Marsican Bears, Abruzzo National Park by Chris Townend

Tour Dates: Friday 17th – Tuesday 24th May 2024 (Rome to Rome) 
Tour Price: £1,499pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Rome Fiumicino approx. £250 return
Deposit: £350 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £75 – £150
Minimum Number: 5 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people

Target Species
Mammals: Marsican Bear, Apennine Wolf, Wild Boar, Red Deer, Apennine Chamois
Birds: Rock Partridge, White-backed (Lilford’s) Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Golden Eagle, Red-footed Falcon, Collared Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Wood Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Common Redstart, Rock Bunting and Italian Sparrow

Tour Summary
This tour is based in the beautiful Abruzzo National Park, set in the heart of the Apennines in a protected area of 400 Sq Km and only 2.5 hours drive from Rome. This tour is therefore perfect if you wish to extend your visit and either start or end the tour with a city break sight seeing in the wonderful city of Rome.
The tour spends a total of 4 nights in the wonderful mountain town of Pescasseroli, in a lovely recently converted Guest House. It is also just a stone’s throw away from our main bear watching area! This tour also gives you an excellent chance of finding one of the Western Palearctic’s hardest species, Rock Partridge!

ACCOMMODATION: 4 nights in Italy
All nights at comfortable guest house in Pescasseroli
Inclusive Meals: Breakfasts and lunches

Previous Trip Reports

DAY 1: Rome – Abruzzo National Park
After meeting at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, we begin our short journey east towards the lovely Abruzzo National Park. It is only a couple of hours travelling until the edge of the park and we will then begin winding up the mountain roads surrounded by mixed beech woodlands and montane calcareous grasslands. It will not be long until we arrive in the heart of the park, passing one of the key bear hotspots! We then descend into the valley bottom and arrivein the wonderful historic village of Pescasseroli, which will be our base for the next four nights. After checking into our beautifully converted Guest House set in the old narrow cobbled streets of the village, we will take a short drive to one of our bear watching viewpoints. If we are lucky, we may even get our Apennine adventure off to a great start with our first sighting of a lumbering Marsican Brown Bear grazing on fresh shoots of grasses, trees and shrubs in the valley below us!
Overnight Pescasseroli

Lilford’s Woodpecker, Abruzzo National Park by Chris Townend

DAYS 2 – 4: Abruzzo National Park and surrounding area
During the next three days our time will be spent routinely visiting favoured Bear and Wolf areas at dawn and dusk, scanning meadows and woodland edges from vantage points. Patience is essential, if we are to be successful with our quest to see these fantastic animals.
Bears are generally nocturnal grazers, but are quite often seen in open meadows and nearby hills, either in the early morning, returning to the forest after a night of foraging, or in the late evening, emerging from the forest to begin feeding. This is also the start of the mating season and a time when bears can be more visible in the meadows. Wolves tend to be much less predictable in their habits, compared to those of bears and although not the best time of year to see them, we do have a chance. We will head out each morning, before breakfast, returning to our guest house during the morning to enjoy a well earned late breakfast. The days will be spent exploring other parts of the Abruzzo NP, enjoying the birds and other wildlife that we find each day. The last couple of hours of each day, will be spent scanning for bears and wolves, before taking advantage of the great restaurants in Pescasseroli.

During our stay in the park, we will spend some time focusing our efforts in trying to find some of the speciality birds of the area. Golden Eagles are a a fairly regular sight over one of the main bear viewing areas, but we will also take some short walks into the Beech woodlands. Here, we should be treated to singing Wood Warblers, Common Redstarts and beautiful male Collared Flycatchers all recently returned from their wintering grounds in Sub-Saharan Africa. Woodpeckers are certainly a speciality of the forests, with a good chance of finding White-backed Woodpecker, considered by some to be a full species, Lilford’s Woodpecker. We had excellent views of this species during our 2015 tour.

Marsican Brown Bear, Gioia Vecchio by Chris Townend

On one of the days, if the weather is kind to us, we may take a longer walk to a higher altitude near to the impressive and dramatic Camosciara Mountain. Here we have a good chance of connecting with some of the more alpine specialities such as Alpine Chough, Water Pipit, Rock Bunting and maybe Alpine Accentor. We will also make an effort to find one of the many Apennine Chamois that live in this rugged terrain. Similar to the Marsican Bear, the Chamois is an endemic race (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata).
Walks to the higher parts of the park are quite demanding and so will very much depend on the fitness levels of the group. It is possible to do only part of the walk or remain in one of the nearby cafes. We will also visit a nearby mountain range where there is a good population of Rock Partridge where we have been successful in seeing birds well on our 2013 and 2015 tours. En route we will look for Red-footed Falcons that can often be found passing through the area. Of course, butterflies and orchids are also an important part of the Abruzzo biodiversity. Although not the best time, if the weather has been warm, we may find species like Grizzled Skipper, Pearl-bordered Fritillary or Scarce Swallowtail and orchids such as Lady Orchid and Burnt Tip Orchid. Overnight Pescasseroli

Male Red-backed Shrike, Abruzzo National Park by Chris Townend

DAY 5: Pescasseroli – Rome
We will make one last pre-breakfast visit searching for bears and wolves, before returning to our guest house for breakfast. We will then have a little time to look around Pescasseroli before heading back to Rome airport where the tour concludes.

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leader: Chris Townend
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, breakfasts & lunches, ground transport and services of leader
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, evening meals and alcoholic drinks, airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £100
Transport: Minivan or Minibus dependent on group size
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Mostly easy walking with short walks in woodland, though quite undulating. Option of a longer and more strenuous walk on one day.
Climate: Variable from quite cold in the mornings to pleasantly warm during the day with a chance of rain.
Tour Start Point: Rome Fiumicino airport, Italy
Tour End Point: Rome Fiumicino airport, Italy
Suggested Rail / Airline: Train to Rome or British Airways / Easyjet

Barrea Village, Abruzzo National Park by Chris Townend