Dawn at Ghadira
It’s no secret that August in Malta is hot, but at least the dawn offers a refreshing start to a day; where walking outside is a cool pleasure and not a burning chore! It is the same for nature, as many species are most active at this time, utilizing these first daylight hours to feed and operate before it gets too warm. When navigating the trails of Ghadira Nature Reserve, you first need to watch your head; or else a feathery branch of African Tamariskmight slap you in the face; hitting you with dew and salt particles. Ground salt is absorbed through the roots of this specially adopted tree, and deposited through the leaves in fine crystals that glimmer in the sun.
A glance out across the brackish lagoon and it is clear that migrant waders are still passing through. The salinity of the pools may be high, but there is abundant food in the murky shallows… a walk up to the water’s edge and the surface literally ripples with life… the rare Killifishare breeding, and present in their hundreds. The males, with their orange tails and neon blue stripes are simply stunning, whilst the larger brown females linger nearby. There are brine shrimps too, tiny and brown, their internal organs revealed by transparent skin. It is these creatures that waders find so irresistible at Ghadira. Among the piping cast, a Grey Plover has been present for the past few days. Don’t let the name put you off, this plover in splendid breeding plumage is truly in a league of its own… with jet black belly, throat and face, its scaled back feathers seem silver rather than grey.
Among the cast of familiar feathers, there are surprises also… among the flocks of Yellow Wagtails paying us a visit, you may be lucky enough to pick out a Citrine Wagtail, a rare species that was only recorded for the first time a couple of years ago in Malta. Though attractive in breeding plumage, the ones that paid a visit to Ghadira are juveniles and more unassuming, but their adventure more than makes up for it! A bird of Russia and the East, they have only recently started to colonise Europe, with small numbers breeding in Estonia and Poland. With this westward expansion, we can expect to see more of this Eastern specialty in the coming years.
The sun climbs high as the morning drags, and the clearings become oppressive with the heat, however green the trees and bushes remain. There is only one flower left, but it’s a beauty… Sea Daffodils are bulbous perennials, with large white petals that explode from spirally twisting leaves. Though numerous at Ghadira, they are scarce in Malta, as they favour rare sand dune habitat. Ramla Bay in Gozo is also a good place to view them, as described in p8 of July’s Bird’s Eye View. Golden Bay is also another place to spot them.