Raptor camp 13: A mixture of experiences

October 9, 2013 5:13 pm
By D.

D. has been active with BirdLife Malta for some time. She’s dismayed at the situation in Malta and wants to distill her love for birds into the Maltese community. This is her second Raptor camp. 
Low Honey Buzzard
Photo: Robert Spanring
Looking through our binoculars we see a large raptor coming our way. It’s a Honey Buzzard, which

as it gets closer we can see is a beautiful dark juvenile. It’s coming down too low! I can feel a pit in my stomach as I see it flying closer over the hunters. It is it’s first journey back to Africa and could be it’s last. I will it to fly higher, but it swoops even lower along the coastline and right within range. It’s an easy shot, especially when it momentarily stops in a tree. It flies further along. We can’t see it and rush to the car to follow it. We see it higher up and it looks like it’s heading out to sea. We drive back the other way and there is no sign. It has headed out into the cloud!

Earlier, at the start of the shift, we heard shots coming from below the cliff where swallows had just flown down. A member of the team went to look and the hunter put his gun down and went into a bush. We split the team so that we could keep a really close eye on him. This is where the Honey Buzzard flew over so low. Would it have got away safely if we had not been there? We don’t think so.
It’s an amazing feeling to see a bird at risk and then see it fly off of Malta! It’s amazing to see these beautiful birds close as we do sometimes, but a good day at camp is to see the birds flying high over Malta and knowing they have a good chance of making it. The other day we saw lots of birds and not a single shot for hours. It was almost like birdwatching somewhere other than in Malta.
We have met some amazing Maltese people too out on the watches. People who care about the birds that pass over and want to be able to enjoy the countryside. One lady spotted a close and low flying male Marsh Harrier right behind me and was enthralled. I think she may be buying her own binoculars soon! After signing the petition for a referendum to ban spring hunting she left.
It was getting later and time for roosting. So much more dangerous now that the hunting is allowed to continue past three until seven in the evening. We are scanning everywhere. Someone spots a Honey Buzzard through a telescope flying really low, but it’s a long way in the distance. We cannot find it with binoculars. We cannot find it to video it to help protect it. The person with the telescope loses sight of the bird. We hear a shot and hope it wasn’t at the Honey Buzzard. Two men are seen running across a field, picking something up. We somehow manage to find them really quickly with the camcorder, but they jump into a car and drive out of sight. We are too far to see the number plate. There is no time to send someone to follow them. We are angry, sad and frustrated.
I am glad the lady had left.

A scope is very useful at Raptor Camp and can help identify birds, vehicles and occasionally other Raptor camp
teams! Photo: John Aldridge
How many do we not see? Some birds are handed in and have to be euthanised because they will never recover from their injuries. How many are left to die horribly?
We know there are many Maltese people who care, but it is time to make your voice heard! Sign the petition, join Birdlife as a member and come out and help at the camps. It is great to see more locals on the watch teams this year! The International camp volunteers are here to help you protect the World’s birds.

You can request a petition form by contacting [email protected]. Only people eligible to vote in the Maltese elections can sign. 

To support BirdLife Malta’s bird protection camps and other work to end illegal hunting in the Maltese Islands please Join BirdLife Malta

You can also DONATE to help us meet the ever increasing costs of the camps, including the purchasing of essential equipment for monitoring and recording illegalities like shooting at protected birds to support police prosecution of illegal hunters.

Raptor Camp 2013 is being supported by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, who have provided photo/video-scope equipment for use in BirdLife Malta activities to prevent and detect illegal hunting.