Report on bird trips in region of San Remo, Italy,  and other suggested sites - 28th September to 1st October 2004 – Bill & Heather Quinn, Tolka Branch, BirdWatch Ireland


We have prepared this article for the use of birders who are in the vicinity of San Remo or Nice, and who wish to visit some recommended birding sites in the area.

While on a visit to San Remo in Liguria, Italy, we travelled north (about 65 miles/105 km) via the ski resort of Limone to Cuneo in Piemonte.  Just to the east of Cuneo, beside the small village of Rocca de’ Baldi, is located the Riserva naturale speciale dell’Oasi di Crava Morozzo.  According to their literature this is one of the rarest plain wetlands of the southern part of Piemonte (Piedmont), where about 200 species of aquatic and non-aquatic birds have been recorded. During the year it is possible to observe non-migratory species, such as mallard, grey heron, coot, little grebe, and migratory species such as pochard, shoveler, pintail, purple heron, and great white egret.  During our visit in the afternoon of 28th September we saw chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, cormorants, a great white egret, about 25 grey herons, coots, moorhens, long tailed tits, mallards, and a ferruginous duck.  In addition, just as we were about to leave, we got a most beautiful view of a kingfisher from the hide.


View from hide close to reception building at Oasi di Crava Morozzo


On 29th September we received an e-mail from a local birder - Rudy Valfiorito – who indicated that the following sites in both France and Italy, but all in the vicinity of San Remo, could be worth a visit:

1. The mouth of the river Var, Nice (about 40 miles/60 km west of San Remo).  Travelling westwards on the Motorway from Italy take the St. Laurent du Var exit, which is the first exit after the Nice airport exit, then follow the indications for the shopping centre called CAP 3000, which is alongside the river. Typical species: mediterranean gulls, ferruginous ducks.

2. The mouth of the river Nervia in Ventimiglia (about 10 miles/16 km west of San Remo), with entrance from the beach on the east side of the river.

3. Balzi Rossi, which is located immediately after the border coming into Italy from France, on the coast road (about 16 miles/ 25 km west of San Remo).  Colonies of alpine and pallid swifts may be seen on the rocks above the prehistoric museum. 

4. Vallon des Merveilles and Valmasque (the valleys of Merveilles and Valmasque) in the national park of Mercantour, Casterino, France (west of the road going up to Limone, and about 40 miles/65 km from San Remo).  Principal species: citril finch and lammergeier. 

5.  Colla Melosa - Mount Toraggio - Cima Marta (the Peak of Marta).  These are located about 15 miles/24 km as the crow flies north north-west of San Remo, close to the border with France, but up very winding roads.  The actual distance on the road would be closer to 30 miles/48 km. The landscape consists of deciduous woods, and grassy and rocky slopes.  Species which can be seen include chough, alpine chough and black grouse. 

6. Gola di Gouta - Margheria dei boschi - Passo Muratone (the Gorge of Gouta - Margheria of the woods - the Muratone Pass). These are located about 14 miles/22 km as the crow flies north-west of San Remo, close to the border with France, but up very winding roads.  The Muratone Pass is actually located on the border with France, and old fortified bunkers can be seen in the area. The actual distance on the road would be closer to 24 miles/38 km.  The last part of the road up to Gola di Gouta is very steep and winding.  The tarmac road comes to an end at a hospitable alpine type restaurant.  From there to the Muratone Pass the road is a stony track, which has a reasonable surface.  The area is very wooded.  Typical species: woodpeckers.

7.  Mount Bignone (Monte Bignore), which is just above San Remo at 4,265 feet (1,300m), is worth a visit with its wooded slopes.

8. The first pass on the highway through the Ligurian mountains, which is located a few miles to the north of Ventimiglia along the crest between the valleys of the Nervia and Roia rivers, with a mediterranean landscape of farmland and thorny bushes.  Typical species: sardinian warbler.

Unfortunately we only had enough time to visits Sites 2 and 6.

We visited Gola di Gouta and the Pass of Muratone (Site 6) on 30th September.  There was very little bird activity.  Half way between the Gola di Gouta and the Pass there is an open space, where potatoes are grown.  We could hear an unusual bird call, and after a short time a black grouse was seen flying off towards the north-west.  Some beautiful alpine flowers were to be seen although it was quite late in the year.


Mountain or Blue Lettuce – Lactuca Perennis



We visited the mouth of the river Nervia in Ventimiglia (Site 2) on the afternoon of 1st October.  There is a very convenient car park off the main road through the town, just to the east of the river. The mouth of the river is separated from the sea by a sandbank, through which the river percolates.  This turned out to be quite a fascinating site with mediterranean gulls, herring gulls, black headed gulls, mallards, coots, moorhens, grey herons, carrion crows, sparrows, pied wagtails, a dunlin, a cormorant, a male pochard, and a male red-crested pochard.  Unfortunately it was a very dull evening, and we were forced to retire early to the excellent restaurant on the beach. Such is life!


Red-crested Pochard at the mouth of the river Nervia




We would especially like to thank our friend, host, guide and translator – Elizabeth Sheppard – who not only found these sites for us, but also introduced us to the wonderful local food and wines.



On returning to Ireland we learned of yet another site in the area, which is generally a very good location for seeing raptors in the Autumn – Fort de la Revère, which is locate about 11 miles (18 km) to the east of Nice airport, and about 27 miles (43 km) to the west of San Remo.  The easiest way to get there is to take the A8 Autoroute towards Italy from Nice, and exit at the village of La Turbie (exit 57).  Just before entering the village turn to the right, and follow La Grand Corniche road towards the Col d’Èze.  Just before the Col turn to the right following the sign for the “Parc Départemental de la Grande Corniche” and climb to the highest part of the Fort de la Revère.





© Copyright, Tolka Branch, Birdwatch Ireland 2006