Situated a few miles outside of Orvieto and Terni the Oasi di Alviano, or the Oasis of Alviano, is a wonderful natural habitat and WWF Nature Reserve. Our visit started early in the morning after a somewhat groggy departure from the nearby town of Citta della Pieve. Despite an overcast sky and light rain we decided to press forward and to proceed with our birding and nature walk around the lake.
As is usually the case when presented with these types of situations, I was glad we decided to brave the rain and press forward. While gray and a bit wet the colors were vibrant, and the vegetation incredibly rich. The vibrant red of the poppy blossoms had just begun which served as a delightful contrast against the rolling green of the fields that surround the oasis.
In addition to two local cats which served as slightly sleepy but utterly adorable volunteer hosts, a wonderful local guide and researcher met up with us and began to explain the history of the lake and region.
As it turns out the lake is actually artificial and was created in the early 60s when the Tiber River was dammed. By 1978 the Oasis of Alviano was officially established with an area of 800 hectares of land set aside.
The shallow waters of the reservoir quickly attracted a wealth of migratory birds and before long had become one of the best places in the area for bird watching. In 1990 the WWF took over the wildlife reserve, and since that time they have made a number of improvements and additions.
These include the creation of a number of birding blinds, camouflaged pathways and a resource center with information about the local flora and fauna.
While most of the birds we saw were non-migratory and fairly representative of your typical lake birds it was wonderful to see them in the rich, natural environment of the Oasis. There were large, gorgeous swans, heron, ducks, and a wide assortment of water birds.
While we were technically there to watch the birds, I found myself more drawn in by the local flowers and vegetation. The rich greens, diverse mixture of flowers and plants, and marshy nature along the path allowed me to re-connect with nature in a way I don’t get to enjoy often. Living in a major city, like Copenhagen, it’s always fascinating to me how quickly you end up feeling disconnected from true nature.
Add to that the rich colors that the rain brings out of plants, and the added texture of raindrops dotting the plants and flowers and the final equation is one that left me eager to take deep breaths of fresh, clean air while soaking up the small details that made the walk something special.
At one point I discovered this oddity. As far as I can tell the quick growing marsh grass grew up, and through an old dead leaf. The end result was this otherwise impossible combination of new/vibrant and old/dead growth. It looks a bit like the main plant wanted a a scarf, doesn’t it?
While far from idea for walking and photographing, the rain ended up being light enough that it didn’t drench us, and still heavy enough to allow for moments like this with water laden leaves greedily struggling to soak up as much water as they can before giving up their prized catch to gravity and the ground below.
I know it is a bit silly to say, given that it was a nature preserve but it was delightful how alive everything in the park was. While there were the usual greens, browns and grays the wealth of different types of flowering plant and Lilly presented the eyes with a feast of color and contrast.
At one point our guide paused at a small pond surrounded by flowers. She pulled out a big net, and began to scoop moss and floating debris from the nearby pool. Then with a skilled hand she carefully upended the nets into a water filled tub. This allowed us to look at and learn about all of the micro-organisms that call the local waters home.
If you’re a fan of birds and nature I highly recommended the Oasi di Alviano…yes, even or perhaps especially if its raining. The opportunity to spend time immersed in the local nature while still being in such convenient proximity to Umbria’s nearby towns was a welcome treat and one I’d gladly repeat given the chance.