Tuscany, Italy - September 2019

From 19 up to 23 September 2019, my wife and I spent five days in Tuscany, Italy.

We stayed at the lovely Agriturismo Tenuta Scacciavolpe, managed by attentive Iacopo and sparkling Elena who made us feel like friends rather than clients. Although they seem a great couple they are (only) best friends working together in a very pleasant way.
The main building of this Agriturismo has a lovely garden with a nice pool. The appartments are located a 15 min. walk away from the pool through the woods or via the dirt road on which you enter the location.

We liked everything here: the location is in the midst of fields and forested hills and in between Pisa and Livorno. It is quiet but still close to our major points of destination (Pisa, Lucca, Livorno). Breakfast is wonderful with cake, juice, tea, coffee, yoghurt, fruits, self-made jam etc. (only Euro 5 or 6). Diner is a set menu changing all the time and really excellent (and I can tell because my wife is a chef).

We stayed in the downstairs appartment which was spaceous and excellent because you have a large private terrace and yard for your self. Iacopo's dog Maya is calm and sweat. You can find quit some animals at the premises: birds like Green Woodpecker, Blackcap, Wheatear, Little Egret, Kestrel, Goldfinches, Cisticola, Green Finch etc. And butterflies and even a Common Wall Gecko! We loved it!

The Lucca area is famous in the birders community for the presence of the Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea)). This attractive bird is native to Southeast Asia but due to its popularity as a cage songbird and its stunning beauty, it has been introduced into areas outside of its native range including Japan, Hawaii, Spain, France and Italy. In these countries it has locally established breeding populations after escaping or being deliberately released.
Birders visiting Tuscany almost always visit the Lucca area in search of this attractive bird making it one of the most sought bird species in Italy.
Obviously, it would be great if I would see one on this trip!

There are a few interesting birding spots in the area and I visited a few of them. The best one was definitely Massaciuccoli Lake:

Massaciuccoli Lake (18 km west of Lucca)
43°50'10"N 10°21'23"E
On the eastern shore of Massaciuccoli Lake, by the little town of Massaciuccoli, lies the Oasi LIPU protected wetlands, a bird sanctuary. The edges of the lake, full of marshes with tall reeds, are crossed by wooden boardwalks that rise just above the water and have some observation blinds at key points allowing visitors to watch the wildlife while hidden from view. There are informative signs about wildlife and flora posted along the boardwalk.

We visited this site in the late afternoon of 21 September 2019 and we were surprised by the beauty of this swampy area and the interesting birds we found. From the observation blind almost at the end of the board walk we admired a Common Kingfisher sitting on a stick in the pond. From one of the benches we sat down to see whether the Water Rail would show himself after we heard its screaming call, like that of a young piglet. And he did!

At the end of the wooden path, you can walk a trail (left and right) around the edge of the lake through reeds and brushes. We decided to go right and it was only after a few seconds when I heard the sound of some Red-billed Leiothrix flying towards me. Suddenly a group of at least 25 individuals flew by and stopped either in the brushes or in the reeds around us. How spectacular! I couldn’t believe that in my search of this rare bird, we would encounter so many of them!
You will find my photos of them here.