I'm back from 9 days at BirdLife Malta Raptor Camp 2012, my 4th trip out there to help the fight against illegal hunting. As usual, I had a great time, with some quality birding alongside legendary people.
I felt more than ever that our presence was allowing birds to pass through the island unharmed, as the sight of BirdLife teams acted as a deterrent to hunters fearful that they might get caught. Although I saw frequent illegal activity, I only saw one protected bird shot down, a Little Egret at Delimara, in a horrendous 'deja-vu' of last year.
However, I saw more birds with gunshot injuries than I have before (suggesting continues hunting in the areas we couldn't cover), and there were many incidents seen by other teams, Honey Buzzards, Kestrels, Bee-eaters and Marsh Harriers were shot at regularly, illegal electronic lures were used routinely ( I saw one group of hunters trying to lure down a passing Grey Heron!), and so far 21 dead or injured protected species have been handed in to BirdLife by the Maltese public.
Here's a few photos, not a great batch as I was too busy trying to keep an eye on things......
|Marsh Harrier juvenile|
|Marsh Harrier with shot damaged wing, a frequent sight|
|Blue Rock Thrush- National Bird of Malta (since they shot all the Maltese Falcons)|
|Montagu's Harrier, within the safety of the airport perimeter|
|Night Herons, part of a flock of 11 sensibly migrating after sunset|
|Osprey and Peregrine|
|Osprey, this one was shot at shortly afterwards, fortunately the bastards missed|
|Wryneck at Ghadira reserve, fenced and gated to keep hunters out|
|Black Kite with shot damaged primaries|
|I spent my first night on the island watching over 2 roosting Black Storks, we think that they made it off the island, but have information that the other 2 they arrived with were shot.|
|4 more Black Storks a few days later, these roosted on the lawless island of Gozo, we don't know their fate|
|Most nights hundreds, if not thousands of Yellow Wagtails came in to roost in reedbeds, and often the flocks included several Black-headed Wagtails, easily picked out by call|
|Honey Buzzards were the stars of the show, and generally the most frequent large raptor, mostly juvenile, in every possible plumage, and often giving stunning close views|
For more similar photos, check out my album from Raptor Camp last year on Facebook
As usual, i'll end by telling how you can help. Joining a camp next year is of course one way, but if you can't make it, how about joining BirdLife Malta. They desperately need all the funding they can get ,and every extra member gives them more weight when lobbying the Maltese government and the E.U. Remember, these are 'our' birds being shot at here.