After 24 days of surveying the Maltese countryside for signs of illegal hunting, our annual Raptor Camp is now finished. We were joined by a group of dedicated and hardworking international volunteers from Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom – some who have been participating for many years, gaining invaluable knowledge and experience to pass on to the newer recruits!
For two days we were also joined by a group from Euronatur, an environmental organisation that was established with one focus in mind: to protect wildlife across national borders. The team of 11 conservationists from the Balkans – Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina – accompanied us during daily operations to learn about how BirdLife Malta investigates wildlife crime and the cooperation that is involved between different organisations (such as the government and police).
Incidentally, one of the highlights of Raptor Camp was on the 26th September, when two juvenile White Storks turned up to roost in Zurrieq. They were bearing Serbian rings but actually we found out that these birds had been ringed as chicks in Bosnia-Herzegovina just a few weeks earlier on the 1st September! The siblings had flown to Malta together and we organised teams to watch them overnight and make sure that they left the island safely. The following day, we observed them both gaining height before continuing on with their migration.
A couple of days before this, we also had a further three unringed White Storks roost in Birżebbuġa; these birds attracted a lot of positive attention from the local residents, who kindly provided our teams watching over the birds with coffee and cake! These birds also left Malta safely the following day.
Another highlight was on the 2nd of October when we were able to successfully release a Black Kite back into the wild! The bird had been in our care for nearly two months after it was found illegally shot by a member of the public in Xrobb l-Għaġin – it was a great moment to see it flying free again!
There were many avian spectacles witnessed throughout the camp as well, including hundreds of European Bee-eaters seen over a couple of the days… a fantastic sight and sound. Flocks of Lesser Kestrels, many Barn Swallows and Yellow Wagtails, several Greater Flamingos, as well as various raptor species such as Honey Buzzards, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Common Kestrels, Red-footed Falcons, and Eurasian Hobbies were all enjoyed. A Booted Eagle turned up on one of the days, which I had the privilege of watching at Girgenti valley.
One evening I particularly enjoyed was at Binġemma Chapel; my team and I were watching a small group of Marsh Harriers coming down to roost in the vegetation and while observing a stunning sunset, there was also a Hobby flying around during the fading light chasing after bats. It was a beautiful sight.
Our Raptor Camp report will be available shortly, where you can see more regarding what we found from an illegal hunting perspective. Although the camp is over, the work of our conservation team never stops and we are very busy now with looking after injured birds in our care, as well as continuing on with our surveillance work of the countryside. If you would like to support the work that we do, please consider volunteering some of your spare time to help birds, join us as a member or support our latest campaign #ISAVEBIRDS here to help us save more injured birds!
By Alice Tribe, BirdLife Malta Conservation Officer and Raptor Camp 2017 Coordinator