Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Italy and home again

Snowy egret on Lago Varano

We had a wonderful month in Puglia over Christmas and the New Year but I did miss being surrounded by wildlife. We thought we would see plenty of waterfowl and general birdlife on the shores of Lago Varano and in the Foresta Umbra, but I saw virtually nothing until our last day. It was a beautiful day so we had a picnic at the water's edge in the hamlet of Bagno. When we arrived there were several little grebes close to the shore but no sooner had we walked over to photograph them than a noisy family appeared and frightened the dabchicks off. At least we saw a heron, several egrets, some cormorants and three mallards, as well as a collection of coots in the distance.

Geese hurrying past some local dogs

While we were relaxing in the warm sunshine some geese appeared and were given a hard time by a couple of local dogs. The geese tried to defend themselves then thought better of it and ran past the dogs.
Safe at last

The geese finally made it to the safety of the lagoon and the dogs turned their attention to a cat which refused to be intimidated by them, flattening its ears and spitting at them till they left it alone.

During our month in Peschici we also spent time in the beautiful Foresta Umbra. The forest was deserted most of the time, except on the days when it snowed, and the silence was profound. In fact, aside from the drumming of a woodpecker, the call of a blackbird and the chattering of some chaffinches, there was no sound at all. We had expected to see plenty of birdlife there but, apart from the birds mentioned and the appearance of an impressive buzzard, we saw no other wildlife. Ironically, on the last day of our holiday, as we drove from Langres to Calais, I saw more wildlife than on any other day. The sky was an icey blue, the temperature a bitter - 13 degrees at 9.00am, and the countryside was shrouded with snow as we set off for the last leg of the drive home. A fox trotted warily across a field as we dropped down into the valley outside Langres, there were buzzards at regular intervals both on the back roads and at the sides of the motorways, and I spotted deer in the fields on three occasions during the drive. I also saw a huddle of seven or eight herons, all hunched up against the cold, close to the edge of the motorway. After six weeks away, with very little wildlife, we were really pleased to see our swans, ducks, coots and grebes again.

The swans are still fighting over territory

The battle continues

Time to see off the trespasser

I nearly had to duck when this one headed off his rival close to where I was standing

Thunder Thighs is still alive

Thanks to Claudia, who volunteered to feed the ducks and garden birds for us while we were away, our 'regulars' weren't left to starve. As the weather was so extremely cold in UK for most of our time in Italy, we were really glad to know that they were being looked after. Claudia emailed us to say that the old coot (Thunder Thighs) had disappeared, but fortunately he turned up again a few days later. It didn't take the 'usual suspects' long to get back into the habit of demanding food more than twice a day! We had several chats with friends from the island while we were away, and were told that the ducks had come 'mob-handed' into the lagoon to 'beg' for more food in our absence! They get spoilt when we're here.

Blackbird having a quick wash in the pond

The weather has been mostly wet and dull since we've been back, so it's been difficult to take decent photographs. I grabbed this shot through the kitchen window one rainy day.

A poorly parakeet

This parakeet must have been quite unwell as it spent several hours asleep on our bird table, and then perched inside the window feeder and nodded off there too. I hope it recovered. There were no signs of a corpse the next day!