The pond of Pauli Maiori, a treasure guarded by the reeds.

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The reeds glow in the golden light of the early morning. Around, the metallic gray of dawn still resists, ephemeral. A pool of water surrounds the slender trunk of a young tree, where the small ballast rises to become the path, cut in the furrows of the walkway by a long strip of grass. A flock of lapwings passes floating in its soft hesitations. “It had to face many bushfires. Fortunately, the flames do not affect the rhizomes, and the reed bed is able to rise again in a short period", says Walter Piras, Alea's environmental guide who accompanies us on a visit to Pauli Maiori's hidden treasure. Palmas Arborea has just turned into countryside. In the distance the muffled contrails of cars rise and die. The path is cool in the dew and the south-eastern wind that has swept the muddy earth for days has faded down into a breeze.

Low in the sky the brownish shape of a marsh harrier flies: “The reeds represent a vast and welcoming dormitory for many species. A perfect hunting space for the hawk. In the last census, dozens of specimens were identified. They come from central and northern Europe. Some couples are sedentary. Here, look, are two cormorants, and a water rail, there, on the left. A relative of the coot and moorhen. Rather elusive”, explains Piras, dropping the binoculars on his chest and showing on the guide a round and blue figure with a long red beak. On the right the mirror of a small light emerges. Pauli Maiori, in addition to being a Ramsar site, is also a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Site of Community Interest (SIC). There is no risk of meeting carbines for the porciglione and the sultan chicken, which has found ideal conditions here to live and multiply. The pond is one of the most important areas in Europe for the friendly long-legged rail, with its red shield on the head and its many shades of blue.

The small arched wooden bridge that crosses the Merdegani stream is good news. Fires and floods have put a strain on the structures created for the usability of the pond with the 2006/2008 SIC management plan. The reeds run along the shore, multiplied on the water together with the clouds, a small wooden boat and the branches of a solitary eucalyptus, the vanguard of a forest along which what is left of the walkway stretches along. The scrub grows wild in an impression of greens, bronzes and yellows. A gray heron passes by with its relaxed and well-rounded flight. At dawn he has left the pond to visit the surrounding area, occupy the edges of fields and canals in search of small fish and amphibians.

The path is adventurous. The walkway is interrupted, it is torn off on one side, joined in its vacant spaces by a slat. Crows and lapwings pass by. The verse of the mallard arrives distinctly. “Pauli Maiori is an almost unchanged context. Birds are used to the presence of boats, the 'ciu' of S. Giusta fishermen, but not to cars and individuals on foot. Before fires and floods, the walkway ended with a tower from which it was possible to enjoy the spectacle. But besides this, the most appropriate way to enjoy the wonders of this pond is just on the water's surface", says Piras.

The dense vegetation ends on the edge of a plowed field, the border between the territory of Palmas Arborea and that of Santa Giusta. Then, just beyond the screen of the reeds, the pond opens up, placid and bright in the high sun. Piras reviews the guests resting on the blue mirror: the teals, the tufted duck, the pochards, the great crested grebe, the cormorants engaged in social fishing, orderly and efficient in alternating their heads like a team of cyclists in a race. And the seagulls, and the coots. From the center of the thick reed, every now and then a rustle turns into a flight: some wood pigeons, a female marsh harrier, yellow in the plumage of the head.

“The country has never had a particularly intense relationship with Pauli Maiori. In the past it has been used as a space for grazing or for gathering wood, rush and bunting, or 'zinnigas' as we call them here. A truck passed twice a week to buy the material that would serve the weaving craftsmanship, very common in the Oristano area", says Andrea Pisu Massa, mayor of Palmas Arborea. “A few years ago we experimented a short hiking circuit. A small pier welcomed boats coming from Santa Giusta, and with bicycles it was then possible to visit the whole area, also open to walkers with the walkway and the birdwatching turret. Then the flood of 2013 and the bushfires made the structures unusable. It would be important to reactivate the circuit, extending the routes also to horse riding, very lively in these parts. Of course, we would need specialized guides. The municipality would be happy to participate in the training of the new environmental escorts".