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Italy's Abruzzo: Bears, Wolves, Chamois & Birds (1 Viewer)

Paul Collins

Well-known member
I have been visiting the Abruzzo every summer and autumn since 2017, for its endemic mammals (Marsican Bear, Apennine Wolf, Chamois) and fantastic birdlife. A relatively unknown part of Italy among naturalists, there has been a gradually growing interest in the area but it still feels unspoilt especially in autumn. With rolling green mountain slopes dotted with incredibly picturesque medieval villages, beech woodlands and clear rivers, the area is perfect for a fix of nature and culture.

From late September, I have observed Red Deer rutting alongside the azure streams of the Sangro River and in the valleys, and Hoopoes, Lilford's White-Backed Woodpecker and Wrynecks calling in the forests. Tired stags make easy targets for Apennine Wolves, which have just emerged from their dens with their cubs. The critically endangered Marsican Brown Bears (fewer than 60 left in Italy) come down to fruiting trees in village orchards; whilst on mountain screes, Apennine Chamois (a charismatic species of antelope) raise their young under the ever-present gaze of soaring Griffon Vultures.

When I visited last October with my close photography friends Gianluca and Mattia, I divided my time between two bases to maximise mammal and bird viewing opportunities. I have honed my visit season after season, working with local biologists and using all means at my disposal (from camera traps and telescopes/night-spotting scopes to making contact with rangers) to secure sightings of seldom-seen hunting and family behaviours among bears and wolves. I was initially based in Pescasseroli, the gateway to one of Italy's most unspoilt wild regions: the Abruzzo National Park and Majella National Park. For the second part of my stay, I transferred Sirente Velino Regional Park, staying in a fully-equipped refuge on Monte Velino with Wolves and Golden Eagles on my doorstep. This was a true immersion in the realm of the wolf. There were cosy dormitories, with running electricity, water, wifi, and Fabrizio the chef mad an excellent dinner on arrival. The nests of Golden Eagles, Choughs and Griffon Vultures could be viewed just above the refuge.

Often I would look for wolves and bears from sunrise until 11am, in the plains, meadows and fruit orchards. Whilst I waited, I was in the company of other wildlife such as noisy Rock Partridge, Griffon Vultures, rutting Red Deer and packs of Wild Boar. Towards midday, I would lunch, and then in the afternoon, look for herds of Apennine Chamois, a delightfully charismatic species of mountain antelope. My search took me on a beautiful, gentle climb through beech forest and into a valley that overlooks the scenic Lake Barrea. Or else I would cross the Sangro River for Red Deer bathing in the cool shallows, and come across September bird migrants such as Collared Flycatcher, Bonelli's Warbler and Subalpine Warbler.

I am of course going to visit this autumn, so do get in touch if you'd like to join on a similar experience. We'll probably be visiting the same accommodations and locations, and I have good relationships with the owners there, so if you are interested I can send an idea of costs on a shared basis.


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Thank you for the excellent photographs. Back in the 90’s I did a lot of work in Ascoli Piceno and visited Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo several times. It’s a superb area and on one visit I came across a small group who were watching a distant bear. I now know it was a Marsican Brown Bear thanks to you. 👍

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