Grave di Ciano, a seriously threatened paradise for birdwatching

Grave di Ciano“, the riverbed of Piave nearby the village of Ciano del Montello, is probably the best birding spot in the Treviso province, but is recently threatened by the project to excavate there some detention basins.

After the flood of October 2018, when the river Piave rose almost to surpass the second embankments, invading fields and vineyards beyond the first bank, the government of the province looked for possible solutions in order to keep in safety the riverbed. Apparently the number of artificial basins in the Dolomites, that can in case be filled, in order to control the water flow, could be insufficient, so it has emerged the idea to excavate one of the most well preserved ecosystems along the course of the Piave, the Grave di Ciano, to create one or more detention basins, for the joy of gravel miners.

I’m talking about an area of sub-steppic dry meadows, poplar groves and poor lands that extends for about 6 km² on the right side of Piave and that hosts one of the richest examples of biodiversity in the province that should be instead strictly protected.

About birds, the Grave di Ciano hosts 70-80 breeding species, including rare ones at regional but also national level, including Montagu’s Harrier (Cyrcus pygargus), Eurasian Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), European Roller (Coracias garrulus) and Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), but also, till few of years ago, Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) and Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana), birds particularly affected by the lost of their habitat in Europe, but also in their wintering grounds in Africa.

During the migration season, birders can find here the best place in Treviso where to look for rarities: Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Common Crane (Grus grus), Red-footed Falcon (Falco vesopertinus) and many others are all regularly seen and, possibly, the best bird I had there so far were 3 Red-throated Pipits (Anthus cervinus) in April 2007.

Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus) in 2007

Finally, in winter, while the clearings are hunting sites for Great Grey Shrikes (Lanius excubitor), the dry meadows along the riverbed are the favorite feeding grounds for hundreds of finches and buntings, including Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), Reed (Emberiza schoeniclus) and Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia), but use to be (who knows, possibly it could still be!) one of the few wintering places for Pine Buntings (Emberiza leucocephalos) in the Western Paleartic!

Male of Pine Bunting (Emberiza leucocephalos) in 2008

But not only birds: a study about butterflies reported 67 species along the Piave between Vidor and Nervesa della Battaglia, most of those present in the Grave di Ciano as well (Zamprogno et al., 2009), while this area is just on the other side of the “Isola dei Morti” I’ve described already in a post (link) because of presence of more than 20 species of stunning orchids.

Common Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera var. tilaventina) in 2017

This short presentation just to explain what we are risking to loose: a PETITION is available at this link ->, if you agree that Grave di Ciano should be preserved and should be found other solutions in order to keep save people from the floods of Piave, starting from limiting the colonization of the river bed with vineyards, houses and industrial poles.

Demonstration in front of the Prefecture of Treviso

Yesterday I spent 4 hours and half hiking and birding in the Grave di Ciano, enjoying about 460 individuals of birds belonging to 38 different species, but also having a taste of the human disturbance in the area, even excluding the gravel mining along the Piave.

If birding was great, as usual, the photo opportunities were rarer: this is an hunting reserve, so game birds are shot from mid September to January, while in other seasons is noticeable the disturbance of motocross-bikers, river bathers, meetings of loud people, etc, making the birds generally shy.

Anyway I still managed to photograph some nice subjects.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater), a mountain species that this winter “invaded” with good numbers the plains of Northern Italy
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus), another uncommon visitor in the lowlands
Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), that breeds in the Grave di Ciano
Woodlark (Lullula arborea)
Woodlark (Lullula arborea), a rare winter visitor in the Treviso province
Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas), the only plant in bloom I had
Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea)
The small heronry that established recently in the Grave di Ciano
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Male of Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
View with river Piave and in the background the Col Visentin and the Prealpi Bellunesi
Female of great Tit (Parus major)
Male of Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) mobbed by a hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)
Female of Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Piave with the village of S. Stefano of Valdobbiadene, heart of the Prosecco hills, in the background
Male of Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Female of Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), as usual with the head in the shade
A motocross-biker breaking the peace with the church of Vidor and the Monte Tomatico in the background
An helicopter that spent almost 2 hours wandering around, hovering for maybe half an hour at an altitude of about 50 meters above the Grave di Ciano, creating really a lot of noise and disturbance to not mention the waste of fuel
One of the two fighters that circled at low altitude having a look to the helicopter and generating some more annoying clamor
One of the largest meadows of the Grave di Ciano
A little flock of Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella)
One of those very grey buntings that could well be a hybrid between Yellowhammer and Pine Bunting, maintaining still some yellow on face and belly
Eurasian Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Luca Boscain

4 thoughts on “Grave di Ciano, a seriously threatened paradise for birdwatching

    1. We should have a RSPB with a million of members to protect the area. Can you imagine that we have to form an alliance with the associations of hunters just to reach a least number of protesters?!?


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