August 21, 2015 - Blue Rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius)

Requested by: gepwin

These thrushes are found in northwest Africa, Southern Europe, the Middle East, northern India, China, Mongolia, Japan, and Southeast Asia. They eat invertebrates and small vertebrates, including lizards, snakes, frogs, and mice. In the winter they also eat fruit, seeds, and berries. The philippensis subspecies is the only group with reddish-brown feathers, the other four subspecies are varying shades of blue and blue-grey. They build their nests from dry grasses, leaves, and moss and line them with grass, feathers, and plant down, locating them under rocks or in crevices.

Our Local Patch #1

Monte Labbro (GR), Tuscany

Birdwatching potential: ✪✪✪✪

Seasons: autumn, winter, spring, summer

key species: Montagu’s harrier, Peregrine, Lanner, Hobby, Short-toed Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Ortolan bunting, Cirl Bunting, Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike, Whitethroat, Rock Thrush, Alpine Accentor, Linnet, Ring Ouzel, Tawny Pipit, Wheatear, Little Owl. Passerines and raptors on migration

Scenery: ✪✪✪✪✪

Child friendliness: ✪✪✪

Pushchair accessible: partly

length of trail: 500  metres

no hides

Although part of our local patch, Monte Labbro (also spelled Labro), near the town of Roccalbegna, on the western slope of Mount Amiata, is not that local as it takes us about half an hour to get there. This means that we don’t go every day (well almost in Dotterel season!), but very often yes, (apart from when the track that leads to the top is buried in snow) as it has good species in every season: breeding Montagu’s harriers, Ortolan and Cirl buntings, Tawny Pipit, Wheatear, Whitethroat , Red-backed shrike, and many others. Until a few years ago there were also breeding Rock Thrushes, but for the past few years we have only seen them on migration. 

In winter it hosts Alpine Accentors and Ring Ouzels, and sometimes Snowfinch and Wallcreeper. The Cirl Buntings stay there, as well as huge numbers of Black Redstarts. There is also a resident pair of Little Owls.

During both migrations, but especially in Spring (April and May are the best months) it’s at its best, with passage passerines and raptors, plus breeding species such as Ortolan bunting and Montagu’s Harrier starting to arrive.

The Harriers’ diplay flights are particularly impressive, especially since there’s usually a few pairs around at the same time! The autumn migration can be very good as well and the most welcome surprise is the Dotterel, which can occasionally be seen here during the month of September.

Monte Labbro is a place with a past, as it hosted local prophet Davide Lazzaretti and his followers, and the ruins of their settlement are still there. On the next hill there is an internationally important buddhist temple.

It is very different geologically and morphologicaly from the neighbouring environment and in spring its slopes are covered with wild orchids and the endemic viola etrusca. The views to the coast on one side and towards Monte Amiata on the other are breathtaking, and on clear days you can see as far as Corsica.

It is child-friendly in the way of open spaces: ie plenty of room to run about, play football (if the car park is not full), hide and seek, look for bugs etc.

 The dirt road that leads to the car park below the summit from the scenic SP323 Arcidosso-Roccalbegna is 3.5 kms. long and is accessible at slow speed with normal cars, but care must be taken especially after heavy rains.

There are no toilets nor cafes (nearest ones at the Aiole junction 5 kms. away), but a couple of picnic tables, which are ok in autumn and spring but sweltering in the summer as there is no shade.

When you get to the car park you can either stay there and have a picnic, as good birding can be done from there anyway or continue on foot to the top, where the ruins are, for another 500 metres.

The path is wide but gravelly and there is one steep bit (admittedly very short) which is not doable with pushchairs, thus for babies and toddlers you have to resort to baby slings and child carriers (or carry them yourself!). Beware that even on sunny summer days it can get very chilly up on top, so always bring a windbreaker or something.

Some facts about Monte Labbro and its history can be found here.


Il nostro local patch #1

Monte Labbro (GR)

potenziale di birdwatching ✪✪✪✪

Stagioni: autunno, inverno, primavera, estate.

Specie: Albanella minore, Falco pellegrino, Lanario, Lodolaio, Biancone, Sparviere, Ortolano, Zigolo nero, Codirosso spazzacamino, Averla piccola, Sterpazzola, Codirossone, Sordone, Fanello, Merlo dal collare, Calandro, Culbianco,  Civetta, passeriformi e rapaci in migrazione.

Valore paesaggistico: ✪✪✪✪✪

Adatto ai bambini ✪✪✪ 

Accessibile con passeggini/carrozzine: parzialmente

Lunghezza del sentiero: 500 m.

Monte Labbro, vicino ad Arcidosso (GR), sul versante ovest del Monte Amiata, fa parte del nostro local patch anche se in realtà ci vuole una mezz'oretta per arrivarci. Ci andiamo comunque molto spesso, soprattutto in primavera e durante il mese di settembre, quando c'è il passo dei Pivieri tortolini. Offre una buona varietà di specie in ogni stagione: qui nidificano Albanelle minori, Ortolani, Calandri, Culbianchi, Sterpazzole, Averle piccole, Fanelli ecc. Fino ad un paio di anni fa nidificava anche il Codirossone che però ora compare solo nei passi.

In inverno ospita un gruppetto di Sordoni e qualche Merlo dal collare ed occasionalmente anche Fringuello alpino e Picchio muraiolo, ma è al meglio durante le migrazioni, specialmente in primavera, con passeriformi e rapaci di passo e i primi arrivi di stagione, fra cui l'Ortolano e l'Albanella minore, che si esibisce in acrobatici display. Questo è anche il periodo delle fioriture, con numerose specie di orchidee e l'endemica Viola etrusca.

A settembre, invece, la sorpresa più ricercata è il Piviere tortolino, che ogni tanto si ferma qui durante il suo viaggio di ritorno dall'Artico.

Alla fine dell'800 Monte Labbro ospitò la colonia Giurisdavidica fondata da Davide Lazzaretti, profeta locale la cui influenza si fa ancora sentire da queste parti. Sulle sue pendici si trova anche l'importante tempio buddista di Merigar.

La strada sterrata che dalla S.P. 323 Arcidosso - Roccalbegna conduce al parcheggio sotto alla vetta è lunga 3,5 km. ed è accessibile, con le dovute cautele, anche con automobili normali. I bambini avranno spazio per correre, giocare a pallone (se il parcheggio non è pieno), cercare insetti, arrampicarsi ecc., ma non ci sono bagni né bar (i più vicini in località Aiole, a circa 5 km. di distanza). In alternativa libri e album da colorare funzionano sempre!

Al parcheggio ci sono due tavoli che vanno bene per i pranzi al sacco in primavera e in autunno, ma in estate vi conviene organizzarvi in un altro modo perché né al parcheggio né in vetta c'è ombra. 

Il parcheggio è un buon punto per fare birdwatching in tutte le stagioni, ma la salita in vetta vi regalerà un panorama mozzafiato a 360°.

Il sentiero, lungo circa 500 m. è largo e ghiaioso, ma c'è un breve pezzo piuttosto ripido che non è percorribile con passeggini e carrozzine. In vetta può essere freddo anche d'estate, quindi conviene attrezzarsi con felpe o giacche a vento.

‘How homely it is, how agreeably familiar,’ said Stephen Maturin. They were sitting in a row on a high, grass-covered slope overlooking the range of country they had already traversed with Stephen on the left, Jacob in the middle and then the wholly reliable guide. 'The same species of cistus, thyme, rosemary, various brooms, the same sweet-scented peonies here and there among them on the screes, the same homely rock-thrushes, wheatears and chats.’
'Did the gentleman say homely?’ asked the guide in a discontented voice. He had long frequented the consulate and his English was remarkably good; but he was so used to astonishing foreigners with the wonders of his country that a lack of amazement angered him.
'I believe he did,’ said Jacob.
'In his home do they have those huge birds?’ He pointed to a group of griffon vultures circling on an upward current.
'Oh yes,’ said Stephen. 'We have many vultures, bearded, black, fulvous and Egyptian.’
'Certainly: several kinds.’
'Of course.’
'Only too many, alas.’
'Under every flat stone.’
'Where is the gentleman’s home?’ asked the indignant
—  The Hundred Days, Patrick O’Brian