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Monday, January 14, 2008

Margherita di Savóia - Citta' del Sale

Wars have been fought over it. It has been used as a trading currency. The wealth of whole cities have been founded on it. Elephants will wander deep into caves to search for it. Effigies of the pope have been sculptured in it.

The product is, of course, salt.

There are places (for example, Wieliczka in Poland) where salt is still mined deep underground. In other places it may be obtained from sea water by evaporation in artificial basins (lagoons) that can cover hundreds of square miles.

Such extraction of salt from sea water takes place at Margherita di Savóia, situated on the Adriatic coast between Bari and Gargano in the province of Puglia, Italy. The evaporation basins here (some 4,000 hectares in extent) attract thousands of aquatic wading birds, from Greater Flamingoes to Little Stints. In what is otherwise a very developed part of Italy (for example from the plane all I could see from horizon to horizon was continuous polythene sheeting protecting vineyards from the frost) these evaporation lagoons offer a haven for the naturalist abroad.

You can just make out some of the evaporation lagoons from the air (top centre)

Salt crystallises from seawater in the lagoons under the heat from the sun.... be raked into piles by bulldozers....

...and moved by conveyor belt to piles where it is stored for distribution.

The evaporation lagoons are habitat for thousands of flamingos and other aquatic bird species

The other location I found particularly attractive was the Gargano National Park (a round trip of over 200 miles from Bari - a day well spent) which took me through the mountain town of Monte San Angelo where there is a historic castle.
The castle at Monte San Angelo for Merisi who likes castles better than birds and who encouraged me to go here in the first place!

The central attraction of the Gargano National Park is the Foresta Umbra, the only remaining part in Italy of the ancient oak and beech forest that once covered much of Central Europe. This was quite unexpected and a delight to stumble upon and provided several new birds for my list, including Firecrest, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper and Green Woodpecker. The forest floor has fresh snowdrops in bloom - my first of the year.

A view in the Foresta Umbra

Snowdrops in bloom

My accommodation in Bari was Spartan - not even a toothbrush glass was provided. But the cap from my cylinder of shaving foam provides an adequate receptacle with which to sample the local Puglian wine!


Blogger Merisi said...

Thank you, Maalie,
for climbing Monte Sant Angelo to shoot a picture for me. :-)
I see also that you got closer to the Flamingoes then I managed to last summer. I got really close to the birds, but whatever trick I tried, they always took off before I could point and shoot.
I suppose you never heard anything about that ringed dead bird I found then.
I may try to go south again once the temperatures climb.

10:30 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

It's not like you to use a glass for the wine. You usually swig it straight from the bottle.

There are prettier parts of Italy to visit. How hot was it?

I hope you didn't upset the local drivers.

10:35 pm  
Blogger TCA said...

Sounds like a terrific break - lucky you! Glad you had such a great time.


10:37 pm  
Blogger Magdalene said...

I especially like the snowdrop picture. A sign of better times ahead. I haven't seen any in Devon yet, but I'm sure it won't be long.

10:40 pm  
Blogger simon said...

Noot bulldazers Jim.. Excavators! ;O)

great post (again!)

11:00 pm  
Blogger simon said...

Gawd! noot?=NOT.


11:02 pm  
Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

"My accommodation in Bari was Spartan..." Is it not axiomatic that one gets what one pays for...?

11:29 pm  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I wondered what took you to Italy and how birds surely fit into the trip!

The snowdrops are so lovely, an unexpected treat when one longs for spring and still has so many months of winter left.

My children loved bats by the way - especially the oldest son who is now a fresh water biologist. I left you a comment about it on my own blog.

11:45 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Merisi: Did you try crawling along on your stomach through the briny sludge?

Lorenzo: It was pleasantly cool. The local drivers tried to kill me a number of times, and that was just as a pedestrian!

TCA: Yeah, had to make the best of it!

Magdalene: I saw a crocus out near Cambridge before I left, but nothing since.

Simon: They are all the same to me mate, big noisy smelly things. How much would they be worth at auction?

Tortoiseshell: You must remember that your father is now struggling on a pension. I would have camped if it was practical. Not complaining about the Spartanitude, just observing it!

Halfmom: Yes, the lure of birds takes me everywhere. I'm off to Spain on Feb 4th for a wee well-earned break on a quest for the Bone-smasher!

8:11 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

Oh no, would want to upset the toads! :-)

9:02 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

Oh dear,
I wanted to say that I would NOT want to upset the toads!

9:02 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Is that a Bible on your bedside table in the last picture?

Do you think that Simon had been on the XXXX when he wrote his comments?

What is a bonesmasher and what has it to do with toads?

Will you be going back to La Roccia?


12:43 pm  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

You don't mean to tell me that the trip was for WORK????? I'm in the wrong field of science then as my next work trip is to San Antonio Texas!

What in heaven's name is a bonecrusher?

2:34 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Lorenzo: Yes, of course it's the bible: Field Guide to European Birds

Halfmom: I suppose once an academic, always an academic, it's hard to let your research interests go. I still have an active research project on birds going on. I always say that I am off "in pursuit of my academic interests" rather than "work". It is a more truthful (and therefore less sinful) statement. You never know when some observation might prove useful to illustrate a lecture or an article.

Halfmom and Lorenzo: I can't tell you now it's proper name: it is regarded by birdwatchers as unlucky to reveal your quarry (Levaiathan, 14, 22-23). I'll tell you if I find it.

3:33 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Yes, but what has it to do with toads?

4:44 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

I asked Merisi if she tried crawling on her stomach to get close to the flamingoes. She replied that she didn't want to disturb the toads. That's all.

4:55 pm  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

Welcome home Maalie, another wonderful trip captured beautifully here. I am very fond of snowdrops, your photo is great.

Do you speak any foreign languages, btw, or do you rely on English?

I guess you have seen this story

7:39 pm  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

Magdalene, we have snowdrops in my village in Cambridgeshire, have had for a couple of weeks.
Anglesey Abbey has a stunning winter garden and about 200 varieties, it is well worth a visit at the end of Jan/beginning of Feb. I would love to visit some gardens in Devon sometime.

7:41 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Ellee: so nice to see you again :-)
I have quite good French (enough to get whatever I need, including an invitation to Sylvie's dressing room), and enough Spanish to survive moderately well. Italian: zilch (apart from pizza and chianti and a few words that Merisi taught me (like "may I have the pleasure of the next dance"; "is you husband very strong?"). Thankfully a very kind waiter guided me through my evenings and I had a different sort of pizza on six successive nights.

7:48 pm  
Blogger Nadine said...

Very cool photos. Thank you for stopping by today. My book will be released later this year.

8:23 pm  
Blogger somepinkflowers said...

great travel photos
am glad you explained
about the gillette
i feared you suffered
from salt inhalation
when i spotted that bedside snap.


is it true
flamingos turn pink
from walking too long
on their tiptoes
as shown in your photo,
was just wondering...

12:20 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Pinks: No, they get their colour from the diet, in particular from pigments like carotenes. In zoos they are often fed extra pigment in order to look nice and rosy for the visitors!

7:48 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Thanks for your comment on my posting re diet. I hope you start practicing what you preach re: bacon, meat, pies, squirty cream etc.

9:04 am  
Anonymous May said...

The snowdrops are lovely!
Your room does not look terrible from this angle. It gives an image of warmth and coziness.

4:43 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

... "different sort of pizza on six successive" ...

Maalie, *inquiring look*, how and when did you eat the gamberoni? (You can run, but you can't hide!).

9:55 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

> how and when did you eat the gamberoni?

They were a topping on one of the pizzas. I thought I told you!

10:15 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Greetings fellow just home from my camping in Okains Bay. Today I sweltered in a Christchurch norwester high above the ocean. Magnificent views but should have been up there closer to dawn!

4:37 am  
Blogger Scaredy Cat said...

Hello Maalie. When are you coming to see us again?

7:06 pm  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

I have never heard of wine being drunk from such a recepticle, you must have been desperate. The Italians would be shocked, what must the wine have tasted like?

I like your grasp of languages, French is a language I would like to improve too, but sadly no time.

10:01 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Would you pop over to metamatician's blogsite. I think you would like his latest posting. You can find your way there through Magdalene.


4:39 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

If you want to see some BRILLIANT photos of painted storks, go to

5:59 pm  
Blogger Magdalene said...

No blogsite is safe from the garbled minds of late night imbibers. Even Maalie's! :-)

11:03 pm  
Blogger Magdalene said...

Oh, and thanks Ellee for the snowdrop imagery and a reminder that spring will spring!

11:16 pm  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Looks like you are having a breeze!

I wish I could go to Italy, NOT FAIR, NOT FAIR.... BOO HOO!

Eating fish and chips will never be the same after putting the good old salt on, thanks for the informative info!

12:00 am  
Blogger Viking Warrior said...

Sleep ye well yon Maalie

4:57 am  
Blogger Metamatician said...

Great informative post! Thanks maalie, I'm gonna have to return here often just for the intellectual stimulation lacking in some of the other corners of the blogging world.

I know it's rather a cliche, but did you ever read the book Salt: A World History?

7:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you were driving from Askam into Millom, the road into town is named Salthouse Road, evidently because before the embankment was built, there would be salt pans there and a house to keep it in.

I was watching the Hairy Bikers the other week and their bit on the Thai community in Askam. As there a good Thai restaurant there? There is a good one in Millom at the station.

Great blog - I especially liked the solstice run up Black Combe.

6:14 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Anonymous: Thank you. I know Salthouse Road but I was unaware of its history. No, I don't think there is a Thai restaurant in Askam. There is a Chinese one (not too good in my opinion, I prefer the one in Dalton).

I take it you are local?

6:35 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

imagine, I finally raided a few of the two dozen moving boxes still unpacked, and found my Bushnell field glasses! Now I don't have to observe the crows and ravens with my kids' Fisher-Price toy binoculars anymore. ;-)

7:07 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Merisi, brilliant! You'll be into digiscoping next!

7:46 pm  
Blogger simon said...

mate wathced a brilliant show on the Flamingos!

They were breeding in africa, and the late hatched ckicks have to WALK 100 miles to the last feeding pools. It looked awful as they marched across in desert heat. :o(

10:29 pm  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

my goodness, you have caused quite a stir on other blogs. perhaps the conversation should have continued on my blog and kept the world a "kinder, safer" place to be, giggle

now it's time to go back to work. yesterdays assay was a disaster - turned out the cell culture buffer reacted withe test solution and ruined the first set of immune cells - so a few extra hours of work to salvage any data at all - quite a lousy way to spend a saturday!

so, no post for you yet -just the comment - but I think my next post will be entitled, "I love you from the bottom of my heart"

11:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous Jon writes -

Yes, I live at the Hill so we can see Askam when it is not raining too hard!

Despite my proximity, I have not tried a Barrow Green's pie yet, although the bikers clearly enjoyed them. Millom Green's pies I have been eating for years. However, we sorely missed Mabel's Millom branch when they closed last year. They still bring a van-full to the Punch Bowl at the Green when there is a party to cater for.

By the way, I signed in anonymously not out of shyness but because it takes for ever for me to get signed in to Blogger for some reason.

Best wishes,


6:30 pm  
Blogger Thesaurus Rex said...

Ah, the reletive sanity of nature pics and stories of birdwatching and wine. Those guys over at you know where are dangerous. For the record I'm banned for having an opinion now as well, which I'm hoping means I will regularly return to comment there to catch the readers of the world who may reading before the banners are awake. Good old time differences.
Nuff said, I've got a snowdrop open in my front garden. This is odd as they're usually later than ones in the park which aren't out yet. It's also odd cos it hasn't been sunny til today (thank M.E. for that today) which is usually the reason for early snowdrops round here.
There is a pair of blackcaps visiting my small garden. I suppose they're 'courting'. Do they have territories, and where are they likely to be if I'm in a cat infested terraced street among many?

11:07 am  

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