Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Birds, Buriano, Rain, and Bandello

If looking over the blog, it might seem that Italy only has artistic cities and pretty vistas dotted by an occasional castle, large brick house, or hunter’s cabin surfacing from trees or fog or trees in fog. But Italy does, also, have areas of purely natural focus (or so we’d been told). As Natalie is a keen birder, and I’m not opposed to seeing nature in a non-human-presence state, and as we have been in the midst of some unseasonably sunny and warm January weather (60 degrees yesterday!), we decided to explore a nature reserve we’d read about: Ponte a Buriano (which is a lake-ish part of the river Arno, and as the name implies, laid out around an ancient bridge—hey, in Italy it’s hard to ever completely get away from human history, cause there’s been so much here). Sadly, we picked the one day in two weeks where the fog didn’t dissipate into sun, but into clouds and rain. Natalie, though, wasn’t dissuaded, and got her binoculars out and ready once we found a parking lot and hiked to the water:
The rain, though, kept on coming and coming, and our trail was soon cut short by a gate. Which we went around (maybe it was closed for the season? The nature center was, but as we were the only ones there, it seemed okay to bypass the gate). We ended up walking paths through this corn-field-y type area (you can sorta see how it was on the other side here):
They must have had both snow and mud a plenty though, because as we got closer to the river, we ended up in thick mud. My shoes were soon very clown-ish, as I got mudded and then the mud picked up stones. The rain kept on, and that plus the mud led us to leaving the area, though we did see some nice birds on the water, a nutria, a rabbit, and a dog before scraping shoes(oh, and when we left our house in the morning we saw two deer crossing the road) and loading back into the car. We didn’t give up though. First, we thought, why not check out one of the towns nearby? But then, we decided to hold out hope for lessening rain and headed to another nature reserve, one not too far: the Bandella wetlands (which have the complete name of the Valle dell’inferno e Bandella). It took a bit of driving and one short retracing of steps, but we found the sign for the Bandella visitor’s center and started up a hill. We wound around into a forested area, down some single car roads, past some houses (somewhat like Discovery Park in Seattle, which has military housing in the middle of the park), all with the park around us, but no visitor’s center. Then, we ended up in the middle of the wetlands, with a sign for parking:
So, we parked. The wetlands are also off the Arno like the Buriano above, but in a valley. The rain had stopped (yay!), though the skies were still cloudy (it was quite a dramatic effect). It was a lovely spot, and we were greeted (from a short distance) by a lovely Great Egret (really, it was an amazingly balletic bird):
We watched it hunt the water, glide up on large wings into the trees, and then swoop down again to perch in the water looking for lunch. We’d driven over a bridge to park, and spent some time with the Egret before going to the other side of the bridge to watch a host of Little Egrets, ducks, Cormorants, and other birds. Then back to watch the Great Egret. We gave our visitor’s center search one more try, driving back up out of the valley, but stopped when ending up in a farmer’s backyard. On the way back down, there was an amazing view, showing how the wetlands are cornered against the A1, the largest highway in Italy. This, to me, was amazing. I’d probably driven by the wetlands on the A1 50 times and had never even noticed—much like 99.9% of the people driving the road every day:
Before leaving the center of the wetlands, we took one more look at the Great Egret, who had a friend now, a large Gray Heron:
A little bit back farther up the road, we stopped to walk through the wetlands Botanical Garden area. It wasn’t in full flower, but we did learn the names of numerous plants, trees, and shrubs:
Now, though, it was well past 13:00, and we needed to follow the egret’s example and get some lunch (though not before taking a second to say so long to the Bandella, and to be glad we’d stuck it out through the rain—cause by now the sky was mostly sun).


  1. Now, tell us about the missing "B" in your post: buratta!

  2. thanks to my sweet husband for taking me birding!

  3. I do need to find that particular "b". I'm starting to look now.