2022 highlights of a wilder Italian life (part 1)

Hooded Crows and koinophilia

In Rome in 2022 we could see 300 Hooded Crows in an evening in a single field, as they roosted in safety. Hooded Crows are far more sociable birds than Carrion Crows. There must be something which keeps them from interbreeding, since they could, quite easily, so I wrote a blog all about koinophilia.

Hooded Crow - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Koinophilia is the tendency of animals to choose mates with fewer unusual or mutant features. Naturally I had to get a few bird-in-flight shots to illustrate my blog.

In volo

I spent quite a while in ‘The Pratone’, a field of waste ground which counts as the natural world in a city like Rome. There, Black Redstarts set off from branches at an explosive pace. They’re so fast that it was a significant challenge to capture them.

Black Redstart - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

A Pallid Harrier

If I had a spirit animal it would be a Hen Harrier. The closely-related Montagu’s Harrier, which has similar harrying habits, will do though. Isn’t it magnificent? Here’s my joyful experience of a Montagu’s Harrier in Italy:

Pallid Harrier - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Pink Flamingos

I could watch Flamingos all afternoon, and I did. Those candy-pink stick-of-seaside-rock legs are my favourite.

Flamingo - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Flying Flamingo

It’s tricky getting near to Flamingos. We were at Orbetello in Italy where the wooden hide was set well back from their favourite part of the laguna. As we were wondering how to get closer to them, without disturbing them, a young one flew fast and low directly past us.

Flamingo - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

What a thrill.

Diplomatic ambassadors of life from deep time

I spent some time in 2022 writing slightly longer blogs, considering extinction and our role as carers for life on Earth.

There’s nothing you can do to make an Osage Orange edible. You can’t boil it, fry it, roast it or casserole it. It’s not just humans who won’t eat it, either. Other animals won’t touch it, because it’s hard and dry and too big to get your mouth around. Wherever it is grown, these large tennis-ball-green, brain-like fruits lie untouched under the trees which bore them.

It’s a mystery I unravelled here:

Osage Orange - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The cooked eyes of the Sardinian Warbler

Spending time with nature is a wonderful thing. I adored spending time with this little character. The Italian name of the Sardinian Warbler, Curruca melanocephala, is Occhiocotto. That means cooked-eye. You can see why here:

Sardinian Warbler - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The habits of Monks

I was thrilled to watch Monk Parakeets in Rome. They are beautiful to watch, but seriously out of place. Until they accumulate some natural predators and competitors, they will march on and spread unchallenged:

Helping a Skink to cross the road

I did my good deed with this Italian Three-Toed Skink, Chalcides chalcices, which was trying to cross the footpath at Parco della Caffarella in Rome. It looks like a snake, but I can see tiny legs. Can you?

A Great Green Bush Cricket on a Long-Lipped Tongue Orchid

I spent some time wandering around a meadow in Rome looking for a fresh Long-Lipped Tongue Orchid, Serapias vomeracea. I was surrounded by hundreds of them but they were all ‘over’ and had started to wither after flowering. They have beautiful, large flower spikes with pointed bracts from which hairy flowers with long tongues emerge. I’d been there a few times and scoured the area but there was nothing worth photographing.

Then we finally saw a fresh one, with the added bonus of a Great Green Bush Cricket, Tettigonia viridissima, clinging on to it.

Bush Cricket on Orchid - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

2022 brought many added bonuses, and unexpected discoveries. What will I find to surprise and delight in 2023? I can’t wait to find out. Thanks for coming on the journey with me.

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