Spring Watch Malta 2013: Daily Update #1

April 16, 2013 11:05 am

Sunday 14th April

This morning, two teams went out into the countryside for what we thought should be a nice quiet morning birdwatching- there is no hunting on Sundays. But this expectation was rapidly shattered when the teams arrived at the Dwejra Lines and immediately started to hear intermittent shots coming for the valley and beyond, both from the direction of the airport and from the now notorious illegal hunting hotspot of Mtahleb.
One team stayed in Dwejra watching over a group of Montagu’s Harriers that had roosted in the valley overnight. 15 Monty’s were seen coming up from the valley and leaving safely to the north-east. But at least one was shot by poachers before it was able to gain enough height to get out of range of their shotguns.
After staying to enjoy the sight (and sound) of a flock of Bee-eaters flying over and then perching on some overhead wires nearby, the other team followed the sound of the gunshots coming from Fiddien and Mtahleb. Unable to home in on the origin of the shooting, they continued to Dingli, where they again heard several shots.
Both teams had some nice sightings- among them a Great Reed Warbler, Whinchats and wheatears.

This shot Bee-eater was too gravely injured to recover and sadly had to be put to sleep. Photo by David Tipling

Then the calls started to come in. First, an injured Cuckoo found in Chadwick Lakes. Then a Bee-eater in Baħrija and later on a Pallid Harrier in Gozo. The Cuckoo and Bee-eater were both taken to a vet immediately and confirmed as having been shot. The Bee-eater, with one wing so badly damaged it was barely hanging together, was to gravely hurt to be saved and had to be put to sleep, but here was good news for the Cuckoo, which had only been grazed by the pellets. The bird is being rehabilitated and will hopefully soon be well enough to be released to continue on its migration to Europe.

It has been an emotional morning, and the camp hasn’t even officially started yet!

A Spring Watch volunteer carefully handles the shot Common Cuckoo recovered this morning for its veterinary examination. Luckily for this bird, its injuries were minor and it fit for rehabilitation. Photo by David Tipling

In the afternoon, we had the first official shift of Spring Watch 2013. Shooting continued in the afternoon (no hunting on Sunday, remember?), but fortunately the birds seemed to be elsewhere. After the events of the morning, it was a welcome relief.

A migrating Redstart poses for a photo by David Tipling

There were some nice sightings had (punctuated by the occasional gunfire): strong swift traffic (one
Alpine in amongst it), swallows, a couple of Collared Flycatchers, Kestrels, Marsh Harriers and Whinchats. Let’s hope for more afternoons like this (with maybe a few more birds!) but no more shot ones.

For more information about spring hunting in Malta, visit www.birdlifemalta.org