Springtime often signifies the start of new beginnings and new life. In Malta, this long-anticipated time of year can come in with a bang, bringing with it all of the miracles of nature that can leave us all in awe! The short winter months quickly come to a close and by February the days already start to get longer. By March the full bloom of spring flowers light up the countryside with kaleidoscope colours with the fresh aromas acting as the perfect natural relaxant. The reds of the Sulla on the clay steppes mingle with the yellows of the still blooming Cape Sorrels. In the garrigue orchids bloom; Maltese Pyramidal, Spider, Common Pyramidals and Scented Bug…many people are still amazed that these precious species even grow in Malta. All the vetches, peas and an assortment of flowers also start to pop up and decorate our green spaces…With such a varied species list of it’s easy to become lost on what to look out for!
In the skies, migration is in full swing with Swallows and Swifts feeding in the warming air. The distinctive feathers of Hoopoes can be easily seen in open areas with Marsh Harriers and Lesser Kestrels hunting over ahead or above the golden fields of grain. At sea, large numbers of Garganey and Pintail congregate in the sparkling waters of the Gozo channel before heading northeast in the evenings whist the first warblers appear – Subalpines, Willow and Wood – little gems of colour, adding their bright flashes to the blooming almond and fruit trees. The vibrant plumage of Purple Herons can be seen flying in V- formations with Grey and Black-crowned Night Herons Waders as our nature reserves are brimming with waders refueling from their long journeys from Africa back to their nesting areas in the Arctic.
By now, the local Sardinian and Spectacled Warblers are also already flying to and fro from their neat little nests tucked away in a hidden bush or tree. An explosion of calls from the Cetti’s Warbler fill the air – long before you are lucky enough to see it while Collared Doves can be spotted launching themselves into mid-air trying its best to impress its mate.
Not only are the Maltese Islands a prime place to admire the sights of bird migration, the temperate Mediterranean climate provides the ideal environment for dragonflies to sun themselves before taking flight as they emerge from the drying rock pools. Emperors in their immaculate blues, Broad Scarlets, Purple Dropwings and Black-tailed Skimmers all feel the warming days and patrol the few remaining wetlands or reservoirs which retain some water before summer’s heat wave hits!
Spring is a time of awakening and an inspiring time to be in nature, before the sun gets too hot and the countryside quickly dries up, but not before the flowers have spread their seeds preparing them for the next autumn rains!
At BirdLife Malta, we work hard to create safe spaces for nature that help our unique flora and fauna thrive. Come and enjoy springtime with us this year by visiting our nature reserves and learn all about the wonderful wildlife that call Malta home in spring!
By Ray Vella, Reserves Warden at BirdLife Malta