24th July 1997 - 5th August 1997
The previous day I had arrived at Milan Airport, on a flight from Bilbao, then drove north to the hotel in Bormio, where I met cameraman Philip Lovell and assistant/translator Vinni, to continue sound recording for the mountains programme on the series 'Living Europe' made by Bristol based film company Green Umbrella.
My first day in Stelvio National Park, Philip and Vinni had been here for over a week, so knew their way around. So, today they showed me one of the places where they had been filming. North of the town along a narrow road which led to the glacier in Valle Dei Forno, at this time much reduced due to warmer winters, now in 2019 it has disappeared altogether.
The drive up the valley passed through thick forest, where we made several stops, then as we neared the car park at the top the habitat change, to open mountain moorland, single small pines, rocks and scree slopes, with lots of fast flowing streams.
During the day I saw lots of Chaffinches, Wrens, Redpolls, Chiffchaffs, Willow Tits, an adult Alpine Marmot with 2 cubs, a Melodious Warbler, a Raven, Crested and Coal Tits, Lesser Whitethroats, Goldfinches, White Wagtails, 6 Nutcrackers, a Robin, Swifts and House Martins and Yellowhammers.
Glacier at Valle dei Forno, Stelvio National Park.
We returned to Valle Dei Forno, from the car park is a track to the west into a side valley called Valle di Cedec. I tried driving the van over the first rocky part, but was too steep and not enough clearance, so had to get Philip to take me in the Land Rover, which he did, dropping me about half way along the valley, then I could walk back stopping to record along the way.
In the two valleys I saw Redpolls, 3 Wheatears, 3 Water Pipits and hearing more, 6 Alpine Chough, at least 10 Alpine Marmots, an Alpine Accentor, a Dipper, 2 Kestrels, 4 Nutcrackers hearing more and lots of Chaffinches.
View from Valle di Cedec.
After lunch in Bormio we set off for the other site that Philip had been filming at, taking the road up the Stelvio Pass we then took the rocky, single track up the mountain to Monte Livrio. By the hotel at the base of the ski-lift was where the hotel kitchen staff threw out unwanted scraps of food for the birds. It was mainly Alpine Chough which came in for the feast, of which we saw 35, on the ground and in flight, occasionally a Lammergeier would land and feed, but we only saw one in flight. also in this spot were 4 Ravens, an Alpine Accentor and a couple of Chiffchaffs.
Stelvio Pass viewed from top looking towards Bormio.
View from outside hotel on Monte Livrio.
A return to Monte Livrio, which stands at 3050m, being earlier there were less people and less noise from the ski-lift! We saw 20+ Alpine Choughs with several coming in to the feeding area, also seen were 2 adult Lammergeiers and 3 Ravens.
Philip and Vinni at the feeding spot on Monte Livrio.
Today a drive southeast along the SP29 to the Valle di Gavia below Monte Gavia, where there were lots of Nutcrackers, Willow Tits, Chaffinches, Nuthatches, Goldcrests and Great Tits, higher up were Water Pipits and Alpine Marmots.
On the way back, near to Bormio, we stopped at a high area where there were 2 more Nutcrackers, Chiffchaffs, Song Thrush and a Red Squirrel.
A return to Monte Livrio, seeing 2 Lammergeiers, 16+ Alpine Chough, 5 Ravens, 2 White Wagtails, a Stoat and c20 Snowfinches.
Alarm, annoyance and calls from Alpine Chough at sight of a Stoat.
A return to Valle di Cedec, this time managing to get the van over the rocky first part of the track. I drove to the end of the valley, then slowly back, stopping regularly to record, and seeing 4 Ring Ouzels, 8 Mistle Thrushes, Wheatears, 4 Nutcrackers, lots of Water Pipits, Linnets, Black Redstarts, a flock of about 60 Snowfinches, 16 Alpine Chough and about 10 Alpine Marmots.
Later, after meeting up with the others, we explored another area a bit further east, called Valle hello Zebru, where we saw Nutcrackers, Chaffinches, Mistle Thrushes, Wrens, Robins, Coal Tits, a Red Deer and a Roe Deer.
Valle di Cedec.
Glacial lake in Valle di Gavia.
A day at Monte Livrio, so we only took the Land Rover, we saw a Lammergeier, 4 Ravens, a Chamois, about 14 Alpine Chough and the Stoat made another appearance, this time going for the food where the chough were feeding causing extreme alarm amongst the birds.
Later, we left to return to Bormio, driving down the steep, zig-zag road from the Stelvio Pass, see picture above, suddenly the brakes failed, Philip tried to get into a lower gear, but we were going too fast, he managed to get us through the bends and onto the straight road down the valley, still picking up speed, then we spotted a run-off area and pulled into it, running through the deep gravel we slowly reduced speed until the Land Rover hit a sandy buffer and stopped. We were all very shaken, and, after a while decided that Philip should go to get help from the garage in Bormio. After over an hour, the garage man arrived with Philip who had to walk quite a way before getting a lift, the man told us there were no brake linings left so no brakes! But, if we let it cool down and drove very slowly, we could make it to his garage. Then he gave us a lift to the hotel.
With the Land Rover in the garage, we all had to squeeze into the van, we went to Valle di Cedec, only covering the beginning of the valley seeing a few Water Pipits and Redpolls, a Ring Ouzel, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 20+ Nutcrackers, 8 Alpine Marmots, 2 Kestrels, a Golden Eagle and 3 Black Redstarts.
Above: alarm and aggressive calls between two male birds.
Another drive to Valle di Gavia, where we saw lots of Nutcrackers, 4 Nuthatches, Chaffinches, Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, 2 Redpoll, a Red Squirrel, 2 Linnets, 2 Ravens and several Crested, Willow and Coal Tits.
A day with low cloud and misty rain, I went as far as the Valle de Forno car park at the entrance of the Valle di Cedec, but all I saw were 6 Alpine Marmots and 2 Nutcrackers.
The Land Rover now repaired, I went back to the same area as yesterday where the weather had improved, although still cloudy. In one of the huts by the car park there was a Willow Tits nest and the adults were visiting every few minutes to feed the chicks.
Also in the area, I saw lots of Chiffchaffs with fledged chicks, a pair of Black Redstarts, c50 Nutcrackers, 2 White Wagtails, a Blackbird, a Wren, several Lesser Whitethroats with fledged young and at least 5 Alpine Marmots.
Once again I returned to the same area, around the car park, seeing 6 Black Redstarts, Willow and Coal Tits, White Wagtails, Redpolls, Chiffchaffs, 60+ Nutcrackers and 4 Alpine Marmots.
My last day in Stelvio National Park, I drove up the Valle de Forno and along the Valle di Cedec, seeing 10+ Alpine Marmots, Black Redstarts, Willow Tits, White Wagtails, Redpolls, Greenfinches, a juvenile Red-backed Shrike, Chaffinches, Coal Tits and a Ring Ouzel.
Glacier at Valle de Forno.
More photos from the trip.
Alpine rose in Valle de Forno
View at dusk from Monte Livrio towards the Swiss boarder.