“Well, you aren’t going there for the birds.” This was a reply from a birder friend after hearing Sara (my wife) and I were going to Italy for a couple weeks. As true as that may have been, as this vacation was planned to visit and catch up with friends, it got me wondering how bad the birding really could be.
In square miles, Italy easily fits inside of Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky combined. We also learned, while in Italy, there are currently about 3,000 active birders in the country versus North America’s 45 million bird watchers. So, Italy isn’t a massive country but it is massively under-birded. Sara and I logged 76 species while in the country and as of October 17th, we are 59th (Sara) and 61st (Adam) on Italy’s Top 100 for 2019 (Update: 65th and 67th as of 12/3/19). Yes, she snagged one more species than me.
We started our trip by spending a marvelous week in the city of Torino. Our friends who live in Italy are most thoughtful and were kind enough to feed our birding addiction. They took us along the banks of the Po River a number of times throughout the week, visiting different parks and simply walking the footpaths. We planned to finish our birding portion of the trip in the Po Delta area in northeast Italy, so it was seemed serendipitous that some of our first life birds were found along the same river, more than 400 kilometers downstream.
On our fourth day in Torino, Sara and I had one specific target bird left in the city. The Common Kingfisher. Hopes were high as we planned to head out towards the southeast end of town and walk north along the banks of the Po. After the first 30 minute, we were seeing our lifers from just days earlier, hoping for better views, of which were seldom. The serious looking Great Crested Grebe. The Black-headed Gulls drifting by on the wing. Hooded Crows criss-crossing from bank to bank.
After losing the birding edge and falling into friendly conversation Sara and I noticed a ‘smallish’ object blur past us. We shot each other a glance that clearly said “Did you see that shit?!?!” Immediately followed by a loud whisper of “I see where it landed.”
We were fortunate enough to have the ‘object’ perch in a visible location long enough for us to enjoy this moment with our friends, who were great sports. We took turns looking through binoculars at this seven inch long, Downy-Woodpecker-sized, Common Kingfisher! Not to mention the color! I have the Po River and this tiny Common Kingfisher to thank for showing me a new hue of nature.
I also have beer joint, Beer 4 Bunnies to thank for showing me the juicy beers of CRAK Brewing. CRAK’s timely name Plain Of The Po is a New England IPA straight outta Veneto, Italy. Being double-dry hopped pushes the IPA’s hoppiness to shine through the sweet tropical flavors and gives balance. I couldn’t think of a better pairing that I enjoyed so much to go along with our first week of lifers and the stunning Common Kingfisher. I will be back for better photos and more beer! Here’s to you CRAK Brewing and here’s until next time Po River.
Beer Info –
Brewery – CRAK Brewery – Veneto, Italy
Location – Beer 4 Bunnies – 11a, Piazza S. Francesco; Bologna, Italy 40122
Beer – Plain of the Po
ABV – 5.2%
Untappd (personal) Rating – 4
Bird Photo Info –
Nikon 850 / Sigma (C) 150-600mm lens
1/400s @ f/6.3 ISO 500 – 600mm
Aperture Priority – Spot Metering
Tripod mounted – No Flash
Date – September 17, 2019