Spring Watch 2014 – Migration at its finest!

April 23, 2014 5:39 pm

By Anders Gray, Camp Volunteer

Migration at its finest!

Kestrel and Red-footed Falcon

Having volunteered with BirdLife on six occasions now, it is safe to say I have experienced a fair few things, the good and the bad. Particular moments stick in my mind like arriving back from a morning watch with my hands covered in the blood of a Montagu’s harrier which was shot 10 metres in front of me and seeing a Turtle Dove barely making it in off the sea just to be met with a barrage of shots. Of course, the bad moments are what you automatically remember, but seeing injured birds being released and watching the migration of birds with out any shots or hunting is what the camp is about.

As everyone knows, Malta has a reputation for its illegal hunting on protected species and its spring hunting on Turtle dove and Quail; but all this aside, Malta is a truly great place to watch bird migration in action. On the afternoon of the 21st April, myself and two other volunteers were sent to Delimara, a notoriously bad hunting spot in the south of the island. We set off slightly earlier than other groups due to the fact that the birds were arriving in off the sea in large numbers.

Wood Warbler

We arrived at our first watch point, opposite a firework factory, set in a valley known for its large roosts and for its illegal hunting. After setting up the telescope and video camera, we were ready for action. Immediately we noticed huge numbers of Swifts, Swallows and House Martins, in every direction. A Honey Buzzard was next to follow with a couple of Kestrels not far behind. I could tell something magical was taking place. As the minutes ticked by, a continuous trickle of birds could be seen, I didn’t know which direction to look in . Marsh, Montagu’s and Pallid harriers, Kestrels, Bee Eaters, Golden Orioles and passerines of many species were arriving. We moved up the valley to check other areas and soon came to a stand-still when just one field contained 6 Lesser Kestrels, a Red-footed Falcon, 2 Montagu’s and 3 Marsh Harriers. We watched these birds for a good half hour before moving on to check the rest of the area. Whinchats and Wheatears were on every bush, whilst over head Red-Rumped Swallows, Pallid Swifts and an Alpine Swift glided through the air among their more common cousins. Flycatchers, Redstarts, pipits, wagtails and warblers could be seen in every bush, it was truly spectacular.


Several thousand birds had arrived during that afternoon and to be there to witness it was amazing. It turns out that we were the only team to witness the spectacle that day which makes it feel even more special. Certainly one of my highlights.

That afternoon showed me that Malta can be a peaceful and a great place to watch birds, without having to worry about birds being shot or running into confrontation with hunters. Among everything I have experienced since I started volunteering in April 2010, Malta has shown me that although the situation of illegal hunting and spring hunting is bad, there are positive and amazing spectacles taking place and its not as hard as you think to witness it!


Photos by Anders Gray and Roger Lucken.


BirdLife Malta has been campaigning against illegal and unsustainable bird hunting on the Maltese islands for more than 50 years. If it was not for all of our work, we would not have reached the point we are at now, with the vast majority of people on Malta wanting to see spring hunting ended. Now is the time to turn that dream in to reality.
There are several ways you can help us:
  • You can help our campaign at a political level: click here to write to your MEP and ask them to support this urgent call for action to stop spring hunting in Malta.
  • Join BirdLife Malta to support our work for birds and nature in the Maltese Islands. As a member you will receive our regular members’ magazine, Bird’s Eye View, and email updates about our work. Your membership fee will help to make sure we can continue fight for birds and nature.
  • Make a donation towards our Stop Spring Hunting Campaign at http://igg.me/at/stopspringhunting  You can also help spread the word about our campaign – share this page and our video about spring hunting through Facebook and Twitter – please ask your friends and family to share and donate to our campaign if they can. #stopspringhunting

By working together we can end spring hunting on Malta forever.

The League Against Cruel Sports have been supporting Spring Watch and Raptor Camp for a number of years.  Security for this camp has been paid for by Stiftung Pro Artenvielfalt,  ensuring the safety of our volunteers.