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See the animals

An oasis for birds and birdwatchers

The Maremma Park has a particularly high density of animals, and being able to see them is

one of the most unforgettable gifts of a visit. The most abundant, both in terms of number of individuals and number of species (over 250), are birds, which have the further advantage of being mostly diurnal. The problem is that it is not so easy to recognize them.

Birds are much more specialized than mammals, and are therefore typically tied to specific environments. Most are also migratory, and their presence in the Park therefore depends on the season. For example, the woods on the Uccellina hills are frequented mainly in winter, when they are rich in acorns and berries, and not much in summer.

However, the best places for birdwatching are the humid areas in the northern part, on both sides of the Ombrone.

Starting from mid-October, species arrive from Northern Europe, generally linked to the water that begins to freeze up there: several ducks, but above all thousands of wild geese and cranes.

In spring and summer, however, you mainly encounter species from Africa, which come here to reproduce and tend to concentrate around the mouth of the Ombrone due to the scarcity of water in other areas. The muddy banks of the river and the drainage canals are frequented by many waders. Small passerines especially nest among the vegetation. The bee-eaters’ nests open on the slopes along the river. On meadows and water bodies you can meet herons, egrets, flamingos and knights of Italy.

Hunting for traces

Unfortunately, it is not easy to see mammals, because they have learned that there is nothing good to expect from humans, and for this reason they keep their distance and move especially at night.

However, the surest way to notice their presence is to notice their traces, which are abundant everywhere. The paths and the beach are full of their footprints, which are not difficult to learn to recognise. With a little attention, it is also easy to notice the many paths that start from the path or the road and enter the bush. In Maremma dialect they are called “trottoi”, and they are the paths used by animals, which are usually very habitual.

The large holes that are occasionally found, especially at the foot of trees or next to rocks, are fox, badger or porcupine dens, while the large puddles of water mixed with mud are the “insoglios” of wild boars.

Among the other most common and visible traces of animals are their feces (that is, their “poop”), often left in plain sight on the path to mark the territory. To study mammals, researchers mainly use these, from which it is possible to obtain a lot of information: how many there are, what they eat, up to the recognition of single individuals thanks to DNA examination. Only camera traps can do better.

Where and when to meet mammals

Even if they are mainly active at dawn and dusk, it is not difficult to encounter groups of deer even during the day, in the transition areas between the woods and open areas of the northern part of the park: in the Collelungo olive grove, in Vergheria, along the itineraries in the pine forest, on the Collelungo beach (but in winter) and on the wildlife itinerary. An excellent opportunity are guided tours at night, while the best show is offered by the males in the mating season, with roars and clashes, between mid-September and mid-October.

The roe deer’s schedules are not only very different from those of the fallow deer, but the two animals tend to frequent different areas. The roe deer’s favorite environment is the coppice forest, where it eats the shoots of young plants, but here it is not easy to spot it, even if its characteristic “bark” is often heard, which is an alarm call. In herds in winter, and alone in spring-summer, roe deer are more easily seen in the agricultural areas around the cycle path to Marina di Alberese, in the abandoned olive groves along the medieval path, in the southern areas of the park and in the rocky and steep towards the sea, where the garrigue and the Mediterranean vegetation of small shrubs dominate. The best show is offered by the males in the mating season, with roars and clashes in July and August.

Foxes are visible everywhere, because they live everywhere. In fact, they eat anything: mice, insects, carrion, vegetables, cicada larvae and even tourists’ sandwiches. Since the wolves returned, they also scavenge their meals. The places where sightings are most frequent are naturally the open ones: the fields on the sides of the cycle path, the beach, next to the Scoglietto canal. It is easy to come across foxes that let you approach even from a meter away, in broad daylight, in Marina di Alberese. However, it is a group of foxes that have become accustomed to the presence of man, from whom they receive food. Photograph them, but absolutely do not give them food, because this way they lose the ability to hunt and teach their young, which can condemn them to death in the season when there are no tourists. Above all, don’t get too close or touch them, because they could bite you.

Even the wild boar can be found almost everywhere, because like the fox it is an opportunistic omnivore. In winter it is more difficult to see because it mainly frequents the woods, where it finds acorns, olives, and various types of berries, in addition to its favorite protein-rich foods such as earthworms and insect larvae. In fact, in June it is easy to meet him in the Grand Ducal pine forest, which digs wildly to capture the cicada larvae, which come up from their winter refuge underground. The best season to spot wild boars is summer, when they tend to stay in the pine forests on the edges of cultivated fields, or near the Ombrone where they are looking for water. Since wolves arrived in the park, wild boars are mostly found in packs: this way they defend themselves better.

Hares are more common in the agricultural areas, therefore on the inland side of the Park, although some frequent the areas behind the dunes, especially those of the Principina a Mare beach, and the area near Bocca d’Ombrone (path A7). Between February and throughout the summer, you may witness spectacular clashes between males threatening the same female. However, it never happens that you see a mother with her little ones, who out of prudence stay still, hidden, about fifty meters from each other.

The wolf has returned spontaneously to the park territory a few years ago, but is very difficult to see. It is in fact a particularly elusive animal, which is active from dusk to dawn, and which, having to surprise its prey, continually changes its routes. However, it is rather easy to encounter his facts. He deliberately leaves them visible to mark the territory, often on the very paths that he also prefers to use for his travels, perhaps at a crossroads, on a particular curve or on an emerging root. The wolf’s faces are large, almost black and full of hair, usually from wild boar or deer which are its main prey. At night you may hear their howls.

Badgers and porcupines are abundant in the Park, but they only move from their dens at night. There are no particular places or circumstances in which it is easier to see them: sightings are random, true gifts of luck. It is also very difficult to see martens and martens, and almost impossible to see the wild cat, even if it lives throughout the Park, as documented by the camera traps.