After incessant, irritated emailing about how blasé my posts have become with their focus on American birds, usually from the southwest, I decided to make change and head to Rome, Italy, to shake things, up. The fact that my wife has been really wanting to return to Rome, that my parents were going too, and that my younger sister is studying abroad in the Eternal City had nothing to do with it. Nothing!
That being said, a birder's options are limited in a foreign place, especially when one's only friends in the barbarian land are not as keen on birding. But, birding is fun, and it's downright irresistible, especially in a new area where almost every bird is a new bird.
Okay, the Pigeons aren't new, just numerous. At least while seeing Pigeons in Rome, one can say that they're in their natural, Old World habitat. Some of the pigeons here also sport an interesting skull-head type plumage, just in time for Halloween.
Hooded Crows are a common site throughout the city. They linger near picnic areas and dumpster sites, dressed more formally then their Pigeon dining companions but still not too formally to eat garbage. And when they think no one is looking, they start to do really crazy stuff.
Like jump up onto a bench instead of fly. They fill the same niche as the American Crows and Ravens do in many areas throughout the U.S. Like other Corvids, they're big, smart, and mean. It's only been a couple days but already I've seen them devour lizards, insects, gelato, pizza crust, and mice all with equal prejudice and power.
On the other side of the spectrum, Rome plays host to the small, sweet, and kindly Tits. I've seen Eurasian Blue Tits and Great Tits in the city so far, and I believe the Romans have no idea that we english speakers have given such silly names to these birds. Great Tits are pretty common and can be found all over Europe. We usually have a few hanging out in a neighborhood tree where they scavenge the seed pods every morning and make loud gossip, much like all the other Romans.
The Tits fill in for Chickadees across the Atlantic and do the job very well. Europeans insist they are always 6 months ahead of America in their fashion sense and styles (why are they so far behind with all the other fads then?). They is probably true, and it also seems to apply in the Great Tit vs. Black-capped Chickadee comparison. If the Chickadees in North America start wearing yellow vests soon, just remember that the Great Tits were doing it before it was cool.
While there are plenty of similar old and new world birds, birding on the old continent has its differences. Most noticeably, 'pishing' is no longer effective in Italy. If you approach a hedge where you just saw a little brown bird disappear and call, "pish, pish, pish," it won't work. You have to have an effective accent. It has to be, "pishé, pishé, pishé," accompanied with expressive hand gestures.
This lured a little European Robin out of its hiding place.
Here is a Gull--Yellow-legged I think--photo-bombing (that's when somebody jumps into the back of a photo and ruins it) about 476 people at the Trevi Fountain in central Rome.
He has the guts to do what so many of us merely dream of doing--ruin a bunch of loud pushy people's portraits and walk along the Trevi Fountain, all at once.
It's been somewhat overcast in Rome and I'm still getting my bearings. I am hopeful that there is plenty of good birding still to come, wherever it fits in with all the other incredible sights, sounds, and smells of the ancient city.
For more updates, check out my site Butlers Birds and Things in the coming weeks, and always have an eye out for the birds wherever you travel this fall.
That's a silly thing to say I guess. If you're already a hooked birder, you don't have a choice but to look out for the birds. Confidentially, to you other birders out there, I was tempted to photograph the House Sparrows in the airport. Even if it lands you on a TSA watch-list, birding is fun!