The summer of 2018 will be remembered for the record number of Greater Flamingos which visited our Għadira Nature Reserve! At one time we had no less than 14 flamingos at the Mellieħa reserve at one go, and this led BirdLife Malta to open the reserve to the public three times in August despite the fact that the reserves are normally closed during this period for the summer break.
It was the 4th of August 2018, at around 6.45pm, when people swimming at Għadira Bay were treated to an unusual site when a flock of eight flamingos flew over the bay before eventually entering the reserve to settle there. Initially a bigger flock of over 60 flamingos was spotted in the area circling low over the bay, but at one time eight of the birds decided to leave the flock and tried to land in the sea. Eventually the eight flamingos entered the reserve whilst the remaining flamingos continued on their journey north. These eight flamingos roosted at BirdLife Malta’s nature reserve overnight and remained on site for the following days and weeks. They were all juveniles, probably not more than two or three months old.
The eight newcomers joined another two Greater Flamingos which were already at Għadira. The first of these, which can now be considered a ‘resident’ of Għadira, has been at the reserve for over a year after it was rescued from Armier Bay last year. It was released at Għadira in September 2017 together with another flamingo which continued on its migration soon after. The other flamingo was retrieved by BirdLife Malta earlier this summer, after it was found stranded at the Freeport Terminal in Birżebbuġa by Freeport workers who rescued it and handed it over to the members of the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit of the Malta Police Force. After being examined by the government vet, the following day it was ringed and released by BirdLife Malta at Għadira where it is still residing.
In the following days more flamingos – mostly juveniles – kept coming in after they were recovered by police and BirdLife Malta after ending up stranded, mostly due to fatigue and exhaustion whilst they were on their migration. In one particular case just a couple of days after the eight juvenile flamingos roosted at Għadira, another exhausted young flamingo landed on the sand at Ramla Bay in Gozo, entertaining sunbathers who were swimming in the area. Visibly hungry and exhausted, the young bird was quickly surrounded by lots of people and children and did not seem at all bothered by human presence. It was retrieved some time later by an ERA (Environment & Resources Authority) official who was called on site. After being handed over to the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), the flamingo was examined by the Government vet and was certified as fit for release in a few days.
Another flamingo was picked up by officials of the Animal Welfare Department from Dingli, and yet another from the bay in Marsaskala by the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit of the police after its officials were called on site by a member of the public.
It was on August 15th that BirdLife Malta released these three flamingos at Għadira to join the others after they were successfully rehabilitated.
The special openings of Għadira for the general public took place on Wednesday 8th August (8am-11pm) and on the following two consecutive Saturdays (11th and 18th August, between 7am and 10am). Hundreds of families with children flocked to Għadira to see the unusual spectacle and they were not disappointed! The unusual event also attracted the attention of the media, with many media outlets visiting the reserve to take photos of the beautiful birds to publish on their newspapers and news portals, and footage to air during their news bulletins. We also prepared interactive games for the children visiting Għadira such as flamingo face painting and a chance to do some flamingo arts and crafts, among other things. Entry to all the special open days was free and no booking was required.
People filled up the visitors’ centre and the birdwatching hide, taking photographs and looking for the best spot from where to admire the pretty flamingos using binoculars provided by the reserve’s staff. The eight juvenile flamingos could be easily distinguished from the other two because they were fully grey since they were juveniles which only hatched earlier this year. The other two displayed clear shades of pink and resemble more the typical flamingo as we know it since they are older.
Click below the pictures to watch footage taken during the first of the three special open days held at Għadira.