Mad about stilts…and more…

Yesterday, at the end of the afternoon, Stefano and I decided to go to the Parco della Piana, a bird reserve in the town of Sesto Fiorentino, in the province of Florence. Our new bird watching “haunt.” 😉

It’s a great time of year for bird watching, and things are only going to get better. The Parco della Piana manager (such a nice, helpful guy named Riccardo, who’s been a birdwatcher since the age of 17) told us that just a few days ago he witnessed the mating ritual of two great-crested grebes (see photo). So we should be seeing some grebe chicks about a month (or so) from now. Nice!

Mainly because, get this!, grebes swim around with their little ones on their backs…now that must be quite a sight!

Uhm, by the way, don’t worry, my blog isn’t going to turn into a bird watching blog, but please understand that bird watching has definitely become a passion of mine (which I share with Stefano, luckily), so I will be posting a few of my best photos from time to time. I hope you don’t mind!

I also wanted to mention that I don’t use (or even know how to use!) Photoshop, nor do I have a super duper camera with heaps of different photographic lenses…No, my camera is one of those “point and shoot” ones (a good one, though!), which means that what you see is what you get. I can’t be bothered with figuring out how to use a more complicated camera. Stefano, of course, takes amazing photos with his super duper sophisticated camera. But this is my blog, so I’m going to use my photos, not his. 😉 

Okay, back to us. In addition to the excitement about the grebes’ upcoming parenthood, I was surprised to see a few little-ringed plovers and wood sandpipers (as luck would have it, I caught both a plover and a sandpiper in the same photo). I mean, you see lots of these plovers on Cape Cod (Massachusetts, U.S.A. = that’s where I come from)…but here? In Florence??? I had no idea!

We were also lucky enough to come across a black-winged stilt. Just one, yesterday, but Riccardo assured us that soon many more will be arriving and building nests (joy!!!). When I took this photo, by the way, the sun was starting its descent, which explains the golden reflection you see on the water…so pretty…

I have to admit that I prefer the Italian names for some of these creatures. A black-winged stilt is a “cavaliere d’Italia,” which means a “knight of Italy.” So romantic, no? A wood sandpiper is a “piro piro,” which is pronounced (fast!) “pee-row pee-row.” And a little-ringed plover is a “corriere piccolo.” Corriere in Italian means heaps of things, including messenger, runner and courier. And piccolo means “little.” So corriere piccolo does give the idea of a fast little running bird…and fast it was, I can assure you! Zip zip zip, right out of my lens’ reach… 😉 

Bird watching is amazingly relaxing. If you enjoy being out in nature but have never been bird watching, well, I strongly advise you to get yourself some binoculars and/or a camera (you don’t need anything fancy, in my opinion!) and go visit a bird reserve. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know WHAT you’re seeing and taking photos of…Stefano and I didn’t, either. We took photos of everything we spotted…and then identified all the birds later, with the help of expert birdwatchers and/or our bird watching guide. And we still need help. We don’t mind. We ask. 

After all, we haven’t been watching and identifying birds for more than 40 years like Riccardo. Our passion for birds began only a few years ago when we traveled to Northumberland (UK) to see what puffins looked like in “real life”…

It’s never too late to start something. 🙂


  1. Margaret,
    I’m loving your pictures! My husband and I share your birding passion. If you ever find yourself in the southeastern US and need a list of good places to visit for birds, let us know. We also spend lots of time in AZ since our daughter lives there.

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