Saturday, December 31, 2011

Malta year List 2011

With 2011 come to an end and we start looking forward to start a new year with lots of birding, here is my year list for this year! A year which will be remembered  apart from amazing birding experiences in Spain and Norway, for some good birding and ringing in Malta, Spoonbills in February, large Garganey flocks and other ducks in March, the great Honey Buzzard passage in April, the 200 strong flock of White Storks in May, raptor migration in September especially the Lesser-spotted Eagles and Booted Eagle plus loads of passerines in October and November! 8 lifers in all in marked in blue and Malta ticks (4) marked in green.

1.    Common Quail
2.     Common Shelduck
3.     Eurasian Wigeon
4.     Eurasian Teal
5.     Mallard
6.     Pintail
7.     Garganey
8.     Shoveler
9.     Ferruginous Duck
10. Pochard
11. Cory's Shearwater
12. Yelkouan Shearwater
13. Little Grebe
14. Great Crested Grebe
15. Black-necked Grebe
16. Black Stork
17. White Stork
18. Glossy Ibis
19. Eurasian Spoonbill
20. Little Bittern
21. Night Heron
22. Squacco Heron
23. Little Egret
24. Great White Egret
25. Cattle Egret
26. Grey Heron
27. Purple Heron
28. Northern Gannet
29. Great Cormorant
30. Lesser Kestrel
31. Common Kestrel
32. Red-footed Falcon
33. Merlin
34. Hobby
35. Eleonora's Falcon
36. Peregrine Falcon
37. Lesser Spotted Eagle
38. Short-toed Eagle
39. Booted Eagle
40. Common Buzzard
41. Honey-buzzard
42. Black Kite
43. Red Kite
44. Marsh Harrier
45. Pallid Harrier
46. Montagu's Harrier
47. Eurasian Sparrowhawk
48. Osprey
49. Water Rail
50. Little Crake
51. Spotted Crake
52. Moorhen
53. Common Coot
54. Common Crane
55. Oystercatcher
56. Black-winged Stilt
57. Avocet
58. Stone Curlew
59. Little Ringed Plover
60. Ringed Plover
61. Kentish
62. Dotterel
63. European Golden Plover
64. Little Stint
65. Temminck's Stint
66. Curlew Sandpiper
67. Dunlin
68. Ruff
69. Common Snipe
70. Great Snipe
71. Bar-tailed Godwit
72. Curlew
73. Common Redshank
74. Greenshank
75. Green Sandpiper
76. Wood Sandpiper
77. Marsh Sandpiper
78. Turnstone
79. Common Sandpiper
80. Mediterranean Gull
81. Black-headed Gull
82. Slender-billed Gull
83. Audouin's Gull
84. Lesser Black-backed Gull
85. Yellow-legged Gull
86. Caspian Tern
87. Sandwich Tern
88. Whiskered tern
89. Black Tern
90. Pomarine Skua
91. Collared Dove
92. Turtle Dove
93. Common Cuckoo
94. Short-eared Owl
95. European Nightjar
96. Alpine Swift
97. Common Swift
98. Pallid Swift
99. Common Kingfisher
100.European Bee-eater
101. Roller
102. Hoopoe
104. Woodchat Shrike
105. Golden Oriole
106. Sand Martin
107. Barn Swallow
108. House Martin
109. Red-rumped Swallow
110. Short-toed Lark
111. Sky Lark
112.Zitting Cisticola
113.Cetti's Warbler
114.Moustached Warbler
115.  Sedge Warbler
116.  Reed Warbler
117. Great Reed Warbler
118.  Icterine Warbler
119.  Blackcap
120.  Garden Warbler
121.  Common Whitethroat
122.  Spectacled Warbler
123.  Subalpine Warbler
124.  Sardinian Warbler
125.Western Orphean Warbler
126. Wood Warbler
127. Common Chiffchaff
128. Willow Warbler
129. Yellow-browed Warbler
132.  Common Starling
133. Blackbird
134.Song Thrush
136. Robin
137. Common Nightingale
138. Bluethroat
139.Black Redstart
140. Common Redstart
141.Moussier’s Redstart
143.Common Stonechat
144. Isabelline Wheatear
145. Northern Wheatear
146. Black-eared Wheatear
147. Blue Rock Thrush
148. Rock Thrush
149.Spotted Flycatcher
150. Collared Flycatcher
151. Pied Flycatcher
152. Red-breasted Flycatcher
153. Spanish Sparrow
154. Tree Sparrow
155. Dunnock
156. Tawny Pipit
157.  Tree Pipit
158.  Meadow Pipit
159.Red-throated Pipit
160.Water Pipit
161. Yellow Wagtail
162. Grey Wagtail
163.White Wagtail
164.Common Chaffinch
165. Greenfinch
167.Reed Bunting
168.Corn Bunting

Happy new year with even more birding experiences to all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spain :)

Currently I am at Gallocanta, Spain, with fellow Maltese birders. We're spending a week here in wonderful country, writing about the experience on our new blog: Enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

End of November

20th November: Ringed my 27th species, Meadow Pipit, at a good site for them. Enough open ground but still some growing trees to provide some cover for the nets. Did four Meadow Pipits, two Chiffchaffs and a Spanish Sparrow in all. 11 Meadow Pipits were ringed in all, some by a licensed ringer and another trainee. 
23rd Nov: Yet another species to add to the list! A Chaffinch this time at Simar, an adult female. Had eluded me so far with two ringed by other trainees on Comino and up to 9 ringed at Simar in one session but always when I was at uni. Ringed 24 birds in all, of course as always under supervision of a licensed ringer who is also my trainer with most being Chiffchaffs, with a few Robins and Blackcaps. Retrapped 2 Moustached warblers from earlier in the season, a record of 8 have been ringed at Simar this autumn, two of them at least seem to have decided to stay for a while. A curious retrap or rather retraps, were a pair of Sardinian warblers caught together, they had been first ringed this September when they had also been caught together...

One of eight Moustached Warblers ringed this autumn at Simar

Another session at Simar on the 25th. Quite varied with a Dunnock, two Reed Buntings (did 7 in all so far), a Song Thrush and a Sardinian Warbler apart from a few Chiffchaffs and Robins. Retrapped a Wryneck from earlier in the autumn, two Cetti's Warblers and a 1st year male Sardinian Warbler male first caught as a juvenile in July 2005! Its all black flight feathers contrasting to the 1st year which had half the secondaries tinged brown.
A good session on the 27th, up to 29 species with a Tree Sparrow. A Yellow-browed Warbler, the 4th record this autumn was caught too, so we had something to answer with to the birders seawatching and seeing a small passage of Shelduck and even better 5 Red-brested mergansers and a flock of 10 Wigeon.
Ringed my second Black Redstart, a 1st year male, three Blackcaps plus 9 chiffchaff and 2 Robin.
Yellow-browed Warbler, an annual vagrant in Malta, Photo by Adin Vella

Two Tree Sparrows, the bird on the right ringed today and the one on the left ringed in the early summer as a female with brooding patch, photo Adin Vella

The first bird ringed on the 30th at Simar, was a Black Redstart raising hopes for a good session but only 4 Chiffchaffs and 2 Spanish Sparrows were ringed. A retrap Kingfisher from the 14th September of this year, was the first I hand handled and a good compensation. We also retrapped the third Robin ringed this autumn, on the 3rd October.In the evening another short session at another site, with three Meadow Pipits, one for each trainee plus a few Chiffchaffs.

 Adult female Black Redstart ringed at Simar, note only slightly dark vane of 6th tail feather indicator of an adult bird. 

 Tomorrow and Sunday more ringing awaits! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November, a good month for ringing!

4th November, an other early start, but eager for another session of ringing at Simar. First catch included two Reed Buntings together with the usual Chiffchaffs and Robins, plus a Stonechat . Later I found a Moustached warbler in the net, a bird I was happy to add to the species I've ringed. Another Reed bunting too, this was going great! My first Wryneck, and a late Willow warbler made it 3 new species for the day! Ended off with yet another Moustached Warbler and a Song thrush.  A total of 73 birds ringed for the day.
After ringing we went for a seawatch which had it not been for a last minute find of a Short-eared owl would have been futile!
Chiffchaffs dominated on the 9th November, at Simar once again with 48 ringed in all. Two White Wagtails and two Reed buntings which I got to ring one of each was definitely the more exciting species. Even more when I had never seen a White wagtail in the hand.
A day of impatient waiting for the next session on 11th  November, one to highlighted by yet another species I had never ringed...Firecrest...3 of them! Only my second Grey wagtail and a Reed bunting made the morning even the more worthwhile. The Moustached Warbler ringed on the 4th November was retrapped. This was probably a record year for Moustached warlers at Simar, to date 6 have been ringed in total. 41 Chiffchaffs, 8 Robin, 3 Blackcap and a Sardinian warbler complete the picture for the day.
Not long to wait for the next session...the next day 12th November at Ghadira. Record of Dunnocks with a total of 37 of which I was extremely happy to ring 18, being a species not frequenting often on the list of Simar. The rest was mainly Chiffchaffs,  a few Robins and a Stonechat.
15th November, an evening session this time at Simar, coming cycling full speed from university. Not that it wasn't worthed! Got to ring a nice 1st year male Blackbird and a Song thrush in the first 10 minutes. Retraps of a Robin ringed last year and a Chiffchaff ringed last year February gears you on to continue ringing seeing the point of it all!
Yesterday 18th November at Simar was rather quiet, probably too much wind. 8 Chiffchaffs, 3 Robins, a Dunnock, a Blackcap and a Spanish Sparrow was all. A large flock of around 80 Mediterranean gulls ans few Black-headed gulls flying over the reserve being blown in by the wind are worth mentioning.
In the evening went to the Airport in hope of seeing Lapwings and Golden plovers, but got something better! Just before leaving spotted a raptor shortly soaring in the distance before it took a glide in the opposite direction from us. Called some birders in Buskett, who got better views and confirmed it as a Red kite! A rare bird of prey on our shores, and my first. Unfortunately it was seen to be shot at and although it escaped that encounter with little police presence in the countryside it is unlikely it would survive very long.
Today, 19th Nov, at Ghadira over 70 birds were ringed, with a good variety too, 2 Wrynecks, a White Wagtail, 2 Reed buntings apart from Robins, Chiffchaffs, Dunnocks and Blackcaps. A fellow trainee did most of the ringing while I got to ring my first Water Rail, which was great!

The adult female Water rail ringed at Simar

One of the Wryneck ringed at Ghadira this morning.

A first year female Reed bunting 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yet more bird ringing!

Thursday (27th) morning, up early to pack for yet another weekend at the ringing station on Comino. Finished from university at 15:00, a mad cycle home, quick shower, more than heavy rucksack full of food on back and off to catch the bus. 4:45 the ferry would leave, I arrived on the jetty just in time! I had made it and had three days of birding and ringing on paradise island!
Friday, mostly Robins (62) ringed but some other species to add a bit of variety. Got to ring my first Blue Rock Thrush, a beautiful 1st year male, and Black Redstart. A few Stonechats, Song thrush, a Spectacled warbler and a Skylark were also ringed. Of the latter there was a quite a passage but flocks kept their height, over 400 were counted. Not in the hand but still nice to see was the first Golden Plover of the season, a Peregrine falcon, a late Honey Buzzard and we flushed a Nightjar.
Malta's national bird; Blue Rock Thrush

Saturday - great day, with continuous passage of Robins, 166 ringed in all! Furthermore 18 Stonechats, 12 Song thrush, a Blackbird, 7 Chiffchaff, a Firecrest and a Chaffinch were ringed. I got to ring my first Dunnock and the only one of the day. A Reed bunting and a Red-throated Pipit were year ticks bringing it up to 168! Finally a Stone curlew at dusk.

Firecrest - one of the smallest birds in Europe only weighing 5.5g!

Sunday - Rather strong South easterly wind but still birds about. Unfortunately we had to put down the nets during the day as the ringer coming up couldn't make it, so the scheme had to continue later int he week. Second Blackbird of the weekend, a first year male, was one of the highlights for me at least, getting to ring it myself. Otherwise it was mostly Robins, 90, with only 2 Stonechat and one Song thrush. 13 Chiffchaff plus a late Willow warbler, a Meadow Pipit, another 3 Dunnocks, Chaffinch and a Firecrest. A Kestrel and Corn Bunting flew by as we left the station, walked to the ferry thinking it was 5 months till the spring ringing scheme and what
a long time that seemed!
Blackbird ringed on the 30th October
After two days of boring lectures, some more time for ringing, at Simar this time. Not that many birds but ringed my first Reed Bunting which was great as well as a Cetti's Warbler. A few Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Robins of course. A Blackcap form the 21st October was recaught, and had put on 8g of weight feeding on olives and other berries! A female Shoveler was seen, three Little Grebes fishing below the hide, a Snipe and a few Water Rail.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Autumn migration: Ringing mostly!

Passerines were to be the highlight this autumn both as Raptor migration ended early this year and in terms of numbers it was a poor passage and as I was often at Simar and spent a weekend on Comino were ringing is the main activity.

7th October: A Red-breasted Flycatcher down in Buskett valley made everyone happy, not only being scarce but quite a nice species.

12th October: Unfortunately too long gaps in birding thanks to having started university but at least two mornings off for birding! Went to Qawra, Etna visible and a full moon producing a small passage of ducks. 21 Pintail followed by another 5, 5 Shoveler and 2 Common Teal. 4 Linnets migrated overhead.

14th October: Quite a lot of activity at Simar: 3 Snipe, a Dunlin, fishing Kingfishers, Little grebe, Water Rail and a Common Teal. The best was a Yellow-browed warbler tough! Present for the last week nearly. Had not seen this almost annual autumn vagrant for a while now so it was about time I caught up on one. Other passerines where a Grey Wagtail, first Stonechats, a Subalpine Warbler, Gardern Warbler, first Chiffchaffs and a Great Reed Warbler amongst others. My first time ringing myself, thanks to a few Spanish Sparrows being cought, got also to ring a Robin and garden Warbler...needless to say I was extremely happy!

19th October: Simar again. A nice gathering of wildfowl present, best being a female Pochard, a species I had failed to see since 2007. Moreover an adult Pintail and 7 Common teals. Did not get to ring anything myself, but seeing a 1st year Bluethroat in the hand was great all the same! First time there were a good number of Chiffchaffs too.

1st year male Bluethroath! Great bird!

20th October: Up to Buskett after uni, an uninjured Scops Owl was to be released after being found on the side of a busy road. Amazing bird and good to see it fly off well. A Merlin was on the hunt for the numerous passerines in the valley. The last peak of Swallows with 400 gathering before dusk, as well as 150 House Martins. 8 Sky larks settled shortly in front of us, first Dunnock, 10 Chaffinches and a Linnet.

21st October: Day off! Started early at Simar. Lured a Grey Wagtail into the nets with mp3, my first in the hand and got to ring it myself. Furthermore ringed a Reed Warbler which we concluded was a of the subspecies fuscus. Quite a few Blackcaps in the olive orchard which I was happy to ring a few of!

In the evening we set of being nearly the whole gang of young birders, for a weekend on Comino. arrived a bit late for any real birding and the ringers present were closing the nets for the night. Had a delicious grilled suasages and burgers tough before we tried to sleep full of excitement for the two days to come!

22nd October: No luck with any Scops owls or nightjar at twighlight, but quite a few birds after that. Mostly Robins, but a few Song Thrushes, Starlings, Skylarks, Blackcaps and Stonechats gave a good mixture. Showers meant that we ahd to close the nets a few times but still got up to 87 birds ringed in total.

23rd October: Another futile early start, but once the sun was shining its first rays of light over the island something interesting was found in the net. Extracting it i tought it was a female Redstart, and was content at that. But when taking measurements it became apparent it was too small for a Common Redstart. There was only one possibility left! Moussier's redstart! 12th record of the species and the first ringed! Shortly afterwards yet another was cought from the same net! Must have come in together with the southerly winds! Needless to say the atmosphere around the station was happy one!

The lack of cloud cover resulted in the nets becoming too visible as the sun rose higher on the sky and the number of birds cought decresed to nearly none per round. We flushed a Nightjar but it managed to evade the nets. Still it was an amazing weekend, got to ring 40 birds myself which I couldn't grumble about and in great company! Even better this evening I'm off for another weekend on the island!

1st year female and male Blackcap!

One of 4 Skylarks ringed.

One of two Moussier's Redstarts, 1st year female, and a fiirst record in the hand for Malta!

Monday, October 3, 2011

End of Summer Holidays

Failed once again to keep updated due to spending most of the time in the field and when not working on the trip report on our holiday to Finnmark, Norway early this summer which will be posted soon. Had some exciting days however to conclude the summer holidays and I'll include only those.

A good seawatching morning was 24th September producing as highlights a Great White Egret, 2 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Slender-billed gull, the latter two species being yearers. As a bonus was 76 Grey heron in small flocks, a Purple heron and a small influx of birds of prey...42 Honey Buzzards and 33 Marsh harrier. We went up as quickly as possible to Buskett, we expected a peak. For this year it was. Nothing spectacular though with many migrating high up and on a broadfront. 220 Marsh harrier and c100 Honey buzzard in all. 3 Ospreys, a Pallid harrier, 2 Sparrowhawks and a juvenile Peregrine falcon made the day. On the 25th September the dark phase Eleonora's falcon that had been hunting in Buskett valley for a week was shot from inside the bird sanctuary, when on it favourite perch! As a mere compensation 2 Hoopoes were seen coming in from the sea, and four Ospreys sighted in the afternoon.

26th September: A lifer in the morning...a Black Tern seen mobbed by gulls. Only the second sighting this year, but even when coming in good numbers it had eluded me so far. Another interesting sighting was a Nightjar coming in from the sea in broad daylight after trying to land on a yacht!

28th September: After a rather boring day we got a report of 3 White Storks perched near a football ground in Mgarr. First disbelief, then panic that we would be too late as it was soon dark!We arrived to quite a scene! Storks were perched on the floodlights above a chaos of shouting children, hunters and birders right in the middle of the village all awed by such an unusual sight for Malta! What's more they were ringed, in the fading light we managed to read Budapest! Hungarian White Storks! Confirmed in the morning when they left peacefully! In Malta such a story couldn't have a happy ending, they were shot down in the south of Malta later in the day...

29th September: On the bus stop waiting to get up to Buskett after work, when I got a call from a fellow birder. Lesser Spotted eagle! When I finally arrived it had already migrated, but soon another was spotted coming in from the same direction!! It became even more unbelievable when two more came in later in the afternoon! They gave stunning views soaring low over Buskett! It got even better with a juvenile Short-toed eagle flying over! A Steppe Buzzard not quite as exciting but still a good addition to a lengthening yearlist. At dusk one of the LSE flew down to roost in an adjacent valley to meet its fate...a volley of shots...

Lesser Spotted Eagle juvenile, photo by N Galea

A Sparrowhawk also gracing the sky with the eagles, by N Galea

The North easterly wind continued producing more eagles the next day! Four Short-toed eagles this time! I was at work and couldn't leave all afternoon...quite a lot of cursing to say the least. More cursing from the birders that saw one of the eagles being shot down! The fate of the others is not known. 3rd October: Morning at Simar, helping out with cutting some reeds to prevent the overgrowing of all the shorelines as well as observing the ringing. A Common Snipe was a first in the hand for me, and a Collored flycathcer was a good record for autumn. Other birds were a Wryneck, a Kingfisher of the 5 or so present, Willow, Reed, Garden and Wood Warblers.

Lack of sleep cought up on me when I got home, slept an hour and feeling like continuing to sleep I had to convince myself that I shouldn't miss Buskett. Nearly there when I got a call about something I in the hast of sprinting up the hill I did not quite catch. But 4 Lesser Spotted Eagles soaring above us with a Black kite was well worth it! Saw them leave northwards, where another birder saw them get shot at. Soon after only three immeadiately roosted with an injury to its left wing, another with missing secondaries...You start wishing such majestic birds do not come to Malta! After enjoying them alive you have to witness them being killed or injured by poachers. Suddenly a call of Booted eagle light phase! Sure was! Soaring above us was the lifer I and others of the younger generation had longed to see it been quite a few years since it was sighted from autumn migration!

Collared Flycatcher ringed at Simar, quite rare in autumn

The flock of Lesser Spotted Eagles before they were shot at by poachers, Photo by N Galea

Photos of the Booted Eagle at dusk by N Galea