Tuesday, July 27, 2004

An American straggler in Venice


From 13 February to 19 March 2004 an adult winter moulting to adult summer Ring-billed Gull, second for Italy if accepted, was observed and photographed by Stefano Castelli (the founder) and other italian birders not far from Saint Mark's Square, the very heart of Venice, the Italian town beloved by Americans (web-footed or not !). Ring-billed Gull is very rare as vagrant in the Mediterranean.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Flamingo chicks before the ringing; Po Delta, 2002.

The population of Flamingos in the Mediterranean, has increased recently, especially in Spain and Italy. However, the Flamingo is still a sensitive and vulnerable species since it only breeds at a very limited number of sites. Also, breeding success is very variable and is closely dependent on the type of ground they choose, climatic conditions, and the impact of terrestrial predators and disturbance. Flamingo chicks are regularly ringed with alphanumerically coded colour rings legible from un to 300m away.

Ringing Flamingos in the Po Delta (women team)

The Comacchio salina is a shallow, hypersaline lake inside the Comacchio lagoon, Po Delta, NE Italy. It is of great importance as a breeding area for many species of waterfowl, notably Flamingos, Spoonbills, Shelducks, Avocets, Black-winged Stilt, Slender-billed Gulls, Little Terns, Sandwich Terns and Lessere Crested Terns. The salina is protected as a Regional Park and Ramsar Site. Flamingos start to breed in NE Italy in 2000, when a small colony was found in the Comacchio salina, Po Delta. Since then, chicks have been color-ringed, with a total of 1120 so far (66 birds were ringed in 2000, 116 in 2001, 346 in 2002, 195 in 2003 and 397 this month.)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Red-footed Falcons in the Po Valley

Red-footed Falcons colonized recently N Italy and now they are breeding in the Po Valley, from the surroundings of Parma to the Po Delta, where their presence favoured also the recent breeding record of Lesser Kestrel too. The Falcons breed on trees, using nest abandoned by Magpies or Crows; the photo shows 2 young birds in a nest on an electric pylon (courtesy of Michele Mendi from Parma).

Lesser Crested Tern breeding in Italy

It breeds in subtropical coastal parts of the world mainly from the Red Sea across the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific, and Australia, with a significant population on the southern coast of the Mediterranean. The Australian birds are probably sedentary, but other populations are migratory, wintering south to South Africa. The Mediterranean birds move west in autumn, and are very rare vagrants to Europe, although this species has bred in pure or mixed pairs (with Sandwich Tern) in Italy, Spain and England. This is a large-medium tern, but it is the smallest of the yellow-billed crested terns. It most resembles Crested Tern. In Great Britain, France and the Netherlands, it has also been confused with Elegant Tern, both species being extreme rarities in these countries. This is a powerful tern, similar in size and general appearance to a Sandwich Tern. Its long sharp bill is orange, while its upperwings are grey and its underparts white. The summer adult has a black cap, and black legs. There are two other yellow-billed terns within the range of this species. Royal Tern in Africa is much larger, and has a white rump and tail. Crested Tern in the Indian and Pacific Oceans is darker and has a more robust cold yellow bill.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Slender-billed Gulls mistnetted in the Po Delta, Italy

Last night 32 Slender-billed Gulls had been mistnetted for the first time in Italy and maybe in Europe by the Stelar Ringing Group, a national network of ringers and ring-readers devoted to Gulls and Terns. Among the Slender-billed Gulls found in the nets, one was carrying out a French ring, while during the same session a Swiss Black-headed Gull and a Sandwich Tern with a London ring were also caught. The Comacchio Salina Ringing Station is among the most important European bird observatories receiving regularly visits by ornithologists and birdwatchers from abroad, among which we hosted recently Bill Oddie, Bob Scott, Carol Debney, Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Lesser Kestrel

The Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni is a globally threatened species classified as vulnerable. It has shown major population declines in large parts of its western Palearctic breeding range and has disappeared from several countries where it bred until recently. The western Palearctic population (Europe and North Africa) was estimated to be 10,000–17,000 pairs in 1994. According to a census carried out in 1994, in Italy three separate populations can be identified: Sicily (320 pairs, decreasing), Sardinia (c.100 pairs, decreasing) and Apulia-Basilicata (500–1,000 pairs, increasing/fluctuating, of which 260 pairs are regularly breeding in the town of Matera.). Immature Lessere Kestrel were recorded recently in NE Italy too, with also two breeding records, one of wich in the Po Delta in 2003.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Eleonora’s Falcon, Sardinia, Italy (by M. Mendi)

This is one of the most impressive and rare birds of the Falconidae family who comes to breed in Mediterranean islands in late autumn (in contrast to all other birds that breed in spring).
The male and female are alike in this falcon, but there are two phases: a dark and a light one. In the dark phase it is a dark slate-grey bird appearing black when it flies. In the pale phase, the upper parts are slate, the chin and throat are white with a black patch below the eye. The breast is slightly streaked with black, the lower breast and abdomen rufous, heavily streaked with slateblack. The legs are olive green and the eyes are dark black.
Eleonora's Falcon is a species which is especially found of islands and is less often encountered on the mainland. It comes in April and stays until November. Clefts and holes in inaccessible cliffs are its choice for a nest, a number of pairs breeding in the same cliffs. The clutch is of two to three eggs, incubation lasting twenty-eight days and the fledging period about thirty-five days. The reason they breed in September is that at that time of the year large numbers of migratory birds pass over the Mediterranean and being exhausted after the long journey, they are an easy prey to catch.
The way Eleonora's Falcons hunt is quite impressive: as a rule three falcons fly over the sea at a short distance from the coast, gliding at three different heights: one is hovering over the waves, a second one high up and above the coast cliffs and a third one somewhere in between leaving little chance for their prey to escape. They plummet down or shoot up catching the birds in the air. Their flight is fast and powerful, allowing them to quickly change direction.

Purple Herons near Venice, NE Italy

The Po Delta in NE Italy is one of the most important nature area in Europe because of its high biodiversity;
it is home of more than 370 bird species, among wich all the European species of herons and egrets are regularly breeding. The picture shows a pair of Purple Herons building its nest. Photo was realized in digiscoping without neither disturbing the birds nor damaging vegetation, by taking it from a wooden watch-tower used by visitors of a nature reserve near Venice (Venezia).

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Birdwatching in the Po Delta, NE Italy, April 2004

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