Birding the Apuan Alps

Rising starkly from the Tyrrhenian coast between Pisa and Liguria, the Apuan Alps are protected in the regional park of the same name, a member of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network since 2011. The Apuan Alps are famous for their extremely rugged peaks, rising to some 6500 feet, and their deep canyons and steep slopes.

Their geographical position and the particular nature of their rocks give the Apuan Alps a richly varied set of contrasting habitats, with vegetation characteristic of both Mediterranean and alpine environments. Among the birds, these dramatic mountains hold such desirable and sometimes elusive high-altitude species as alpine and red-billed choughs, crag martin, and alpine accentor. Another highly sought-after species of these mountains is the wallcreeper, easily recognized by its slow, fluttering flight on colorfully patterned wings.

In open areas with shrubs and stony ground, you can see woodlark, red-backed shrike, blue rock thrush, rufous-tailed rock thrush, tawny pipit, wheatear, and black redstart. Common buzzards, kestrels, sparrowhawks, and golden eagles patrol the meadows and pastures in search of prey.

In the breeding season, the forests come alive with the chorus of blackbirds and thrushes, wrens and robins, tits, treecreepers, and nuthatches. European Goldfinches swarm through the conifers, and common chaffinches can be seen feeding on the ground. Green and great spotted woodpeckers make up a conspicuous part of the bird life of these woods.

The ancient presence of man and his activities has left deep traces on the landscape here, which is scattered with important historical and cultural monuments. The local marble quarries, some of them in operation since the days of the ancient Romans, still ship their creamy blocks and slabs to artists and architects around the world.

The Apuan Alps can be easily reached from Florence, Pisa, and Lucca.