Thursday, 17 October 2013

Italy. October 2013

We're in Italy! Castelforte, near Naples. It's so exciting being in a new country, with new birds. I love the act of spotting, trying to note as many details as possible, looking in the book and **hopefully** identifying. It makes you look more carefully at each creature you see.

Back home I know all of the regular birds and it's too easy to take them for granted and hardly look at all. Here, that blackbird (or is it a starling?) that's just flown to perch on the parapet of San Giovanni Battista belltower might be a blackbird, but it might be something else... like a blue rock thrush! Monticola solitarius. Dusky blue and black. An especially beautiful bird.

Two black redstarts were up on the tower before, fluttering out and back, out and back, to catch flies and the floating spiders that use silken threads as sails to ride the wind. The male redstart looks shimmery coal black until he turns and you see his rust red tail. The juvenile and non-breeding plumage is a lighter tan grey, still with some of the rust red on tail.

This morning from the balcony a blue tit was on an aerial across rooftops. That seemed strange, such a familiar bird in such an alien setting. A small but bright dab of yellow and blue amongst whitewash and red tiles.

Other familiar birds are feral pigeons, collared doves, magpies and sparrows. Though the the sparrows so far have been tree not house.

From the car yesterday I saw two sparrowhawks, one plunging towards a spooked group of pigeons. At the car hire outside the airport two parakeets were flying far off, long-tailed and squawking, like the ring-necked's in London. Also gulls overhead, no attempt yet to identify.

At the mall (yes, I thought that too, but with eight of us we needed to do a big shop...) crows were chattering around the top of a pylon. Quite a few carrion crows and two their grey-tabarded relatives, though my book doesn't show hooded as being in Italy at all. Carrion and hooded are the same species but two different races, with mostly separate ranges. Interbreeding does occur.

It's not just birds. Plants are new, and insects and reptiles. Lemons are growing and yellowing, prickly pear fruits are reddening, olives are browning. Two geckos suckered vertically outside our kitchen veranda last night. A bat flying through lamplight below and around the balcony. I could slightly hear its squeaking but Eva could hear it better with her younger ears.

Lizards were scuttling along the walls of a square that we stopped in. Seeking sun to warm bodies of green, brown, yellow scales. They dart, stop-and-start, like a mouse. The kids gave an impromptu performance of 'Crazy Crazy' and Gangnam style in the circle in the square here whilst the more attentive adults watched and I scanned the opposite hillside for birds, hearing what I think were jays. A big patch of ivy flowers (unassuming light green buds) attracted more bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies and ultra-large wasps (some type of hornets?) than we'd ever seen, making more insect noise than we'd ever heard.

There are red admirals and whites and one butterfly with sunshine yellow wings, flame red towards the body, that glided past me, gone before I'd had time to do more than briefly wonder.

Our traditional old Italian mansion is amazing, filled with the family history of its owners. Its view is incredible. Stereotypical Italian rooftop vista, hazy light like a Turner. I think I'm almost feeling relaxed.

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