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Birdwatching in the Oristano Area

Oristano is a small town on the west coast of Sardinia, fourth largest on the island.  It is at the centre of the largest flat area in the country.  Several rivers drain onto the plains around Oristano, creating a network of freshwater marshes, estuarine lagoons, stagni, and drainage canals, all flowing into the Golfo di Oristano.  I've listed some of the highlights below, however, there are many more good birdwatching sites in the area.     

S'Ena Arrubia

This is my personal favourite; a fairly small stagno south of Oristano, with plenty of good vantage points all round the lake, and good birdwatching all year round.  What makes it particularly interesting is the fact that a small river drains into it's eastern side, meaning that it is partly brackish and partly freshwater.  This leads to great biodiversity. 


S'Ena Arrubia is easy to find.  From either Oristano or the turn off from the 131 motorway (to Cagliari and Sassari) head south on a single carriageway road, following signs for Arborea. You will see the large Stagno di Santa Giusta on your right, which is well worth a stop and a scan.  Continue on past lots of smaller pools and good birdwatching territory.  S'Ena Arrubia will appear on your right.  A small bridge will appear in front of you and a tall pumping station is just further along on the left.  Just before the bridge, turn right onto a dirt track.  This is the first good viewing point.  Continue along the main road south, and just past the pumping station you will see some mud flats on your right in front of the stagno.  This spot is good for waders when it's wet, and good for Collared Pratincole in the summer, but be careful where you stop (other drivers can get quite angry unless you pull right off the road) and avoid getting out of your vehicle so you don't disturb the birds.  Continue along the main road south again, past the stagno, then take the first road to the right.  After about 100 metres, take one of the dirt tracks on the right that head north, back towards the stagno.  After passing several fields, if you keep searching, you should find a track that leads directly to the stagno.  This is another good viewing point.  The last viewing point can be accessed by heading further west (along the same minor road), turning right as soon as you enter a plantation of pine trees.  Follow the road around and you should find yourself on the west side of the stagno, where there are good views of extensive mud flats - good for waders in winter.


Species I've recorded here include:

Winter: Greater Flamingo, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Pintail, Wigeon, Red-crested Pochard, Tufted Duck, Little Stint, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin,  Marsh Harrier.   

Summer: Greater Flamingo, Spoonbill, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Curlew, Little Ringed Plover, Black-headed Gull, Little Tern, Common Tern, Collared Pratincole, Marsh Harrier, Bee-eater, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler.

Stagno di Cabras

This is a very large stagno to the north east of Oristano, between the town of Cabras and the coast.  The main stagno itself is not so productive for birdwatching, however, there are several excellent smaller stagni dotted around the main one.  The best of these being to the eastern side of the main stagno, between Cabras and Nurachi.  Access is via a dirt track from the town of Cabras.  If you head into the centre of Cabras and continue west until you see the stagno.  Now head north, keeping to the left of a church on a road that turns into a wide, potholed dirt track, skirting the eastern edge of the town, then turning west.  Where the tracks divide, keep to the left and continue across rice fields until you see reeds and a basic birdwatching hide in front of you.  The pool the hide overlooks is the best one in this area, however, the hide is poorly maintained and better views are often possible without disturbing the birds by going to the left or right.  If you have time, explore adjacent stagni and irrigation canals. 

This stagno is great in winter for ducks, including Red-crested Pochard, Pochard and Ferruginous Duck.  Great White Egret is also possible in winter.  In summer, the rice fields next to the stagno are good for Black-winged Stilt, Purple Heron,  Montagu's Harrier, Yellow Wagtail and Spotless Starling. The stagno has breeding Avocet and Black-winged Stilt, as well as Flamingo and Little Egret. Common Sandpiper, Little Tern, Common Tern and Black-headed Gull can be seen around the larger Stagno di Cabras. 

Stagno di Mistras

This is a large tidal stagno, linking directly to the sea.  It has several large islands, where a wide variety of species roost, so it can be quite spectacular at dawn and dusk.  However, its size and the distance from the main road can make it very difficult to get to the best parts.  The best dirt track that l have been shown can be accessed from the main road that leads from Oristano or Cabras towards the famous Roman ruins at Tharros which are well signposted.  After passing across several bridges and canals at the mouth of the Stagno di Cabras, the Stagno di Mistras appears on your left, somewhat distant from the road.    Several farmers tracks leave the road on the left.  One of them, quite overgrown leads down towards a good viewing mound overlooking one of the best islands. 

From here you can see plenty of heron spp. and waders, similar to those at s'Ena Arrubia, including Curlew, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Golden Plover (winter), etc.  In the summer, Bee-eater, Quail, lark spp., are also possible.  Peregrine Falcon is also possible here. 

Other Places to Birdwatch near Oristano

There are plenty of other good stagni in the area, depending on the time of year.  The Stagno Sale Porcus, further north is good in the spring, but dries up early summer.  The peninsula to the west of this stagno (follow signs for Putzu Idu) is worth exploring for a variety of species including Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit and Sylvia warblers.  It's also very good for migrants in the spring with Pied Flycatcher, Wheatear, Willow Warbler and Whinchat.  Keep an eye out for Spectacled Warbler, which has a preference for salt flats, for example between Tharros and Cabras, north west of Oristano.

Finding the Purple Swamp Hen near Oristano

This is always a challenging bird to find.  It is only found on freshwater, and likes any irrigation canals and rivers that have plenty of vegetation.  As a general rule, if Moorhen is around, Purple Swamp Hen is possible.  They are also very secretive, and more active at dawn.  One particularly good site, shown to me by a local birdwatcher is fairly easy to find.  Travel south from Oristano along the main road that leads towards s'Ena Arrubia.  After you pass the Stagno di S. Giusta on your right, take the next right, a road that leads to an industrial area.  As the road skirts round the Stagno di S. Giusta, it passes over a canal that leads from the stagno to the sea.  Just after this you will see other canals, esp. on the left.  Some are saline and have little vegetation, however, a little further on, there are some freshwater canals, very green and full of Moorhen and Coot.  These canals also have Purple Swamp Hen.   

Birdwatching Map for the Oristano Area

Click on map to open a larger version in a new window


Night Heron at S'Ena Arrubia