Spring Watch Malta 2013: Daily Update #2

April 17, 2013 5:16 pm

Monday 15th April

Today is the first legal hunting day of the camp and even at quarter past five in the morning, as the volunteers get into their teams and receive directions to their watch-points, there is an air of anticipation amongst the participants. After yesterday, no-one quite knows what to expect this morning, in terms of numbers of birds migrating, or in terms of illegal hunting. Nobody wants to see any birds being shot down, but they do want to see birds.
A Spring Watch Participant scans the horizon for migrating birds.

After a relatively slow day on the migration front yesterday, this morning there was a push of Turtle
Doves coming through. Somewhat ironically, we know this because almost every team saw several of these beautiful birds shot down, one team recording a dozen killed in the course of the morning. How many of these will be declared by the hunters that shot them? During the spring huting season, every hunter is obliged to send an SMS to a designated reporting number for each Turtle Dove or Quail shot, but past evidence suggests this is not being done honestly and that under-reporting is common. Nearly 2,000 shots were recorded by the five teams between 6am and 8.30am. How few of them will we be expected to believe found their mark?

A Barn Swallow passes overhead. Barn Swallows migrate in large flocks, often together with Swifts and Martins, and can often be seen performing aerobatic maneuvers above vegetated areas and especially over water, catching insects on which they feed.

Afternoon, and the coming of the 3pm hunting ban didn’t deter some, with all but one team recording shots in their respective locations. This must be one of the only times you will ever meet a birder who is hoping to see an empty sky.

With few birds of prey seen, attentions turned to the smaller birds. Flocks of Swallows, House Martins and Swifts, Collared Flycatchers in their smart black and white uniforms, Bee-eaters, Golden Orioles, Tawny Pipits, Whinchats and Wood Warblers, punctuated with the odd harrier and kestrel, kept the afternoon interesting.