Pygmy Owls in the Cadore

I’ve been in the Cadore side of Dolomiti Friulane in order to look for the Hazel Grouse, one of the most sought-after Italian birds, and, as usual, even if I couldn’t achieve the goal, I found something very special: 2 superb Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum), the European smallest bird of prey!

To look for the shyest birds of the Dolomites, you should be there before dawn: that’s why I arrived there when it was still dark. After the first sighteen of 4-5 Red Deers (Cervus elaphus), near the village of Vigo di Cadore (BL), I observed a Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) crossing in flight just 2 meters above the road, so I stopped to take my torch from the back of the car. Coming out of the vehicle I heard the call of a Pygmy Owl. It was too dark for any observation or photo, so I decided to continue my night exploration and to come back later to that woodland. I had no other relevant sightings around, so I came back to the Pygmy Owl site: a couple of minutes of playback drove out once again the bird, allowing me to take the first record shots.

There was still not light enough for good pictures of the owl: the rocks of the Dolomites, much higher than me, were just turning red.

I moved to the area of Passo Mauria (1,298 m), the pass that connects Veneto region (Lorenzago di Cadore) with the Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Forni di Sopra). Here in the past there were wide pastures, but, after their abandonment, in the last tens of years the forest has come back, growing rich in Spruces (Picea abies), Larches (Larix decidua), Beeches (Fagus sylvatica) and Sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus). Here and there survive clearings with old barns and stables thet were recently restored as second houses.

Passo Mauria should be an important flyway for migrants, because I observed a lot of birds when in autumn Alps are usually rather quiet. My birding obtains: 1 Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), a dozen of Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus), 4-5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), 1 late Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis), some Dunnocks (Prunella modularis), Wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes) and Robins (Erithacus rubecula), various Song Thrushes (Turdus philomelos), Mistle Thrushes (T. viscivorus) and Blackbirds (T. merula), 1 Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), tens of Goldcrests (Regulus regulus), Nuthatches (Sitta europaea), Common Treecreepers (Certhia familiaris), Long-tailed (Aegithalos caudatus), Coal (Periparus ater), Crested (Lophophanes cristatus), Willow (Poecile montanus) and Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus), 1 Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), 2 Jays (Garrulus glandarius), few Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Siskins (Carduelis spinus), Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) and Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) and tens and tens of Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra).

But the best observation of the day was a second, fantastic, Pygmy Owl!!

Luca Boscain

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