Lake Frassino Nature Reserve
Lake Frassino is a large moraine-dammed lake located on the border between Lombardy and Veneto, in the municipality of Peschiera del Garda. The Lake Frassino nature reserve has a total area of approximately 80 hectares, 33 of which are occupied by the lake, which is approximately 800 metres long along the major axis, and 15 metres deep at the deepest points, a considerable depth for this type of lake. The splendid moraine hills located south of Lake Garda form the geographical and natural setting of this small lake.
The area of the lake and its surroundings provide a haven and means of survival for a huge variety of animal and plant species, some of which are extremely significant since they can be found in only a few other sites in the province of Verona. In 1994 the public administration began the procedure to establish the nature reserve and protect this small treasure chest of biodiversity. In 2000 Lake Frassino became a biotope of European importance to be safeguarded (S.C.I. – Site of Community Importance), a protected nature reserve for its characteristic flora and fauna.
FLORA AND FAUNA
In recent years a number of ornithological studies, such as those carried out by the Verona Birdwatching association, have highlighted the rich variety of local avifauna. At least 160 species of birds have been detected in the reserve, approximately forty of which are nesting. However, the lake is particularly important during the winter months as a safe haven for diving ducks, the common pochard and the tufted duck in particular. Other species of wintering ducks include the greater scaup, the ferruginous duck, the mallard, the northern shoveller, the common teal, the Eurasian wigeon, the red-crested pochard and the gadwall; the velvet scoter, the smew, the goldeneye, the northern pintail and the common shelduck are rarer. The great cormorant, as well as various species of herons, can be seen quite often during both winter and summer months (the little bittern, the purple heron and sometimes also the grey heron nest here). Other birds nesting here include the Cetti’s warbler, the reed warbler, the great reed warbler, the long-tailed tit, tits, finches, as well as the great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, the common coot and the common moorhen. A number of raptors also visit the lake, but the Eurasian marsh harrier and the Eurasian hobby are the only ones to occasionally nest here. The marshy land around the lake favours a rich variety of important plant species: in addition to paludal shrubs and reeds, there is a rare wood of ancient poplars and willows, home to several animal species, including the endangered Italian agile frog (Rana latastei), which is threatened with extinction. This habitat also provides a number of fish species, such as the common rudd, the tench, the common carp and the northern pike, with favourable conditions in which to lay their eggs.
a couple of tufted ducks
Lake Frassino is particularly important during the winter months as a safe haven for diving ducks, the common pochard and the tufted duck in particular. These ducks fly for many kilometres, travelling mainly from central-eastern Europe, to winter in the Lake Garda area. The tufted duck has an even longer journey since it usually nests further north than the common pochard, which prefers temperate areas. They spend the daylight hours on the waters of Lake Frassino and then move to nearby Lake Garda for the night. Here they can feed on the Dreissena polymorpha (a bivalve mollusc, known as zebra mussel), which is the main food source for the tufted duck during the winter months. The lake has slowly become an oasis for these two diving ducks, which they use as a peaceful daytime resting place. It is also an ideal spot from a logistical point of view: they just need to fly for a few minutes to spend the night at Lake Garda and dive into its waters, which abound in the zebra mussels they love to eat.
During the second half of the 20th century, these two species grew in number and their range expanded towards the south-west due, at least as far as the tufted duck is concerned, partially to its capacity to adapt and settle also in small bodies of water, such as park ponds, and to the appearance of the Dreissena polymorpha. In just a few years the two dozen tufted ducks and common pochards counted in 1989 have increased to 4,000 – 5,000 individuals. Unlike in the rest of Italy, the tufted duck has always been present in large numbers, and Lake Frassino is now the most important Italian site for the wintering of this species, with a third of all the tufted ducks present in Italy.
Thanks to its rich variety of bird species, Lake Frassino attracts large numbers of birdwatchers.
“Birdwatching involves the pleasure of observing wild birds in their natural environment, discovering their fascinating world of sounds and colours and understanding their behaviour; it provides the emotion of glimpsing a hen looking after her offspring among the leaves, of raising your eyes to the sky and seeing two raptors fighting over a prey or even of coming across a rare species and observing it together with your friends.” – (Ali del Frassino by Maurizio Sighele – Associazione Verona Birdwatching)
We recommend reading, looking and “listening” to the amazing “Ali del Frassino” book created by the Verona Birdwatching association (www.veronabirdwatching.org) to understand and disseminate the beauty of the Frassino nature reserve.
FRASSINO NATURE RESERVE: A PREHISTORIC OASIS
The lake also features a pile-dwelling site,included since June 2012 on the UNESCO world heritage list of “Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps”, which comprises pile-dwelling sites located around the Alps in other five countries: Austria, France, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland. Although it is a small moraine-dammed basin, Lake Frassino is extremely important in terms of the amount of ceramics found: given that it is a peat bog and a closed lake with no wave motion, the finds were far more intact than in any other coeval sites.
The settlements were placed on the World heritage list as they are a unique group of exceptionally well-preserved and culturally rich archaeological sites, forming one of the most important sources for the study of early agrarian societies in the region. In particular, the Italian archaeological areas testify to the prehistoric pile-dwelling communities that existed here from 5,000 to 500 B.C. Moreover, they reveal the use of land and marine resources, a typical feature of cultures between the Neolithic and the Bronze Ages in Europe.
The waterlogged ground provided the perfect anaerobic environment for the conservation of wood, food remains, tools and artefacts also made of organic materials, which would have otherwise perished. This makes these sites extremely interesting from a scientific point of view for the study of the most ancient European agrarian societies through 4,000 years of human history. Sophisticated equipment and modern survey techniques have made it possible to reconstruct the evolution of the climate changes, the environment and the civilization process from the Neolithic to the Iron Age with utmost precision.