inland. To get there and back most of the usual species: Common Redstart and Chiffchaff seem particularly abundant this year (along with Zitting Cisticola in other habitats), then Jays, Cirl Bunting, Serin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Blackcap.

In the afternoon the usual couple of hours around our patch were pretty quiet, apart from 3 Montagu’s Harriers and one female Marsh Harrier, one species that had completely eluded me during lockdown, plus more of the usual: Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Kestrel, Skylark, Roller, Bee-eater, a family of White Wagtails, Zitting Cisticola, Nightingale, Stonechat and Turtle Dove.
 

3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
This morning I left at 6am for long drive north with my dad (as G had to work) to buy a potential new car, needless to say birding wasn't a priority, but as we approached the car dealer, just before a set of traffic lights at a busy intersection (this was an industrial area surrounded by farmland) there was a cracking White Stork (#106 for my year list)on a street lamp. Outside the dealer, the ubiquitous Italian Sparrows, a Kestrel and several Yellow-legged Gulls.

Very quiet on the way back, and also I didn't really look, but after dropping off my dad I stopped for 5 minutes just outside a wetland reserve, even though it wasn't the best time of day for birding (2pm and 33C), adding a pair of Kingfishers (107) and two Purple Herons (108) to my year list. Not much else around because of the heat: Zitting Cisticolas, Moorhen and Cetti's Warbler and also a Little Egret.
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Nice to be quietly racking up the list during the summer lull - certainly you're seeing a good deal more than Corn Buntings, Hooded Crows and Magpies!

Cheers
Mike
 

3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Nice to be quietly racking up the list during the summer lull - certainly you're seeing a good deal more than Corn Buntings, Hooded Crows and Magpies!

Cheers
Mike

Yes, I seem to be picking up bits and pieces here and there, let's hope the trend continues! And, you won't believe it, but during our afternoon around our patch we didn't see/hear a single Corn Bunting! :eek!:

it was, instead a good afternoon for birds of prey, as we saw a few Buzzards, at least 4-5 Kestrels, one Short-toed Eagle, a male Montagu's Harrier, and Black Kite, while G had seen all the above plus Red Kite and Honey Buzzard in the morning while I was busy with my mum.

We also saw a Woodchat Shrike, Bee-eater, Roller, Skylark and Cirl Bunting, and the sky was full of Swifts everywhere you looked.
 

3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Birds of prey galore!

A very windy day and yet another afternoon at our local patch started with two Honey Buzzards and a Red Kite as we were driving down the mountain.

At our destination the usual Crested Lark, Corn Bunting, Turtle Dove, Swifts, House Martins, Swallows and then the raptor show resumed with: Kestrel, Buzzard, Hobby, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle and Montagu’s Harrier. 8 species altogether! :king:

Driving back towards home the only addition was a Cirl Bunting.

After dinner we went to look for nocturnals, hoping for Scops Owl and Nightjar. Instead we got zero birds, one Hare and several Fox cubs.
 

3Italianbirders

Well-known member
Italy
Have been very lazy and haven't updated this thread for over a month, but I have to say that there have been very few birding opportunities. After we came back from our short break in Abruzzo, the weather, that had been pleasantly warm so far turned to hot and we rarely left our cool mountain abode.

G has been on occasional photo drives, seeing the usual for the season, lots of Kestrels/Lesser Kestrels (they stop here on their return journey), Buzzards, Short-toed Eagles, Montagu's Harriers, Rollers etc.

We went on a couple of night drives hoping to see Nightjars and some nocturnals but only got loads of Fox cubs, although we did hear a distant Scops Owl.

To cut a long story short, today it was a bit cooler and we decided to pop down the mountain to our local patch to see what was about.

There must have been at least 15 Kestrels/Lessers, all young so we didn't bother to identify them (usually we do it at home looking at the pics), a few Buzzards, one distant Short-toed Eagle, two cracking young Montagu's Harriers, a distant Roller, two Swifts flying in the wrong direction (NE) among the Swallows and House Martins and a few passing Bee-eaters.

But, among all the birds of prey we noticed a Buzzard on the ground in the middle of a field, looking like there was something wrong with it: hopping about clumsily and keeping a wing partially open. G got out of the car and walked towards it to see if it would fly but it just retreated a bit, so we decided to call the number for the volunteer wildlife rescue vets. But first we had to catch it: we had a piece of tarp in the car and a pair of work gloves, but we needed a large box, so we drove to the closest cafe and asked if they had one and were very lucky as not only they did have a nice selection of boxes but were also very nice and helpful. So up the track we went again, parked the car and walked towards the Buzzard with the tarp and the box. The bird tried a few clumsy steps and then decided that playing dead was the safest option so G threw the tarp over it and managed to put it in the box. We met the vet halfway between his practice and our town and were very relieved when we lifted the lid of the box and saw that the Buzzard was still alive and looking at us inquisitively. We waved it goodbye and promised to call in the next few days to enquire about its progress. Fingers crossed!
 

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