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Discovering the natural reserves of the villages of Friuli Venezia Giulia

Wednesday 20 june 2018

Excursions, events, birdwatching and a brand new app to discover the nature reserves of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Discovering the natural reserves of the villages of Friuli Venezia Giulia

Concurrent with the release of the June 2018 issue of Borghi magazine, here is a gift for all nature lovers. In the family, in pairs or for solitary adventurous, we will deepen the discovery of the water lands and the natural reserves of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Excursions on foot, by boat or by bike, and then unmissable events, birdwatching, unique landscapes and a brand new interactive app for your holidays in contact with nature! Let's start immediately to discover the biodiversity that the territory of this region preserves and offers to visitors.

The Quadris Naturalistic Oasis in Fagagna (Udine).

The village of Fagagna

Feagne, el pais dai Mus, the donkey village, in addition to renewing and remembering each year its ancient traditions with the Donkeys' Race, the Palio dei Borghi and the evocative Cjase Cocèl House Museum, at a few kilometers from its historical center it houses a wonderful naturalistic scenery, the Quadris Naturalistic Oaesis, which since 1979 preserves and reconstitutes a unique biotope, the wet meadows that open up to large patches between trees and vegetation, soft and luminous. Almost thirty years ago, in fact, it is began to reintroduce two native species, the white stork and the hermit ibis into the oasis. Currently the oasis welcomes over 60 white storks in freedom, from which every year 20 to 30 babies are born, thanks to which the migratory flow has been restored. In fact, the wild specimens return, which were almost completely gone. The sedentary colony is created for three years by holding small storks in the aviary, which causes them to lose their migratory instinct. In this way pairs are obtained that reproduce regularly in the oasis and in the immediate vicinity. The young storks that have spent their first 3 years in the aviary are released in early March. All children born outside the aviary are left free to migrate to the wintering sites, after identification ringing. Once they reach adulthood, the young will return to the place of birth for nesting, thus creating a migratory flow to which wild specimens could gather.

The stars of the oasis of the Quadris

Even better is with that funny relative of the stork that is the hermit ibis. Today, the colony has about 150 specimens that coexist in the oasis with other species at great risk of extinction, as unique in Italy, the konjik horses, descendants of the tarpan, Eurasian equines completely disappeared. The project of the imprinting of the hermit ibis started in 2013 with the aim of forming a free sedentary colony at the Oasis as well as reintroducing this species now extinct in Europe and still held almost exclusively in captivity. The project consists in collecting an adequate number of subjects from the aviary of the wild as soon as they have reached 100g (ie no more than 7 days), feed them and monitor the weight, development and behavior during the whole period of growth. It has thus been found that most of the couples that are formed remain faithful and maintain the same nest. Moreover, some eggs abandoned by parents who are not particularly "responsible" are well incubated (and the children regularly raised) by other couples who can act as adoptive parents.

Cavalli Konjik

The konjik horses, on the other hand, was the most important project to reintroduce horses in nature, experimented in Italy. The original nucleus survives in Poland and in some nature reserves in the Netherlands, where these herbivores are used to limit the excessive growth of vegetation. Initially the project unfortunately suffered a series of problems and part of the re-introduced specimens died. The last three remaining subjects (a stallion, a pregnant female and a filly) were then transferred, in 2014, to the Oasis of the Quadris of Fagagna and placed in a large enclosure specially equipped, where in the following years they were reproduced carrying the number to 6 specimens, three males and three females. Rocco and Belen are parents, Ludmilla the eldest daughter who came with them, Marius was born in 2015, Marco in 2016 and Rosa in 2017. The Oasis of the Quadris is a magnificent place where to spend a beautiful day at the sign of relaxation, love for nature and carefree. The storks and the ibis and other feathered and non-feathered friends are waiting for you!

The Canal Novo Valley and the Delta River Stella in Marano Lagunare (Udine)

The village of Marano

Going down the river Stella, we see from a distance the Millenary Tower of Marano Lagunare and in front of us the enchanting scenery of the lagoon opens up, with its reeds and its huts. For over three centuries Venice governed these lands, earning the respect and the benevolence of the inhabitants, so much that even today they boast of being the only Friulian village to speak Venetian. But this jewel of Venetian architecture, in addition to the historical one, preserves another fundamental call, the one with the sea.

Teals in the Canal Novo Valley

The Canal Novo Valley Natural Reserve, at a short distance from the center of Marano is a complex natural ecosystem, made of humid environments and waters with various degrees of salinity. The Reserve covers a total area of ​​121 hectares, consisting in a former fishing valley, from which it takes its name, from a lagoon area of ​​a few hectares called Corniolo and some arable lands. Visitors are welcomed by an innovative visitor center, conceived on the model of the Anglo-Saxon Wetlands Centers. The reconstruction of some huts, the traditional lagoon architecture in cane and wood, is a an educational tool that allows the discovery of the lagoon environment, together with the huts for the observation of the fauna, the structures for the living room and an aquarium. The most important represented family, abundant and showy, is the one of the anatidae, whose most easily observable species are: mute swan, wild swan, gray goose (or wild goose), shelduck, teal, mallard, tail, marzaiola, mestolone and pochard. If you are lucky, you will also have the opportunity to observe the more and more rare scythed or scorched fish.

The casoni at the mouth of the Star

Following the profile of the lagoon towards the west and towards Lignano Sabbiadoro, it opens the Delta River Stella Natural Reserve, that's not reachable by land. Water is the only way to get to the delta and to enter into an exceptional microcosm, an extensive and lush reed bed intersected by a tortuous network of canals and water courses that flow gently towards the lagoon. Among the reeds that line the river bed, there are eighty or so pairs of red herons, marsh hawks (present with the colony perhaps more nationally numerous) and various passerines, such as the small side, the salameiola, the cannareccione and the reed warbler. In the lagoon ponds around the reeds, large flocks of water birds, such as coots and various species of ducks, are aggregated in winter, such as the gadwall, the teal, the mallard, the shoveler, the pochard, the duck and the golden eye: a true paradise for birdwatchers. Finally, with a motorboat we enter up to the extreme mouth. In front of us, a village of huts made of cane and wood, furnished in a spartan style, with the hearth in the center. All the huts look to the west, the more sheltered side from the Bora and Tramontana winds. A wooden jetty is used the only point of docking to the village. The fantastic scenario that opens up before our eyes is great, worthy of the most exhilarating adventures.

The Valle Cavanata Valley and Isonzo mouth in Grado (Gorizia)

The sanctuary of Barbana and Grado in the background

At the Northern end of the same water mirror in which lies Marano, Grado welcomes us like a small Venice enclosed in a handful of land, immersed in its beautiful lagoon. The millenary history of Grado begins in the streets of the Roman castrum, where the early Christian basilicas of Sant’Eufemia and Santa Maria delle Grazie are located, which feature splendid Byzantine floor mosaics, as well as an interesting archaeological area, in the heart of the historic center. The Grado lagoon covers 90 square kilometers and includes two natural reserves, guardians of biodiversity and the Marian shrine of Barbana, located on an islet almost in the middle of this small closed sea, which was founded, according to tradition, in 582 AD on the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to Apollo.

Flamingos in Val Cavanata

In the most eatern of the lagoon of Grado, the Cavanata Valley Natural Reserve, used in the past as a fishing valley, is today an observation point for birdwatching and a destination for all bike lovers, who can get there via a bike path. To communicate with the open sea, through adjustable locks, it is a dense network of canals and streams, bordered by woods and glades where many animal species are sheltered. The Reserve has facilities for welcoming visitors: the Visitor Center, the Casa Spina Educational Laboratory and some observatories. Inside the Visitor Center, which has been modernized, there are plenty of spaces dedicated to teaching. Along the walls, covered with swamp straw in order to simulate a typical lagoon environment, there are loopholes through which you can see videos in high definition that depict the life of many species of mammals and birds, particularly representative of the area. At the back of the room a promotional video of the reserve is shown, along with other educational videos on the lagoon flora and fauna. A small room has been completely redesigned and now houses the reproduction of a typical lagoon house, containing original furnishings such as fishing nets, decorations and furniture. In this room a high definition video is shown on the activity of the valliculture, historical and anthropic activity, practiced in the area of ​​the nature reserve until its establishment in 1996. There are also two cameras, one aerial and one underwater, where to observe nature's life. The Reserve is visitable from the paths along its perimeter, always accessible. At the visitor center, in addition, a free bicycle and binoculars rental service is available to encourage visitors to observe birdlife along the routes. Absolutely do not miss the events organized this year in the reserve. Check out the full schedule of appointments on the Grade page.

The mouth of the Isonzo

Continuing north, after Fossalon di Grado, you reach the Isonzo Mouth Regional Natural Reserve, which includes freshwater marshes and vast salty wetlands, reed beds, woods and grasslands. The Reserve is has been recognized as the best birdwatching area in Italy. His heart, Cona island, houses the Visitor Center and it is one of the most interesting sites for teaching, science and nature at an international level. The integrity of the whole area is guaranteed by constant environmental interventions and by grazing animals, such as Camargue horses, who live free. The mouth of the Isonzo shelters numerous species of migratory birds, from the Stilt to the marsh harrier and the woodcock, and to protected animals such as the marsh tortoise, the Lataste frog and, among the fish, the rare cobice sturgeon.

The Duino Cliffs Natural Reserve (Trieste)

Duino dal mare

Beyond the Grado lagoon, suddenly the landscape changes completely. No more wetlands but imposing and immaculate cliffs overlooking the sea, where Rainer Maria Rilke founded the inspiration to write his major work, the Duino Elegies. In the old heart of Duino, walking along the evocative ulca, the narrow alley that runs from the church along the castle walls surrounded by picturesque houses. Passing the castle on its right towards the hinterland, the Duino Cliffs Natural Reserve, inside which the Rilke Trail winds its way.

On the cliffs of Duino

The reserve covers 107 hectares, along a strip of land rich in traces that testify the transition from the Middle-European to the Mediterranean. The high degree of biodiversity gives life to a landscape of rare beauty, characterized by white limestone creepers overlooking the sea. The crags are formed, like the entire karstic plateau behind them, from rocks born from the sedimentation of animal shells at the bottom of a shallow sea. Although most of the area of ​​the reserve is covered by typically continental vegetation, the area under guardianship sees the passage from the wood to the Mediterranean scrub, composed mainly of holm oaks and hornbeams. It is a habitat suitable for reptiles and nesting of sedentary birds such as the seagull, the imperial crow and the peregrine falcon. In autumn and spring it is It is easy to observe various migratory or wintering species while the pinewood houses finches, jays, peaks, sparrow-hawks and even some squirrel colonies. Moreover, during the summer, guided naturalistic excursions will be organized inside the reserve. Participation is free, thanks to the contribution of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, but reservation is required. Check out the full schedule of appointments on the Duino page.

The Rilke path along the crags

The great novelty; of the 2018 season and the spearhead of the tourism proposal of the territory of Duino Aurisina and of the entire Friuli Venezia Giulia region, & egrave; the new app dedicated to the recognition of the reserve flora and offers an important opportunity; in more detail for all those who love nature tourism. The application for mobile and tablet systems (Android and iOS) Interactive Flora of the Rilke Path and the Duino Cliffs, an IT tool that allows visitors to walk inside the Reserve, and in particular on the Rilke Trail, and to identify with ease & agrave; plants and flowers simply holding a handheld or a smartphone, downloading the free application KeyToNature. The guide is available with two interfaces on the web: one dichotomous, one multiple choice. The guide, which includes 586 species and subspecies (including some of the most woody plants most often grown in gardens), is used. currently available in Italian and English. After downloading the system, through a path of very simple questions, it will be possible to understand immediately in front of which flower or plant you are. It will be enough to say what is the color and shape of the leaves, provide some further indication and with a click it will appear the exact species with all its characteristics. This is one of the initiatives promoted by the Municipal Administration to enhance the Duino Cliffs Reserve, in collaboration with the Department of Life Sciences of the Trieste University.

Check out the project site now or directly download the KeyToNature app for iOS and Android to start discovering the Duino Cliffs, following the footsteps of the great poet Rilke.

There is nothing left to do but plan your trip and prepare everything you need to embark on this incredible adventure, discovering the nature reserves of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Arm yourself with shoes and comfortable clothes, camera (or smartphone) and, if you want, a copy of Rilke's Elegie Duinesi, to collect all the suggestions and wonders of this rich territory.


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