Looking for Eagle Owl in Veneto region

Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) is a rather rare species in Italy and in Veneto as well, with old estimates of about 50 pairs for the region, 30 of which in the Belluno province and 8-12 in Treviso. This January and February I decided to try to look for that species in the valleys of southern Belluno and northern Treviso province.

All data of presence available were older than 10-15 years, even talking with experienced local birders: usually the species choses the most uninhabited sides, nesting in cliffs, rocky habitats and, eventually, old quarries, often near lakes or rivers. The main problem was that most of the cliffs were usually disturbed by climbers and the suitable areas were often very hard to be reached or near the motorway that runs from Venice to Belluno, reducing the possibilities of detection.

I spent 5 different evenings along Piave and Cordevole river and along the Prealpi Trevigiane, with just an observed individual.

Climate conditions were often awful, with cold and strong wind or mist: this, together with the falling light of late afternoon and the shade of mountains made the photo conditions truly prohibitive.

San Florian tower
San Florian tower

Along Cordevole river I saw a Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), but also some  Goosanders (Mergus merganser), which population is increasing in Northern Italy.

Goosander (Mergus merganser)
Goosander (Mergus merganser)

In the lakes of Fadalto, instead, I spotted, among tens of Tufted Ducks and 15 Goldeneyes, a Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea). Impossible to tell if it was definitely wild or not, but it was a good flier without any ring on its legs.

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)
Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

In the woods of pines and beeches there was not too much activity of passerines: just Chaffinches, Coal and Marsh Tits.

Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris)
Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris)

The first flowers were emerging from the leaf litter: few Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and hundreds of Common Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis).

Common Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
Common Snowdrop(Galanthus nivalis)

In the litter, almost at the dusk, I observed also a very cute Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus)…

Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus)
Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus)

…while in the cliff was flying a bird that usually shares the habitat with Eagle Owls: a wonderful Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), the butterfly-bird.

Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria)
Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria)

It was a good sign: after 4 unsuccesseful evenings, few minutes later, I finally heard the unmistakable song of an Eagle Owl!! I managed to spot the bird flying to a pilon where it perched, unfortunately hidden. I quickly set up the camera in order to get a record shot just in time to follow the owl flying again to the right… But the autofocus was so slow! I managed to focus the bird when it came back to the pilon in flight…

Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)
Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)

At 16.000 ISO, but I had a record shot of the wished Eagle Owl: mission accomplished!!

Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)
Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)

Luca Boscain

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