Ali (Wings) - The English Digest - September 2008

Editorial September 2008

A TALE OF TWO HOLIDAYS

This editorial is written in a short break between two holidays, but please don’t read this as a plea for sympathy, I’d like to tell you about them both, one just completed and the other starting in a few days.

The fact that I can do this is thanks, yet again, to the support team of translators led for the first time by Carol Debney who have worked hard to have the translation into English completed before we came home from France.

No other place in the world calls Shirley and I back, each year, like the Pyrenees. Each September since 1997 we’ve returned to some of the most stunning scenery and wonderful birdwatching you could imagine. The mountains are breath taking and are so easy to drive into - my days of yomping over high peaks are well behind me.

I can recommend the region for any one wanting to enjoy botany and birds, particularly raptors. On our first day in the hills we saw three sorts of vulture, Golden and Short-toed eagles, Red and Black Kites, Common and Honey Buzzards.

While I was busy photographing an Egyptian Vulture, Shirley wandered off and saw a Wallcreeper at close quarters! Of course, when I got there the bird had flown and so we planned to return to the same spot before leaving for home. Things could hardly have been worse when we came back, a party of four was enjoying a picnic near the waterfall where the bird had been seen and a bright yellow tent was close to the bottom of the gorge. We gave up and sat eating our lunch a couple of hundred yards from the spot and watched over 100 Griffon Vultures enjoying their lunch, of something other than a cheese sandwich, on the other side of the valley.

To leave we had to walk close to the group at the top of the gorge and then an unmistakable grey and carmine blur said the bird really was there! A second soon appeared and although they refused to pose for the camera together this became one of the highlights of the trip.

The next visit is to another favourite as we return to Carloforte on the island of San Pietro off the coast of Sardinia, home of the LIPU reserve which hosts an excellent colony of the endangered Eleonora’s Falcon. Another firm recommendation for a holiday, this time for just a week (it’s not a big island and one can get dizzy!) with a good range of habitats and birds.

Most of the population of San Pietro lives in the small town of Carloforte and the rest of the island has just scattered farm houses so it’s really peaceful. A set of salt pans just outside town is a required stop each day to see the flamingos and look for other wetland birds, Slender-billed Gulls are regular in September and at this time of the year all sorts of waders can be found.

However, the falcons are the real attraction and it is possible to sit on the cliffs at Nasca just a few feet from young birds shuffling around on the nesting ledge. They are growing out of their down, the first strong flight feathers are showing and they grow almost visibly day by day. Like most healthy youngsters they are always hungry and their parents are busy hunting for small birds on their southerly migration.

The sighting and pursuit of prey is dramatic, as one hunter calls four or five more will join the headlong dive to see who can get to the hapless victim first. Despite the odds, many times the best of the fugitives will escape, but the less fortunate will be caught and the contest goes on as the hunters compete for the prize. Sometimes two falcons will be holding onto the same prey and tumbling down to the rocks and sea in a desperate contest to see which will let go first. It is difficult not to be moved by such displays of sheer flying skill and although sympathy goes to the unlucky migrants, this is nature’s way and a way which is much more perfect for maintaining a balance than anything man can devise.

We also remember the efforts over the years of Luciano Durante, the LIPU warden, and his teams of volunteers who have prevented any theft of eggs or young and have monitored the progress of the colony year after year. LIPU-UK is proud of our involvement and support of this reserve and any member wanting to visit the island should drop me a line and I’ll be happy to offer more information so you could enjoy your stay.

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DECLINE OF BIODIVERSITY – IT'S TIME FOR BALANCE

In the final stages of Countdown 2010 the finishing post is now around the corner. The state of the art for progress (and regression) has passed to national level. The association made the point in a session of the 43rd national assembly.

Claudio Celada, Director of Nature Conservation

In June 2005 at an important meeting of the World Convention on Biodiversity, hosted by Italy, our country solemnly committed to adhere to the established objectives of the EU “to stop the decline of biodiversity by 2010”. Those who work for nature conservation know this objective as “Countdown 2010”. In this declaration it has effectively reformulated the aims of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, of which LIPU is a part.

The “countdown” indicates now that time is running out and the deadline for targeting this difficult objective is really just around the corner. It is therefore time to map out a plan of action, at least in national terms. To understand what progress (or lack of it) has taken place, and above all, what are the most urgent actions to put in place to preserve our biodiversity, we have discussed it with representatives of the Minister of the Environment; with the FederParchi; with the Region of Tuscany and Lazio and with the Province of Siena, in the session of an organised conference at the 43rd National Assembly of LIPU, held at the Oasi di Montepulciano on May 30 last. The following are some of the points of major significance that emerged from the meeting.

Biodiversity and climate change

The crises of biodiversity and climate change are the two biggest environmental challenges that we have to confront. The two issues that face each other, must be dealt with together, as highlighted in the EU plan for biodiversity. The climatic changes entail the greatest stress for species and habitats. It needs therefore, a network of protected areas of even greater effectiveness.

A big ecological net

The management of the parks, nature reserves and sites of the Rete Natura 2000 (Nature Network 2000) must be harmonised in the environment in a single ecological network, and above all, the conservation of biodiversity must be at the centre of the ‘mission’ of the protected areas. The land planning must explicitly account for the ‘value of biodiversity’ and for the protected areas in a way that eliminates any confusion of responsibility.

Sustainable agriculture

The protected areas are not enough. The crisis of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape is particularly stark. Parks and reserves are surrounded by biological deserts, such as monocultures of maize. The parks and reserves are not enough, and sustainable agriculture is required. Above all the themes of conservation and biodiversity need to be considered across all the political sectors, including farming. We must manage our concerns for the biodiversity of natural habitat with the farming, natural environment and also urban areas.

Protected areas of the sea

By the end of 2008 EU member states must have identified the marine areas for protection under Rete Natura 2000. LIPU is doing this through great concern for the avifauna, within a project of the Ministry of the Environment and, from an international point of view, in co-ordination with other BirdLife partners in particular, SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal).

Towards 2010 and beyond

The significance of a deadline such as 2010 cannot be disregarded. It is a precise appointment that the states of the EU have publicly declared. Likewise, it is important to define the strategy and the priority for the following years. Years which are truly critical for conserving the diversity of life.

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PROJECTS

The European network for biodiversity

With Rete Natura 2000 (Nature Network 2000) the EU has put in place a single strategy for the care of habitat and animals. A booklet, explaining the proposals and aims, presents the excellent case of the Lazio region.

Almost everyone agrees with the general concept that diversity if valuable. A further step is when it moves from words to actions. And when from the concept of diversity in general it passes more specifically to biodiversity. The diversity of animal and plant species that mother nature has designed and man is doing everything to destroy, or not doing enough to save.

The publication Rete Natura 2000 & IBA (Important Bird Areas) is about these things, the European network for biodiversity prepared by LIPU in collaboration with the Lazio region explains the objectives and aims of Rete Natura 2000. With this name the EU has asked for a co-ordinated system of the area destined for the conservation of biodiversity within the territory of the EU. The primary objective of the care of habitat, animal and plant species is included in the joint directives in particular those dealing with ‘Habitat’ and ‘Birds’.

But why give such importance to the concept of biodiversity? To cite some data, more than 40,000 species of animals and plants in the world do not enjoy healthy populations. Of these at least 16,000 are at risk of extinction.

And if one does not wish to give importance to the value of biodiversity in itself, at least in a pragmatic sense it is of value, since the loss of animal and plant species puts the health of the ecosystem at risk and with it essential things indispensable to the well-being of man.

But the booklet does not stop here. As the subtitle says, LIPU wishes to present the case for Lazio’s success, starting from the presumption that the sites for protection at community level have been proposed - in Italy by the individual Regions. Here 225 Rete Natura 2000 sites, 42 ZPS (Zones of Special Protection in the environment from the Birds Directive) and 182 SCI (Sites of Community Importance, from the Habitats Directive) have been chosen.

Various projects have begun in Lazio to give concrete form to the community arrangements. In particular the LIFE projects, have been put in position for the Region to implement them in time to contribute to the network. Thanks to this initiative it’s been possible to accumulate a remarkable amount of experience essential for tackling the challenge that the management of Rete Natura 2000 will entail, in the coming years, in all the regional territories and not just one.

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RESERVES AND CENTRES

Bosco Negri, where nature speaks

By Stefania Ratano, Oasis LIPU Bosco Negri

A few steps from Pavia there is a precious legacy of the ancient vegetation of the Ticino valley. A guided visit in the half-light of the woods will reveal mysterious tracks.

“Welcome to the LIPU Reserve of Bosco Negri. The Comune of Pavia inherited these 34 hectares of wood in 1968 from Giuseppe Negri, with the commitment to conserve this ancient habitat. With the institution of the Parco del Ticino in 1974 Bosco Negri was further protected and became a “Riserva Naturale Orientata”. Then in 1991 the Comune of Pavia entrusted the management of the reserve to LIPU.”

So begins our guided visit; it is spring and we are gathered in the field opposite the central viewing point. First we enter the little museum and the education room where we discover evidence of the presence of the animals here.

The guided visit starts at the pond where the LIPU guide shows us the eggs and tadpoles of Dalmatian and Lataste Frogs, these last endemic to the Po valley in Italy. Then he explains that the frogs peeping out between the water plants, are examples of Green Frog and that Emerald Toads and Tree Frogs are also present on the reserve.

While continuing the explanation some movements in the water catch our attention. It is a young Grass Snake (Natrice)in search of prey. The guide manages to catch it and show it to us – touching a snake is an emotional experience. Other species – Whip Snake (Biacco) and Aesculapian Snake (Saettone) also live in the reserve.

The Gravellone path skirts the canal of the same name, where it’s possible to admire the splendid flowers of Wood Anemone. At the end of the path one arrives at the observation hide, where wild duck, moorhen, heron, and with luck, Kingfisher may be seen. Along the Frassini path the grating cries of Grey Heron can be heard; they have been established here for some years and about 20 nests can be seen with binoculars.

Going forward into the wood, the sunlight filters through the leaves of tall trees such as Black and White Poplars, Elms and Alders . The real surprise however are the shrubs, Cherry, Elder, Hawthorn, Cornus and Spindle Tree that give floral perfume in spring.

We are on the Fox trail and in front of a tits nest, we catch sight of a Red Squirrel that moves from branch to branch like an acrobat. Then helped by the LIPU guide we stop to hear the songs of the birds, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit, Roller, Green Woodpecker, Blackcap, etc. Continuing along the path Blackbird and Oystercatcher are heard and we find feathers from a dove taken by a raptor. There is the nest hole of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and the droppings of a fox. Our last discovery is a perfectly camouflaged Wren’s nest built in a hollow within the roots of a fallen poplar.

Back at the starting point, where there is a gazebo and a picnic area, the LIPU guide stays to answer questions. Before leaving we look at the calendar of future events. There are plenty of activities, for children, guided evening visits, exhibitions and demonstrations to enjoy on future visits, perhaps in October when the trees will be coloured with autumnal tints. Each day nature writes a new page of her story and every visit is different and brings new discoveries – so come to the reserve and we will read the new pages together.

From the Oasi to the city of art

The Oasi can be visited from March to June and October to November, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 10am-6pm. Weekdays it is open for pre-booked school and organised groups. For information contact: Oasis LIPU Bosco Negri, Via Bramente, Pavia tel: (00 39) 0382 569 402, e-mail: oasisbosconegri@lipu.it

Visitors can also a visit the lovely city of Pavia that offers many historic, cultural and gastronomic itineraries. Also within reach of the Oasis are such interesting sites as the Castles of Belgioioso and Mirabello, the Abbey of Certosa di Pavia and the pontoon bridge over the Ticino at Bereguardo.

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HUNTING: THE SEASON OPENS EARLY

by Giovanni Albarella

Thirteen Italian regions have authorised the advanced opening of the hunting season. Basilicata, Emilia-Romagna, Toscana and Veneto having the earliest date for the shooting of huntable species - from September 1st. Turtle Doves and Quails are the ones hit hardest by this measure as they will be caught while still on migration.

The Regions decide which species they can hunt, which are forbidden and for which periods. And it is always the regions that authorise the early opening of the hunting season.

In Italy hunting activity is regulated by Law 157/1992 and Article 18.4 of the law established that the Regions must publish the hunting calendar not later than 15th of June.

This document is an act by which the Regional Administration arranges the directions in respect of the national law that the hunters will have to follow during the hunting season.

Having been enacted by individual Regions, generally every hunting calendar contains distinctive elements responding to particular regional needs or to the distribution of the fauna itself. One wonders, for example, how much difference can exist between two regions such as Piemonte and Puglia?

In all cases the hunting calendar, though responding to specific regional characteristics, provides many common regulations for all the Italian regions. Here are the most important.

Huntable species and periods of hunting activity

The calendar reports the list of huntable species, fixed by Law 157, and establishes the periods of the hunt for the individual species in the period from the third Sunday in September to 31st January.

The Regions can limit or absolutely forbid the hunting of a certain species because, for example, the local population of that species is depleted and under threat.

On the other hand the Regions have the authority to advance to the first of September the hunting of specific species. I hear clearly the voice of the National Institute for Wild Animals, in the matter of the so-called ‘pre-opening’. This concession is usually made to meet the request of the hunters to be able to shoot a specific species that is in Italy just in those periods when they are most abundant.

Unfortunately, in the case of the hunting season just begun, 13 regions authorised the early opening of the hunt. Turtle Doves and Quails are the two species most hit by this measure. Basilicata, Calabria, Emilia-Romagna, Toscana and Veneto are the regions with the greatest number of species affected by advance opening.

Prohibited and restricted

The section “Prohibited and Restricted” in the calendar reports all the prohibitions provided for by the national law. In addition it specifies which zones are forbidden for hunting activities including all parks, reserves and protected oasi, as well as particular requirements for the conservation of the fauna.

Special arrangements

This is an important chapter, in this section the hunting calendar usually reports the rules to be followed in particular situations, for example, how to behave in agricultural zones in which are growing valuable crops.

One important new thing this year is represented by acceptance of the conservation measure foreseen in the website of Natura 2000 introduced by the decree of the Ministry of the Environment (No. 184 of 17th October 2007).

Community law, a “creative” interpretation.

Law 157/1992 is the national law on the protection of fauna and on the hunt. Every single Italian Region over the years has adjusted its own rules by adopting from the specific regional laws and taking in some established by national law.

In 2002 they introduced the derogation provided by the European Directive. Unfortunately many Regions, in this case, have wrongly understood and have improperly applied the new rule.

This is confirmed by the details of the infringement procedure opened in 2006 by the European Commission against Italy. In this procedure the wilfully perverse interpretation of the rules of derogation by the regions is spelled out.

Despite the European sanction, others, above all Lombardia and Veneto, continue to utilise the dispensation in inappropriate ways in allowing the hunting of species that are normally protected.

100,000 say, “Basta”

There are more than 100,000 friends allied to LIPU who say “ENOUGH” to the hunting derogation of the small protected birds, killed purely for amusement. Not only members and supporters of the organisation, but also many citizens, indignant in the face of an Italian absurdity. The regions have the power to authorise the hunting of Brambling, finches, sparrows, etc, species that the same laws consider protected.

With the strength which comes from the highest numbers of petition signatures collected, and from many messages of solidarity received, the 15th September Association has met the institutions to say no to the derogation of the hunt, as well as to any further permissive twisting of the rules in force.

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Interview

A TREE FOR EVERY BRICK

After years of policies with “little or no sense or respect for the environment”, the theory of “preventive ecological compensation” is starting to make progress even in Italy. This analysis is by Paolo Pileri, lecturer in Technology and Urban Planning at the Politecnico of Milan in an interview with Andrea Mazza, LIPU Press Officer

The environment is our primary asset, and taking care of it should take priority over everything else. The pioneering approach for the “environmentally sensitive” urban planner is known as “preventive ecological compensation”, which, although a relatively new idea, is already starting to make progress even in our country.

Professor Pileri, you talk about “preventive ecological compensation” – what does this mean?

The aim is to link all land development projects, like the construction of new roads, buildings and industrial units, with a parallel process of natural “construction”. Let me explain - if the construction process of a new development means the destruction of an area of woodland, meadow or wetland, then there should be a requirement, as early as the planning stage, to make provision for recreating an area of equivalent size and environmental value in another location, whether this might be another area of woodland, meadow or wetland, with similar characteristics to the area to be developed.

Italy has one of the highest levels in Europe of land taken up by development. What is the situation at a national level?

In Italy, unlike in other European countries, we are ignorant of how much land is taken up by urban development. The decision-makers almost never have any knowledge of trends in land development or of the geography involved. So some issues are obscured – for example, the fragmentation of an area of land, or the negative environmental effects that this kind of development might have on the nature and the species living there. Ecological compensation, in Italy, could have certainly saved land: for example, many areas of natural interest would not have been destroyed and many pointless developments could have been avoided. In some areas to the north of Milan, there has been construction on such a large scale that there are cases where 40% of the buildings still remain unsold. This is a policy with little or no sense or respect for the environment.

Are there any exceptions at all in our country?

Yes, in the last year some organisations are moving in the direction we would hope for, even if they have not yet got as far as taking preventive measures. For example, the Pedemontane Motorway, which has allocated funds of 100 million Euros to this scheme, 65 million for the creation of new green areas of agriculture and forest and 35 million for creating a “greenway” alongside the motorway. Then the Adamello Park Authority is thinking of making modifications to its urban planning to incorporate the principle of compensation, and the Balossa Park Authority, in the province of Milan, between Novate Milanese and Cormano.

How much land is taken up by urban development every year in an average Italian city?

In research by the Diap-Politecnico of Milan over the five years from 1999-2004, it was discovered that in Lombardy a total of 5,000 hectares of agricultural land had been urbanized each year – equivalent to 7,500 football pitches, or more or less the extent of a city the size of Brescia. Still in Lombardy, 1,400 hectares of meadow were lost every year, equivalent to a further 2,000 football pitches, and every year another 340 hectares of hedgerow, sparse vegetation, bands of woodland and moor, all ecosystems of vital importance for wildlife, and also for the quality of life of the human inhabitants. This tendency is two or three times more pronounced in the districts around the other towns in a province, as opposed to the provincial capitals themselves: for example, in one year the town of Bergamo loses 17 hectares of land to development, whereas the outlying municipalities in the province lose a good 46 hectares.

In contrast, which European nations are more virtuous?

Germany has the highest level of land development in Europe, but since 2001, thanks to a federal law, it has also consistently applied the principle of preventive ecological compensation to all developments, from the smallest house to large industrial estates, including roads and motorways. And in Holland it is mandatory by law to compensate for the construction of motorways.
What are the aims of the research that you are currently working on?

Like Diap-Politecnico, together with the National Institute for Urban Planning and in collaboration with Legambiente, we have created the National Observatory for land development. The aim is to produce a national report to be presented in Spring 2009. On the level of scientific research, we are working to update databases and to create methods of evaluation in accordance with the Land use science methodology, an approach which is well established in Europe, but not yet, in Italy.

Who is Paolo Pileri?

Paolo Pileri has taught Technology and Urban Planning at the Politecnico of Milan since 1995. He lectures at the Universities of Parma and Ancona, is a scientific advisor on environmental planning issues. He is the author of some 100 published works, including “Preventive ecological compensation”, published by Carocci in 2007.

NATURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION - THE FUTURE OF LAKE MONTEPULCIANO

By Ugo Faralli , Manager, LIPU Reserves

The conference on halting the loss of biodiversity was held at the Montepulciano Reserve. It closed with a presentation of the LIPU document setting out the plans for the future of the reserve. In line with the policies of the association and the provincial authority, management strategies will be directed towards both nature conservation and promoting environmental awareness and education.

In short, it has been decided to create a ‘modern’ reserve in which the work of conservation goes hand in hand with that of education and the promotion and improvement of the area. We know already the importance of the lake for the protection of biodiversity, significant for both flora and fauna in a national and international context. As the site is already a well-known attraction for the local schools we are in a good position to bring in new ideas for eco tourism which are compatible with local interests. The choice has been made to work, more than ever before, in partnership with our local stake holders.

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THE LIPU BALANCE SHEET FOR 2007

a year of consolidation

Income from membership fees and donations is holding up well, helped by good results from the “5 per Thousand”. The Association continues along the road of recovery and financial stability, in order to achieve its goals as efficiently as possible. A constant increase in activity, particularly with respect to the Conservation and Education services.

Elena D’Andrea, Director General

When you read this article, it will already be September, and it may seem strange to some to hear talk of 2007, a year which already seems far behind us. The statutory approval of the balance-sheet by the Members’ Assembly dictates the timescale, of course, but on the other hand it is not too displeasing to look back and recall to you, the members, the year just past, reviewing our activities in order to link them with our medium term goals; and to look upon the current situation, the better to see what lies ahead.

Let us commence with the results from the accounts, as we know that the economic sustainability of our Association is determined by the feasibility of its activities.

We can see in the balance sheet under review, a small decrease in the fixed assets due to depreciation and the sale of property at Carbonara Po, and an increase in the amount going to the Conservation and Environmental Education projects. In the debit account, we may see a slight increase in the Book Value as a result of the exercise, even if slightly reduced as against 2006, which saw the addition to the balances of the considerable Buscino bequest.

Passing to the Profit and Loss account, which represents the activities undertaken in 2007, we see in our income a confirmation of the receipts from membership fees and donations, and it is a particular comfort in this moment of general economic crisis, to know that our members and donors continue to put the defence of Nature among their personal and family choices. A choice for which we give our thanks and appreciation, as we know that in some cases the making of sacrifices must have been involved. For this reason we will more than ever be diligent in our use of the funds you entrust to us. Under the heading of Donations are found both those obtained through fundraising campaigns and those from legacies, which in 2007 once more were shown to be a major help to the activities of the Society.

Among the debits, there can be seen increased costs in the outlay on services, tied very much to the increase in the Conservation and Education sectors, and an increase in the reserves set aside to protect the Association against unforeseen and damaging events.

The favourable outcome of the 2007 balances confirms the consolidation and recovery of LIPU, through the labours and participation of all. The factors which have been crucial have been cost control in general, and careful management with constant reviews throughout the year, the dedicated work of our volunteers which has aided the growth of dialogue and continued internal debate, the increased activity in Conservation and Education whether in terms of lobbying or projects, and the success in fundraising gained partly through the opportunity given to us by the “5 per thousand”

Thanks to the LIPU Strategic Document for 2006-10, we can concentrate on targeted and important goals, using our resources to the best effect and increasing our hopes of success.

It is not possible to detail here the full tally of what has been done in 2006-7, but in truth much has been done, so that but a small part of it is detailed on these pages or on www.lipu.it

With apologies for what is left out, let me only select the most significant:

Editor’s Note: The “5 per Thousand” is a tax-efficient scheme for enhancing the value of contributions to charities in Italy in a similar way to how Gift Aid helps us in this country, although the exact method differs greatly.

NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

Our colour photos in this edition.

Torrile is the theme of the pictures on the front and inner covers, one of LIPU’s most prestigious reserves which is conveniently close to headquarters in Parma.

It started life as a series of settling pools for the effluent of a nearby sugar factory and those who have watched birds in this environment will immediately recall the indescribable smell of the outpourings from the workings. However, the birds don’t seem to mind and these areas can be very good for feeding all sorts of water birds including herons, ducks and waders. Nowadays there is no problem as the water has passed through a “smelly pond” before coming to the LIPU secondary lagoons.

Over the past 25 years or so the reserve has developed into one of the best in the country, thanks to the efforts of warden and reserve manager, Maurizio Ravasini who has dug ditches, built hides, planted trees and all the other tasks involved in conservation, in all weathers and at all times of the year.

Maurizio is a warm and welcoming man who will go out of his way to help vistors (see the letter in this issue) and he is immensely proud of his reserve. I remember a visit some years ago when I saw a Collared Praticole over one of the lagoons; I was with Ugo Faralli, LIPU reserves manager and we were both quite excited but when I spoke to Maurizio he shrugged and said, “But, David, this is Torrile reserve!” as if nothing was surprising.

Torrile now has every type of heron which breeds in the country nesting within its boundary, and rarities pop up regularly. It has been “upgraded” to a Regional Nature Reserve, still firmly under the management of LIPU, which offers security for the future and extra funding for management costs.

The pictures are of:

LETTER FROM A READER

Dot Lincoln of Reading wites:

Last May a friend and I visited the LIPU reserve at Torrile N of Parma, in Emilia Romagna. We were surprised to find that there were 5 hides to visit at this wetland area, and we had an excellent day’s birding, seeing Wood Sandpipers, a big flock of Ruff, Squacco, Night, Grey and Purple herons, Garganey and a perched Cuckoo, to name but a few. The hides have been in place for 25 years but there is a very new visitor centre with facilities. We were so impressed that we complimented the man we thought was the receptionist and had quite a chat with him in a mixture of English and Italian. He offered to take us out after the centre closed, and he took us and showed us three areas of conservation , where Montagu’s Harriers, Lesser Kestrels and Red-footed Falcons breed respectively, and we had excellent views of all of these through his powerful telescope. It turned out that he is Maurizio Ravasini, the conservation officer for this area who had been instrumental in getting the area designated as a reserve and conservation area, had carried out research and continues to monitor the area to date. We were very grateful to him for giving his time to us and sharing his expertise.

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As we said in the last issue, this is your Ali, please send us your letters, we’d love to print them. Most of us think our lives are of no interest to others but it’s surpring how wrong that can be, so don’t be shy - write to me please.

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A word about a supporter.

Ben Robson of specialist Italian wine importers, the Bat & Bottle in Oakham has agreed to help us and it’s only right that I should tell you a little about the B&B. As Ben says on his website, www.batwine.co.uk

Bat & Bottle was founded in Uppingham, Rutland, in May 1994 by husband and wife partnership, Ben and Emma Robson.

The dream was to buy estate bottled wines of interest and value and sell them alongside cricket bats from the freshly cut boundaries of the beautiful cricket grounds of England .

The cricket bats finally made it to the crease on our Tenth anniversary, whereas the bottles were an instant success.

Our reputation has been earned through the consistent quality of the wines that we have selected over the years alongside the high levels of personal service which we deliver.

I found Ben while trying to buy a bottle of a memorable red wine of Montepulciano which Ugo had introduced me to with Sunday lunch after the LIPU AGM this year - so it’s all his fault!

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I am grateful to Joanna Bazen, Juliet Cobley, Carol Debney and Peter Raferty for their work in translating this issue and to the RSPB for use of the line drawings, the photographs are mine.