A sparrow in search of crumbs, a blackbird rooting around amongst the leaves. Having been housebound in the last few weeks, we’re starting to appreciate far more the bits of nature visible from home. It’s all we have, so why not exploit our circumstances to learn more, the details and secrets? Especially those lucky enough to have a garden, a terrace or even a balcony, who can watch the birds that visit us as the warm season approaches.
According to the experts, we can attract birds using bits of apple, pear, dried fruit, cereal flakes, oats, breadcrumbs, biscuits or cake. Preferably dry, sweet stuff, to avoid problems with fermentation in birds’ stomachs. Food that appeals, above all in winter, to birds that don’t migrate and therefore run the risk of starving. Whereas the arrival of the warm season makes it vitally important to provide water. A bowl with a few centimeters of water is enough: birds will love drinking from it, and bathing to wash their feathers.
In this season, Oasi Zegna is invaded by multitudes of birds: tits, finches, wrens, larks, goldfinches, woodpeckers, sparrow hawks and kestrels, as well as swifts and many other species that return to Valsessera to nest having passed the winter in warmer countries. Milan’s Natural History Museum conducted a species census of this numerous and varied population and the results can also be found in the Bird Guide available at the Casa Zegna bookshop.
If you’re interested in this, when it’s possible to visit Casa Zegna again, you can consult the Guide (not only ornithological but also botanical, entomological and zoological). It has an introduction by Giorgio Celli, entomologist, etiologist, university teacher, writer, screenwriter, politician and member of Oasi Zegna’s scientific committee till his death in 2011.
This is Giorgio Celli on why man is attracted by flight and in antiquity developed mythological fantasies like that of Icarus or Phaeton: “Birds can arouse our deepest aspirations to overcome gravity and take to the skies (…) This is why, wherever there’s an oasis, wetlands or a nature reserve, where birds can live undisturbed and birdwatchers are well concealed in special “hides”, people of all ages and backgrounds “flock” to be able to see a grey heron, a coot, a hooded crow, depending on the place and season”.
And he defined Oasi Zegna as a “natural heritage, educational we might add, of the utmost importance. It’s an open-air museum where animals aren’t stuffed in display cases or projected on screens but are alive and kicking, and great fun to watch. And the birdsong? The first bird which sang, that tiny winged Orpheus, brought music into the world”.
* photo by Stefano Ramella