Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter

Pelagic birding in the lake of Garda

The lake of Garda (“lago di Garda“) is the largest of Italy and, together with other big lakes at the foothill of Alps, can often offer some interesting observations. Many times the birds move offshore, so can be hard to see them even by telescope: to rent a boat and navigate far from the coasts can be a productive choice to have an idea about what’s happen in the centre of the lake.

The area of the lake of Garda is particularly popular and touristic, so the roads can be very busy. The reason is that, together with the mild climate guaranteed by the extension of water, as usual in Italy, abound the historical beauties in the neighbor villages and towns, like Sirmione or Punta S. Vigilio, to not talk about the famous city of Verona with its Roman arena.

Punta S. Vigilio
Punta S. Vigilio
Sirmione
Sirmione

I rented a boat together with two other friends for 30 euros/hour (+ fuel) at the end of September, hoping in some skuas or other rarities. Long-tailed Skua is the rarest of all, at the Italian level, but has been spotted quite a few times in the large lakes of Northern Italy, including Garda: it was the main aim of our expedition, but we hadn’t luck with it.

We encountered first a small flock of maybe ten Black Terns (Chlidonias niger) and hundreds of Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus), including some juveniles still with a striped head.

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), juvenile
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), juvenile
Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus)
Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus)

Among the Great Crested, we spotted a dozen of Black-necked (Podiceps nigricollis) and a single Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena), already in winter plumage.

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)
Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)

I tried hard in finding a rare gull, but there were only tens of Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis) of every age.

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis), adult
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis), 1st winter
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis), 1st winter

The only different one was a very early Common Gull (Larus canus).

Common Gull (Larus canus), adult
Common Gull (Larus canus), adult

But the most spectacular were definitely the Little Gulls (Hydrocoloeus minutus), a particularly elegant bird that is becoming every year rarer in Italy. It use to be very abundant during migrations, with even flocks of thousands reported, but for us, to observe 15-20 of them in the same place had been already an event! We really appreciated the variation of plumages, going from the pied juvenils to the almost whitish adults.

Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), juvenile
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), juvenile
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), adult
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), adult
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), juvenile
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), juvenile
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), 1st winter
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), juvenile
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), juvenile

After three hours of pelagic exploration, we decided to come back to the harbour and to go to twitch the Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis schistacea), possibly an hybrid with Little Egret, that had been observed for weeks in the area: it was well showing on its patch!

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)
Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)
Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)
Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)

We finished our day going to twitch an introduced species, the Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus), that we hadn’t yet seen during the big year. Apparently it is now an established breeder nearby the lovely village of Borghetto, along the Mincio river.

Some of the various medioeval towers of Borghetto
Some of the various medioeval towers of Borghetto

We found two pairs there, particularly tame.

Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus)
Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)
Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus)
Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus)

Luca Boscain

 

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