2 and half days of birding in the middle of the summer along the Upper Adriatic

The area of High Adriatic, around Venice, offers a lot of different options in order to explore different habitats and see large numbers of birds even in the heart of summer, when birdwatching is usually drammatically slow.

I led an American birder during the first half of July, so in the worst time of the year for birding, for a total of 2 days and half, but we saw at the end more than 130 species of birds (check-list at the end of the post)!

He was based on an hotel inland, not far from Mestre, so in the centre of a chain of amazing birding sites that goes from the Po delta, to the Prealps, to the Trieste gulf, easily reachable from there in less than 2 hours of driving. The aim was to see as much species of birds was possible, looking expecially for some hiconic specialities like Montagu’s Harrier, Roller and Common Rock-thrush.

Clearly, being rushing all the time, we hadn’t too much time for the photography, so you will notice that most of the pics of the post will not be anything more than record shots.

We started the first day from the Po delta: the area is shared by 3 different provinces, Rovigo, Ravenna and Ferrara. First of all we visited the Rovigo side: the maquis of scrubs and reeds were rich in songs of secretive birds like Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), Cetti’s (Cettia cetti), Marsh (Acrocephalus palustris) and Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), while the fields were patrolled by Gull-billed Terns (Gelochelidon nilotica) and Montagu’s Harriers (Circus pygargus).

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)
Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus)
Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)

We explored the banks of the inner lagoons, where I spotted a rare dark morph of Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) and few huge Mammoth Wasps (Megascolia maculata).

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)
Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)
Mammoth Wasps (Megascolia maculata)
Mammoth Wasps (Megascolia maculata)

The tide was growing, so the few present shorebirds spreaded on the rock islands and banks, including Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Common Sandpipers (Actitis hypoleucos), Curlews (Numenius arquata), Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) and the introduced African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus).

Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus)
Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)
African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)

After lunch time, we headed south to the Ravenna province, visiting the area of Valle Mandriole: surprisingly the water level was particularly low and the few remaining pools were very far.

Valle Mandriole
Valle Mandriole

However we managed to observe Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) and Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida).

Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

On the birding tower I noticed also a couple of nice Italian Wall Lizards (Podarcis siculus).

Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus)
Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus)

Later on we crossed the Reno river and we entered in the Ferrara province, exploring a beautiful countriside with ponds, fields and meadows. Here we spotted a beautiful Roller (Coracias garrulus) and some Serins (Serinus serinus).

Roller (Coracias garrulus)
Roller (Coracias garrulus)
Serin (Serinus serinus)
Serin (Serinus serinus)

We finished our first day of birding in the wonderful Valle Zavelea, where we counted hundreds of Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta) and Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus), 350 Spotted Redshanks (Tringa erythropus), 16 Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa), 12 Marsh Sandpipers (Tringa stagnatilis), 3 Little Ringed Plovers (Charadrius dubius), 2 Greenshanks (Tringa nebularia), 2 Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola) and 2 Ruffs (Calidris pugnax).

The second day we changed completely habitat, driving to the Prealps and climbing by car the slopes of Monte Grappa. Starting from the lowest altitudes, this mountain is characterized by an amazing succession of habitats from the warm woodland of Downy Oak, to deciduous forest with nice clearings and “malgas”, to rocky cliffs with pinewoods, to beech and spruce forests, to alpine pastures. This variety of environments hosts a lot of different species of birds, from Mediterranean species to alpine ones, but at the beginning we had quite a few problems to find any, because most of the species had ended yet their breeding season, becoming particularly secretive and silent.

We struggled to find Long-tailed (Aegithalos caudatus) and Marsh Tits (Poecile palustris), Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla), Bonelli’s Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli) or Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla).

Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli)
Bonelli’s Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli)

Pretty nice was the observations of raptors like Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).

Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

As usual, with the heat, much more active were insects: we couldn’t not notice Common (Papilio machaon) and Scarce Swallowtails (Iphiclides podalirius), Marbled White (Melanargia galathea), Chequered Blue (Scolitantides orion), Marbled Fritillary (Brenthis daphne) and many more. The Monte Grappa is probably one of the richest area of Veneto region for butterflies!

Higher in the altitude the praires were plenty of beautiful Alpine Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)…

Alpine Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)
Alpine Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)
View from the peak
View from the peak

…but there were also quite a few species of passerines such as Tree Pipits (Anthus trivialis), Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra), Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros), Mistle Thrushes (Turdus viscivorus), Lesser Whitethroats (Sylvia curruca), Red-backed Shrikes (Lanius collurio), Linnets (Carduelis cannabina) and also rare ones such as Alpine Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus), Common Rock-thrush (Monticola saxatilis) and Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella).

Red-backed Shrikes (Lanius collurio)
Red-backed Shrikes (Lanius collurio)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

There were still quite a few plants with flowers and we stopped a couple of minutes to have a look to one of the few patches of Musk Orchid (Herminium monorchis) and to the well sheltered Tufted Horned Rampions (Physoplexis comosa) on a cliff.

Musk Orchid (Herminium monorchis)
Musk Orchid (Herminium monorchis)
Tufted Horned Rampions (Physoplexis comosa)
Tufted Horned Rampions (Physoplexis comosa)

The last day we had only half a day to go, so we decided to drive to the Trieste gulf and to look for some more Mediterranean and aquatic species there.

Nearby the sea cliffs the sky was particularly rich in birds, with tens of Alpine (Tachymarptis melba), Common (Apus apus) and Pallid Swifts (Apus pallidus), House Martins, Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and a rare Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica).

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)
Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)

On the rocks we spotted a solitary Blue Rock-thrush, while around the mussel-farms there were some tens of rare Eiders (Somateria mollissima) and Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis). In the Pinewoods, instead, everything was particularly silent: no signs of presence of Crested Tit or Short-toed Treecreeper, but at least a secretive Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), some Jays (Garrulus glandarius) and a rare Dalmatian Algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus).

Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus)
Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus)
Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Dalmatian Algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus)
Dalmatian Algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus)

So we moved to the Isola della Cona reserve, one of the best birding places in all northern Italy. On the way I noticed a strange “duck” in a canal of Monfalcone, from the traffic-light… A quick stop revealed that it was a rather ugly, probably sick, Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata): a truly unexpected presence in summer in Italy!

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)

Unfortunately we discovered later that the reserve was close because of works, so without a lot of time left, we walked along the banck of Isonzo river: it wasn’t definitely a bad idea, despite the hot temperature, because the beautiful reedbeds, bush and thickets offered Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) and a stunning male of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor): an happy end of 2 and half amazing days of birding in the High Adriatic area!

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor)
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor)

Check-list of the observed species:


  1. Coypu
  2. Alpine Chamois


  1. Mute Swan
  2. Common Shelduck
  3. Mallard
  4. Northern Shoveler
  5. Eurasian Wigeon
  6. Garganey
  7. Common Teal
  8. Common Pochard
  10. Ring-necked Pheasant
  12. Great Crested Grebe
  13. Little Grebe
  14. Great Cormorant
  16. Pygmy Cormorant
  17. Squacco Heron
  18. Black-crowned Night Heron
  19. Cattle Egret
  21. Little Egret
  22. Great Egret
  23. Grey Heron
  24. Purple Heron
  26. African Sacred Ibis
  28. European Honey Buzzard
  29. Western Marsh Harrier
  31. Common Buzzard
  32. Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  33. Common Kestrel
  34. Hobby
  35. Peregrine Falcon
  36. Common Moorhen
  37. Eurasian Coot
  38. Pied Avocet
  39. Black-winged Stilt
  40. Eurasian Oystercatcher
  41. Northern Lapwing
  42. Little Ringed Plover
  43. Ruff
  44. Common Sandpiper
  45. Green Sandpiper
  46. Wood Sandpiper
  48. Common Greenshank
  49. Spotted Redshank
  50. Whimbrel
  51. Eurasian Curlew
  52. Black-tailed Godwit
  53. Black-headed Gull
  54. Mediterranean Gull
  55. Yellow-legged Gull
  56. Sandwich Tern
  57. Gull-billed Tern
  58. Common Tern
  59. Little Tern
  60. Black Tern
  61. Whiskered Tern
  62. Common Wood Pigeon
  63. Feral Pigeon
  64. European Turtle Dove
  65. Eurasian Collared Dove
  66. Common Cuckoo
  67. Little Owl
  68. Alpine Swift
  70. Common Swift
  71. European Bee-eater
  72. Eurasian Hoopoe
  74. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  76. European Green Woodpecker
  77. Crested Lark
  79. Barn Swallow
  80. Common House Martin
  81. Tree Pipit
  82. Western Yellow Wagtail
  83. White Wagtail
  84. Eurasian Wren
  85. Dunnock
  86. European Robin
  87. Common Nightingale
  88. Northern Wheatear
  89. Black Redstart
  90. Common Redstart
  91. Whinchat
  94. Common Blackbird
  95. Song Thrush
  96. Mistle Thrush
  97. Cetti’s Warbler
  98. Zitting Cisticola
  99. Marsh Warbler
  100. Common Reed Warbler
  101. Great Reed Warbler
  102. Blackcap
  103. Lesser Whitethroat
  105. Chiffchaff
  106. Firecrest
  107. Spotted Flycatcher
  108. Long-tailed Tit
  109. Great Tit
  110. Blue Tit
  111. Coal Tit
  112. Marsh Tit
  113. Short-toed Treecreeper
  114. Red-backed Shrike
  115. Golden Oriole
  116. Eurasian Magpie
  117. Eurasian Jay
  119. Hooded Crow
  120. Common Raven
  121. Italian Sparrow
  122. Tree Sparrow
  123. Common Starling
  124. Common Chaffinch
  125. European Serin
  126. Common Linnet
  127. European Golfinch
  128. European greenfinch
  129. Rock bunting
  130. Yellowhammer
  131. Cirl Bunting


  1. Dalmatian Algyroides
  2. Italian Wall Lizard
  3. Common Wall Lizard
  4. Western Whip Snake


  1. Common Swallowtail
  2. Scarce swallowtail
  3. Large White
  4. Small White
  5. Green-veined White
  6. Holly Blue
  7. Chequered Blue
  8. Red Admiral
  9. Common Comma
  10. Small Tortoiseshell
  11. Marbled White
  12. Marbled Fritillary
  13. Meadow Brown
  14. Small Heath
  15. Wall Brown
  16. Large Skipper


  1. Black-tailed Skimmer
  2. White-tailed Skimmer
  3. Broad-bodied Chaser








Luca Boscain


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