Birdwatching in one of the most important Italian sites for migratory birdlife, with the ornithologist Andrea Senese.
In addition, we had the opportunity to get to know Ventotene in all its splendor, in a period outside the summer overcrowding, to discover the history, geology and vegetation of the island. The tour was also enriched by tastings of zero km products that the island with its fields and sea offers!
Welcomed by optimal weather conditions, we head towards the structure that will host us for two nights: a delightful b & b overlooking the crystal clear sea of Cala Nave, the main beach of Ventotene.
As soon as the check-in is completed, we decide to inspect the surroundings of the structure to make the first observations. The well-kept garden, thankfully, is teeming with life. In addition to the resident species, among bushes and ornamental plants there are many European Robins (Erithacus rubecula) – Passerine present in large numbers during our stay on the island.
Just outside the rooms, a bush of Tree Spurge (Euphorbia dendroides) attracts our attention: the plant hosts a dozen of Spurge Hawk-moth caterpillars (Hyles euphorbiae). This moth is particularly linked, in its colorful larval stage, to plants of the genus Euphorbia, on which it feeds on leaves and bracts.
It is 13:00 and hunger begins to be felt. We then head to the restaurant. Thanks to its panoramic view of the sea, we can spot, together with the many Yellow-legged Gulls, two individuals of European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), resting on the rocks in front of the beach.
After an excellent lunch based on the catch of the day, with tasty vegetarian and vegan alternatives, an afternoon of birdwatching among fields and scrub awaits us. Before setting out to explore the island, thanks to the summer-like temperatures, we allow ourselves an hour of relaxation on the beach (with a beautiful dive!).
Starting to walk the streets that run along the island’s villas and fields, we notice the presence of both short-range and long-range migratory birds, including Robins, Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and a Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus).
During the afternoon, we also have the opportunity to get to know some local country realities, visiting the famous Ventotene Lentil fields. Here Daniele, a young islander dedicated to carrying on the family tradition, illustrates the different and meticulous phases of cultivation and harvesting of this extraordinary cultivar. We end our tour with the suggestive sunset from the panorama of Parata Grande.
The first day ends with a tasting of zero km products: island vegetables and legumes skilfully combined with shellfish and excellent wine.
The next morning we wake up at a good pace to inspect the soccer pitch, one of the most suitable places to observe species related to open environments on the island. Here we come in contact with a large number of Common Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) and Song Thrushes (Turdus philomelos) in migration, as well as a Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) grazing on the former field.
After having breakfast, we head to the Roman Port, where a small boat awaits us for the tour of the island. Along the way we are able to photograph one of the many Blue Rock Thrushes (Monticola solitaria) present among houses and rocky outcrops.
Thus we begin the circumnavigation of Ventotene: along the island we have the opportunity to enjoy the extraordinary colors of the sea and the magnificent stratigraphies along the cliffs, testifying to the different volcanic phases, which took place between 1 million and 300,000 years ago.
During the tour, we observe 3 individuals of Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), 5 Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) and a young Shag. We also see some probable nesting sites of Shearwater, pelagic birds closely linked to the phases of the moon, which are able to breed only in islands characterized by low light pollution, such as Ventotene.
Back at the harbor, we move to the beach, where we will have our packed lunch based by pizza. After a short break in the sun, in the company of a young Yellow-legged Gull a little too confident, we go up to Piazza Castello to begin the nature walk. In fact, we have an appointment here with Annarita, biologist and local guide who will lead us on a path dedicated to the discovery of the history, geology and vegetation of Ventotene, among edible wild plants and typical species of the Mediterranean flora.
Along the path we add to the checklist Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) and dozens and dozens of Common House Martins (Delichon urbicum), which fly over our heads together with hundreds of Barn Swallows.
The walk continues with a visit to the bird migration museum, the first of its kind in Italy and one of the few in Europe. Here, between dioramas and interactive panels, the guide illustrates the secrets of the migratory birds and the importance of the island for its ecology.
After the visit, we head to the ISPRA bird banding station, for a demonstration of this research practice that has interested Ventotene for more than 30 years. Here Sara, an ISPRA ornithologist and ringer, shows the participants the delicate phases of biometric measurement and application of the ring on the Passerines caught in the mistnets: these are some individuals of European Robin, one of the most ringed species in those days on the island.
On the way back to the inhabited center, along the fields we observe a Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) and a Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus).
Once in the village, yet another surprise is presented to the group: the launch of one of the famous air balloons during a demonstration in the square. This traditional custom, in Ventotene sees its maximum expression in September, during the days dedicated to the celebrations of Santa Candida.
An extraordinary sunset over the sea concludes another intense day on the island, followed by a dinner at the Roman Port with traditional dishes, including the amazing Ventotene Lentil soup.
The third day is rather cloudy and breezy, however we decide to take advantage of the first hours of light to do birdwatching between the town and the rocky coast. In addition to the many Passerines, we spot two Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) seeking shelter on the tuffaceous formations.
After having a stop over at the bar, we visit the Imperial Villa of Giulia. Thanks to Elena, the archaeological guide, we take a real dive into the past. Located on Punta Eolo, the villa offers good opportunities for observing water birds and open environments species. In fact, among the ruins we come across a Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus) and a Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). Thanks to the view of the open sea, we can spot an adult Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) fishing a few meters from the coast, while on the rocks stop a Cattle Egret and a Shag.
In addition to the archaeological and ornithological beauties, the site also manages to interest botany lovers. Here, in fact, there is an important station of Limonium p. pandatariae, a halophytic plant endemic to the islands of Ventotene and Santo Stefano.
Returning to the b & b, we make a brief visit to the soccer field, where we add Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) and Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) to the checklist.
Our stay on the island is now coming to an end and we are preparing to board the ferry that will take us back to the mainland. But the tour doesn’t end at all!
The stretch of sea between Ventotene and Formia, in fact, offers excellent opportunities for seawatching: we therefore sit on the external pier, armed with binoculars and cameras, hoping to make some interesting encounters.
A few minutes pass after leaving the port of Ventotene and we are already beginning to observe the first Scopoli’s Shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) in flight low to the water. Spirits is already up, even before spotting the real star of the day: in the waves, after about half an hour of navigation, we are lucky enough to meet 3 Striped Dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba)! These are two adult individuals with a cub… fantastic moments!
On the return journey we spot about 40 Scopoli’s and 8 Yelkouan Shearwaters (Puffinus yelkouan). Once near Gaeta, one of the best spots for gull observation, among the many Yellow-legged Gulls we see some Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and a Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus).
Thus ends another birding weekend in Ventotene and once again the island has managed to give us unforgettable memories. We sincerely hope to be able to resume the tour as soon as possible, as soon as the health situation allows for the resumption of our eco-tourism activities.
- Scopoli’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea)
- Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan)
- Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
- Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
- European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
- Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
- Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
- Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
- Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
- Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
- Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)
- Feral Pigeon (Columba livia var. domestica)
- Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
- Common Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
- Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
- Common House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
- Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
- White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
- Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
- European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
- Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
- Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
- Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
- Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)
- Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
- Common Blackbird (Turdus merula)
- Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
- Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin)
- Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
- Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
- Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
- Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
- Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
- Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
- Italian Sparrow (Passer italiae)
- European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
- European Serin (Serinus serinus)
- Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)
- Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)
- Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus)
- Green Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus)