Spring Watch Malta 2013: Daily Update #3

April 19, 2013 7:32 am

Tuesday 16th April

Day three of the camp, and we’re all- staff and volunteers, locals and visitors- starting to settle into a new circadian rhythm- up while it’s still dark, out in the countryside until breakfast (after the sun has been up for some time) and watching, waiting and hoping most of the hours of the day, for birds and their safe passage through the gauntlet of the Maltese Islands.
Spring Watch teams saw Kestrels and Marsh Harriers coming under fire this morning as they left their roosts. Photo by Michela Checchi

The gauntlet- all 316 square kilometers and more than 9,000 shotgun wielding hunters of it- is waiting to bring birds crashing down to earth in a hail of lead shot. Although only two species- Turtle Dove and Quail- can be hunted according to Malta’s spring hunting laws, no migrating bird is safe from indiscriminate shooting.

This morning was the the busiest (in terms of shooting) of the camp so far. More Turtle Doves were seen migrating and more were seen shot down, with volunteers at one location hearing more than 700 shots. Kestrels and Marsh Harriers also came under fire as they left their roosts early in the morning.
Later on, during the afternoon shift, some of the volunteers were encouraged by some positive encounters with some local passers by, who praised their efforts and bemoaned the lawlessness that is commonplace in the Maltese countryside they have to share with the hunters. One team spoke to a local man who complained about the hunting, saying it started long before the season opened, while another team met a lady who told them she was regularly woken up at five o’clock in the morning by a volley of five shots form an illegally modified shotgun.
A few raptors were spotted coming into roost as the evening approached, including two Red-footed Falcons and a Hobby. There were also some sightings of songbirds- an Icterine Warbler, flocks of Yellow Wagtails and one Great Reed Warbler- and some waders, including a Greenshank and a Snipe.
What will day four bring?
Yellow Wagtails perching on a dry twig.