Great Bittern at Colfiorito in Umbria

RohrdommelIn early January, the weather forecast announced a Siberian high above the Mediterranean and the Italian west coast. After a few mild winters, the upcoming cold now seemed to reverse the trend of recent years. In fact, temperatures dropped on the Italian peninsula, especially in northern Italy and in the center of the southern Apennines  lower than in the last 10 years.

The wetland Colfiorito in Umbria is located at about 800 meters altitude on a karst plateau in the central Apennines. Due to the altitude, snow and cold temperatures are not uncommon, but this year it was extreme. The temperatures were between -5 ° C and -12 ° C every day in the early morning and often remained below 0 ° C during the day.

The marshland was quickly frozen, and after a few days the ice was more than 20 centimeters thick. So thick that you could enter the ice-shield safely. Since the 60s of the 20th century, there had been no such a long and cold winter.

Coots (Fulica atra) moved in search for food to the surrounding areas, especially on the meadows that bordered the lakes. Often I saw them crouching. Seemingly indifferent, they braved the snow and the cold wind. Occasionally they plucked a blade of grass from the meadow with their beak. After a few days, all the Coots were suddenly gone. Most of them have probably fled, but some have paid their lives and fallen prey to hungry predatory mammals.

The park management was a bit worried. Especially the character species of the Colfiorito Park: the Great Bittern might suffer. In this small area of ​​less than 350 hectares, of which one hundred hectares are covered by dense reeds, a population of about 25 Great Bitterns live. They are, along with other waterfowl, the reason why Colfiorito has been designated a Special Protection Zone. However, the frozen water surface prevented these rare birds from getting food that is mainly fish. They became weaker every day and were as easy prey for predatory mammals as Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and Stone Martens (Martes foina). It was now easy for them to roam over the frozen surface in the swamp. The park administration finally decided to keep the few ice-free holes open and to create more. The rest had to do the birds themselves. Eventually the Rangers went into the wetlands and hit with small picks holes in the ice.

A clear winter day. The alders and willows along the small stream that leads to the lake are covered with hoarfrost. Wafts of mist rise from the leisurely flowing water into the cold air. At the few ice-free places now bitterns would have to show up. And indeed, some individuals were gradually observed at the few ice-free places. In search of food, the bittern stretched out its neck and waits for a fish to pass by. When there is the right moment, the bittern plunges its head underwater to catch the unsuspecting prey just below the surface of the water. A small wriggling fish is then the reward for the bird fighting for its survival in the harsh winter

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic. Trips even to remote places to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. Beside the image above you can find a nice selection of birds in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give a message, if Bird-Lens could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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