A bit from my blog:
I call myself the twitching sailor, but in reality, I haven't done much twitching. Our house moves, and when we anchor or moor, I go birding in that area. There have been very few times when I have driven to distant locations to find a particular bird(Southern Cassowary, Chowchilla, Budgies, Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher). Last week, I indulged in a twitch. Gene and I went to the Po River Delta on the Adriatic coast of Italy to find a Pygmy cormorant. I have wanted to see one since learning of them while we were in Turkey. Apparently, there are lots of them in Thessalonika (Northern Greece), but we sailed though the Southern Islands instead of going north( had to see an Eleonora's Falcon and I thought Tilos was my best chance) .
I really thought that I had lost my chance to see a Pygmy until I browsed through Nigel Wheatly’s, Where to Watch Birds in Europe and Russia. He mentions that three pairs of Pygmy's bred in the Po River Delta in 1994**. I still had a chance to see them before setting sail for Spain! I did some googling of Pygmy’s in the Po and found a report by someone (sorry, can’t remember who it was) who saw them in the Punta Alberete area of the vast Parco Delta del Parco. More googling showed me where Punta Alberete was.
I talked Gene into going with me, and made a one night reservation at the Corrallo Hotel in the town of Marina Romea. I figured we could check things out once we were there and stay another night if necessary, or move to another location for another night if that was needed. Now all I had to do was get to Marina Romea using public transportation. We went into the termini in Rome and got tickets on a fast train to Bologna where we would then catch another train to Ravenna; from there it would be a short bus ride into Marina Romea.
It was 5:00 pm by the time we got checked in and I inhaled a few olives and a glass of wine before heading out for a little birding before the sun went down. There is a pine forest reserve directly across the street from the hotel and I went in there. I walked through it until I came to the next little town, Porto Corsini. I had a map that the hotel had given me and saw that if I crossed the road here, I could get on a trail that went along the marsh. This area was the Pineta Staggione, not Punta Alberete which was a few miles from the hotel. I still had enough light, so I decided to walk back to the hotel via the marsh trail. I had gone a bit north of the trailhead so it took a bit of time to find it. Once I was on it, I soon saw a viewing tower. Instead of going up it right away, I walked past it a bit to the edge of the path and looked over the marsh. I could see cormorants, very small cormorants; very small cormorants with short bills. I hadn't been in town for two hours and I got my bird! It was dusk and my photos were silhouettes even with my setting on low light. I have had this bird on a ‘What I want to see in the Med’ list for quite awhile and I couldn’t believe I found it so quickly. As I walked back to the hotel I started to doubt myself. They were quite far, around 75 yards. Hard to judge. What if the distance was so great that I was seeing the bird as smaller than it really was? What if the bill really wasn’t that short? What if it was a shag?
By the time I got back to the hotel my mood was darkening faster than the sky. “You know what you saw. You knew immediately that it was a Pygmy,” said the little angel on my shoulder. “Yes, but when people really want to see something, they often develop selective vision,” said the evil little, confidence killing devil on the other shoulder.
I asked Gene to go back with me in the morning. His eyes are really good, and he is very good at birding, much better than me, and I wanted confirmation.
We went right after breakfast and found the birds in the same spot. Pygmy Cormorants. Lifer #567.We walked along the trail till it ended and I saw another Pygmy there. The sky was whited out and the water was grey, but I tried some photos anyway.
When we got back to Peregrine, I loaded the photos onto the computer. They turned out to look like silhouettes, but they were good enough to show one very odd cormorant. Maybe I've discovered a new species: Phalacrocorax bovinus The second picture illustrates perfectly why my husband doesn't go birding with me very often--those are mosquitos buzzing his head.