The steep cliffs of Southern Sardinia jut from the Mediterranean Sea into a cobalt sky like wind-whipped waves of sandstone. Poking from tiny storm-carved caves in the rock are Eleonora's falcons.
The birds are so beautiful that Sardinia's 14th-century queen, Eleanora d'Arborea, decreed the cliffs and nearby area off-limits to human settlement. Her decree has been honored 600-plus years.
The falcons soar from Madagascar across Africa in May to breed and nest in Sardinia. They live on the Italian island till October, when they return to the land of lemurs. In Sardinia, the birds rely on the nearly inaccessible cliffs to keep their chicks safe from predators.
My husband was born in Rome and still has family there. When we visit, we set aside time to escape Italy's busy capital city to explore the countryside.
While we expect to see breathtaking landscapes and discover pristine swimming spots, we never expect to see much wildlife—nothing on par with the diversity to which we're accustomed in the USA, our home country, and especially in California, our home state.
But this past September we were astonished by how many birds we saw in Sardinia. Besides the fabulous falcons, we were treated to flamingos, kestrels and buzzards. So many birds!
But that's not all that impressed us: the sanctuary's trails were meticulously maintained and featured gorgeous stone pavers in places to enhance the natural scenery, which included stunning seaviews. A little research taught us that the organization Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli (or LIPU) is responsible for maintaining the habitat.
My husband and I decided to donate to LIPU, not only to support the thriving bird populations but also because we were grateful as travelers to be able to have such wonderful access to them. May the group and the falcons it protects live on forever.