Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Weekend's birding

1 of many flocks of cranes that passed over the islands , PHOTO BY ADIN VELLA

Drive slowly please

Saturday morning we went to Ghajn Zejtuna, an urbanised valley which is the only area were you can see good numbers of Collared doves in Malta. Not only it being the first breeding site but hunters have had little chance to shoot the birds so the population has expanded. We spotted around 60 of them flying around, males performing display flights and the background cooing of course.

We continued to Ghadira Nature Reserve a bit too late to see a Lapwing and Golden plover which had flown over. However it was great to see 5 Gadwalls including two males, in the bay, this species being rather scarce in Malta with only a handful of records each winter. Inside the reserve there was much the usual stuff...Shelduck, Black-necked grebe and Grey Heron. Just before leaving a wader landed on one of the islands, in the scope it proved to be a Golden plover. Finally I could enjoy good views of this beautiful bird after quiet some time and tick of another yearer.

Next day, black rain clouds covered the island and for sunny Malta it was chilly. After a night out i didn't feel like birding but a call drom another birder about a heavy passage of Common Cranes got me scanning from my roof. Unfortunatley most of the flocks passed to the south of Malta where they gave good views and a total of around 870. I had to be content with a flock of 80 in the distance. Luckily I at least got enjoyable views of an adult and juvenile the next day from Dwejra the following day as well as two more in the distance. This made even better by a flock of 7 Siskins flying by.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Well this is biriding I suppose...

Black-headed gulls at Xemxija Bay's not always exciting! Ghadira reserve was rather empty, the only birds of interest at first glance being two Shelduck, a Grey heron that seems to be over wintering here, 3 Black-necked grebes busy fishing and a Little grebe. Two hours more of birding produced little else, although I was quite happy with my first views of Reed bunting this year and not bad ones at that. What's more two Kingfishers showed up, not a bird you complain about seeing as well as hearing a Greenfinch and a Chaffinch. But that was about it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

There are positive things about exams too...

Exams are obviously a pain in the neck, but at least I get home earlier from school, meaning that I can grab my bins and get out birding berfore it gets dark. Not really much about though at Chadwick Lakes. Was getting a bit bored with seeing Stonechats (10), Meadow Pipits(16), White Wagtails (10), Chiffchaffs (7) and Starlings (300) which are the most abundant birds about all through the winter, when a Common Kestrel flew over the hillside and hovered a while in the wind. It was followed by a male Chaffinch. Not the only about and saw a pair well and heard two more. Also great to see that Black Redsarts have increased since last time. There where 8, 1 of them a beautiful male. Good views of two Grey Wagtails was welcome. Finally I heard two of both Dunnock and Blackcap as well as the usual Sardinian, Cetti's Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Morning spent at Ghadira Nature Reserve

Black-necked Grebes

Wild Rabbit

Not that much about but still we got a few good birds, among being a Grey heron dozing in the shadows, a female Wigeon (yearer), 2 Little grebes and 2 Black-necked grebes which came close enough for some fairly good shots although the light wasn't on our side. Also nice were two Kingfishers and a Little Stint. A few Stonechats, Black Redstarts, Chiffchaffs and White wagtails about as well as a calling Dunnock, Reed bunting and two Chaffinches.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mid-term holidays do it again!

1 of 16 Stonechats at Chadwick Lakes

Male Siskin at Ghadira

The effect of overzealous dredging - this part of the watercourse at Chadwick Lakeswas full of Sharp rush and other vegetation, all gone now.

Two years ago I had about 12 lifers in a day(!), last year we found a Yellow-browed warbler and I got my first Firecrest in these holidays. Today wasn't an exception either with a Siskin being the highlight (quite scarce in Malta) and I finally added Greenfinch on my Malta list.
Other good birds were a flock of 6 Grey herons (my first sighting in November), a Little Grebe, 2 Shelducks, 6 Teal, 6 Little Stint, Wryneck, 7 Skylark and some Chiffchaffs at Ghadira Nature reserve. At Foresta 2000 (birdlife afforestion project - great place!) there were quite a few Song thrushes and Stonechats as well as a Kestrel, 3 Black Redstart and 4 Chaffinch.
Quite a variety at Chadwick Lakes too, the best being good views of a Linnet, 2 Serin and 3 Chaffinch. Another Kestrel, 3 Grey Wagtail, 14 White Wagtail, 16 Stonechat and my first Dunnocks of the winter finished the day.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Not that bad..(:

After quite some waiting for buses we finally arrived at Buskett early in the morning. As usual the air was full of Robin, Blackcap, Dunnock, Sardinian and Cetti's Warbler's calls and songs. As we made our way towards a small valley were we hoped we would find a Redwings, a male Blue Rock Thrush flew by, but on arriving we didn't hear the hoped for calls of the more northern species. Only a few Song thrushes flew up from the Lentisk bushes, by the end of the trip we had seen 20 or so as well as two Blackbirds which we were very pleased being probably the last yearer of 2009. Another good sighting was two Quails flew up suddenly from close by giving us quite a surprise, enough for me to manage to knock of my glasses in lifting my bins...Finally also of interest were around 25 Chaffinch, one or two seen well while drinking and bathing in a small stream together with other passerines, as well as two Linnets.
In the afternoon we walked in Chadwick Lakes valley, not to see anything apart from the usual birds, but when taking a rest at the innermost dam a small flock of 6 Corn Buntings flew overhead, probably not part of the drastically decreasing breeding population but birds from mainland Europe overwintering here. Also fun was a Wryneck calling from a dead tree but which flew off too quickly to really enjoy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

fink fink...

Rather quiet (I seem to be using this phrase a bit too much) Buskett valley this morning, the highlight being probably around 16 Chaffinches. Not a garden bird here in Malta unfortunately, we only see it on migration and a few rest and even overwinter in places like Buskett. Illegal trappers are still out to trap it...
Song Thrushes haven't arrived yet, we only saw four. 5 Stonechats were good considering it isn't ideal habitat for them. 3 Swallows were a pitiful sight with many flight feathers missing - one had had half a wing blown off. Blackcaps (about 18) calling from the undergrowth were the only birds to answer to the Hawfinch calls we played. Also plentiful were Robins (seemed to arrived in larger numbers this night - there are two now in the gardens behind my house). I finally got my first Chiffchaffs (2) of the winter. Before I left a last taste of autumn migration - 2 Yellow wagtails feeding in a field, probably a few months to the next...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One minute silence for the Skylarks

Today we witnessed a heavy passage of Skylarks over the Maltese islands. The figure of 84 I saw from Il-Qlejgha Valley (a valley with a small watercourse and dams - now empty), were nothing compared to other sightings mostly in the morning, the highest of over 500 birds. And of course as maltese hunters are eager conservationists (this is really part of their federation name - FKNK) they were enthusiastically shooting down as many of these birds as possible. It was litrary like walking through a war zone, with nearly non stop shooting from both sides of the valley. Needless to say it was depressing and frustrating...
Other birds of note was a Snipe I flused from the watercourse and 4 Grey wagtails - I enjoyed good views of one of these beautiful birds. Also the last hirundines about (several with missing feathers after bieng illegally targeted by hunters) - 45 Swallows and 5 House Martins. Around 80 Starlings were in the line of fire too. Finally I saw 17 White Wagatails, 4 Stonechats, some 25 Robins and a Blackcap.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Painted Lady at Buskett

Woke up to hear a Robin calling from the garden, finally! It has been rather late this year... but it came...
At Buskett I just arived in time to see the only Marsh harrier of the day, but fortunetly it wasn't the only raptor except three Common Kestrels... it was followed by a Peregrine falcon, quite a few of them this year, which probably migrated. An Osprey was great espacially as we hadn't seen one since the 30th of September. A Song Thrush flew by and a Linnet was calling from somewhere.
To conclude the day we saw a Grey wagtail and some 4 Blackcaps down in the valley.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yet another satisfying afternoon at Buskett

Although a strong (and cold...) North west was blowing we managed to get some good birds. The highlight of which was a Merlin that flew past rather close. Six Common Kestrels that migrated too, with four or so others hunting about the valley. One of them managed to catch a Swallow low over the ground which was fun to see! What's more a male Marsh harrier was much more enjoyed than when they come in larger quatities. Two flocks of Yellow-legged gulls passed by in the distance (total: c60). Quite a few passerines about; some 60 Barn Swallows, 18 Skylarks (a flock of 14), 1 White Wagtail, a Red-throated Pipit (only the second for me) and around 80 Starling.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You never know what will turn up...

Record shot of Peregrine falcon, sorry for terrible quality

Walking up to the watchpoint at Buskett, a Song thrush flew up from the lentisk bushes. The wind was blowing from the North west, and while thinking what was the point in sitting on a blustery hill scanning empty skies when I spotted something flying down in the valley...a juvenile Peregrine Falcon! After flying quite close it settled down in a pine tree and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon, what a lazy bird! The only other birds of prey were 2 Common Kestrels (1 beautiful male had a dangling leg!) and a Sparrowhawk which gave a great but short view.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The usual Saturday Routine: Seawatching followed by Buskett

A light Westerly meant that seawatching at Qawra this morning wasn't the most productive. Although 2 Common Shelducks were nice. Four Little Egrets far out at sea as well as a Sandwhich tern and lots of Yellow-legged Gulls resting on St. Pauls Islands(120+). My first two Black-headed gulls of the year flew past. A Skylark passed somewhere overhead but that was all...
Rather quiet at Buskett too, a Peregrine was good sighting though. Otherwise we saw 4 Honey Buzzards (1 was frequently calling - not something we hear often), 2 Marsh Harriers, 6 Common Kestrels, 1 Hobby and a Sparrowhawk panicking all the Hirundines.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Winter is on its way & Hundreds of hirundines

There was a very small trickle of migrating raptors: 25 Marsh harriers and 24 Honey Buzzards (1 seriously injured, another shot down and a third shot at...disgusting!) as well as 2 Hobbies, 8 Common Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk which stooped down straight into the valley from a great height (others saw two more Sparrowhawks). Just as fun were the hundreds of hirundines: House Martins (500+) and Swollows (500+) too which were everywhere one scanned most afternoon. 11 Alpine Swift (flock) were great too. As the one of the last Bee-eaters called down in the valley, the first Song thrush flew over signalling the coming of the winter. Also a Chaffinch was calling as was a male Blackcap. Finally there was a small passage of Starlings with a total of over a 150.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Two hours at Buskett...

...didn't produce much except a female Merlin, which was good. Its an annual record, last year was the exception. Also good was a Sparrowhawk that came close. Moreover we spotted 3 Honey Buzzards, 7 Marsh Harrier, 2 Hobby fighting in the valley and 5 or so Common Kestrel, one of which was injured. Good numbers of hirundines (400+) as well as an increasing number of Robins down in the valley - quite late this year, usually there are loads by the 25th of September.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

And at last...I've got It...

Malta in the sky

Record shot of juvenile Short-toed Eagle

Still blowing rather strongly from the North west so not much migration seen from Buskett. 7 Honey buzzards came in as well as a Marsh harrier and 11 Common Kestrel. What's more 2 Sparrowhawks were hunting in the valley. As most days this last week we talked about if this was the day a Short-toed eagle would appear, most years one does but it's always been a day I haven't been there. A phone rang and I said that must be it, and it was. It was heading our way the other birdwatcher said. We watched it coming nearer, hovering from time to time, until it was right over us and although high up it was beautiful! A really fantastic lifer! We continued seeing it in the distance quite some time hunting. Other birds included 2 Pallid swift, 25+ Barn Swallow, 8+ House Martin, 6 Yellow wagtail and 5 Robin.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Birding in the Wind

Caspian Tern calling

Grey Heron

Seawatching from Qawra in the morning was fairly successful, the highlight being a juvenile Audouin's gull, a lifer and although sightings are becoming more freuquent, its still quite scarce. We also got good views of three Caspian terns. The other tern species present was a fishing Sandwhich tern. Still some Grey herons migrating (been a very good autumn for herons them this year), a flock of 4 came right over followed by a flock of 12 later. Unfortunately 10 large duck species didn't pass as close. A Dunlin flew by fast (a yearer - how did I manage not seeing it?) and of course Yellow-legged gulls (80, good number) and around 40 Cory's Shearwater. A Marsh harrier struggling in the force 6 north west wind before we left was the only broadwing I saw today as raptor watching in the afternoon didn't produce much more than 5 Common Kestrel, a Hobby and a Sparrowhawk - too windy I suppose. However two Red-breasted flycatchers were a great compensation, beautiful, energetic and scarce birds - a joy to watch. Finally there were also some 50+ Swallow, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Wood warbler and 13 Starling.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The day of the Falcons

Moderate to rather strong SE winds produced more falcons than broadwings. 15 Hobbies, 20 Lesser Kestrels and 8 Common Kestrels (numbers are estimates) were all flying around giving a small airshow. Unfortunately some of them were targeted by some hunters who now can again start to hunt after 3pm. This law that prevents hunters to shoot after 3pm between the 15th to 30th September and makes illegal hunting on birds of prey much more controllable. There should be made an extension into October though. The broadwings included 8 Marsh harriers and 10 Honey Buzzard. The other raptor seen was a Sparrowhawk but nothing else. Little else was seen of note except around 400+ Swallows and 100+ Starling.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Honey Buzzard Peak

A masked juvenile Honey Buzzard

On arriving at the Buskett watch point, a female Black-eared wheatear flew over the garigue and a Blue rock thrush was singing. Very few birds of prey until the wind turned south east when flock after flock of Honey buzzards (108) with the occasional Marsh harrier (19) migrated right overhead. The largest flock of 25 was quite something to watch! Unfortunately around 5 pm it clouded over and migration stopped but we got good views of the 15 or so Honey buzzards that remained circling above us before roosting. Two Sparrowhawks were great to watch hunting down in the valley and mobbing each other. An Osprey was also good. Additionally there were 4 Lesser Kestrels, 2 Common Kestrels and 6 Hobbies which at dusk were busy catching dragonfly after dragonfly. A beautiful spectacle against a beautiful sunset. Finally there were a good number of Swallows (400+), as well as 20+ House martin, a Sand martin and 4 Alpine Swifts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rather quiet...

Maybe the wind was a bit on the strong side but else conditions were very good but produced nothing. Well that's not totally correct...17 Honey buzzard (1 injured holding its wing very strangely, other 2 with missing secondaries and primaries) and 13 Marsh harriers were something but we are still hoping for larger numbers as this migration's totals are below average. An Osprey was fun as was a Sparrowhawk as well as 6 Hobbies flying about and chasing each other. The highlight were two Red-footed falcons, a female and a juvenile, although frequent in May, they're quite scarce in autumn. Moreover 4 Common Kestrels, 4 Kestrel Sp. and 5 migrating Great Cormorants. There was a good passage of Starlings (300 in total), rather early this year. On the garigue a female wheatear was about and a Spectacled warbler was heqard calling. Finally down in the valley I there were 3 Wood Warblers, 1 Garden warbler, 1 young male Redstart, and around 5 Robins.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A morning at Simar Nature Reserve

Common Snipe and two passing Moorhens
Another digiscoped pic; of a Turtle Dove

Simar Nature Reserve is one of two nature reserves managed by Birdlife Malta and the only extensive reed bed. Quite a few passerines about with 3 Great reed warblers, 2 Reed warblers, around 5 Sedge warblers, 5 Willow warblers, 4 Wood warblers, 2 Garden warblers, an Icterine warbler and two Tree pipits were all fun to watch. Also of note was a Wryneck that flew by and even better was a Kingfisher showing well but always flying off just as I was about to take pics. A minimum of 5 Turtle doves were just as nice as was a Common snipe giving good views. 3 Little grebes (1 in breeding plumage already) were as always great and have nearly become a guaranteed treat at Simar. Obviously Moorhens were present as well as a Coot. Not as fun was to receive a call after I had left, from the manager of the reserve and ringer that he had just caught a Little Crake a would be lifer hadn't I been sitting on the bus nearly home...well that's part of birding too...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A trickle of migrating raptors at Buskett

Part of a flock of 200+ Barn Swallows at dusk

There was a small, but fairly steady flow of Honey Buzzards (total: 35) and Marsh Harriers (total: 52) until late afternoon. While 11 and 18 Marsh harriers came down to roost at dusk. A few Kestrel species (4)passed high above us. A Sparrowhawk came lower down giving better views. Also 1 Hobby and 6 Common Kestrel. Maybe the highlight of the day was a flock of 71 Grey herons (my biggest flock ever) which flew by in the distance. What's more there were large numbers of Barn Swallows (600+) as well as 100+ House Martin and around 3 Sand Martin. Some "hunter" passed the time shooting at them! What a hobby! Finally a Turtle Dove, an Alpine swift, 4 Common Swift, 17 Starling, my first Grey wagtail of the season and 5 Bee-eaters of which there hasn't been many of, resting on the wires.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Raptor watching from my roof and Seawatching

Lobed Argiope (Argiope lobata) at Sunrise

Started the day seawatching at Qawra, quiet quite though but a flock of 5 Slednder-billed gulls and another closer to shore compensated greatly especially them being lifers! Cory's shearwaters (50+) were rather plentiful far out at sea as were Yellow-legged gulls of course. Three Sandwhich terns were busy fishing. Other birds included a Little Egret resting on an a small island, a Grey heron, a Lesser kestrel and 8 Marsh harriers coming in from the sea.

Back home I endured the heat on the roof and spent three hours (12.15 - 15.15) scanning for birds of prey and was rewarded. First by three Marsh harriers, then by a flock of 10 Honey Buzzards, followed by 3 singles and another flock of 5 together with a Marsh harrier. Also 2 Lesser kestrels and 4 unidentified broadwings. The highlight was a Common Buzzard (my second in Malta) which came fairly close but decided to turn before I got a photo of it.

In the evening I went to my local patch in the limits of Mosta. Not much about and only spotted a single Honey Buzzard, a Lesser kestrel female and a calling Grey heron. Swallows were fairly abundant and three Spotted Flycatchers were catching insects from the tops of the Carob trees.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Roller Day

Spotted Flycatcher

Black Kite

Juvenile Marsh Harrier

Adult male Marsh Harrier

Another afternoon spent at Buskett watching raptor migration. No impressive numbers but most birds migrated except 11 Marsh harriers that came low down to roost. Sizeable and mostly mixed flocks of raptors (largest being of 18 Honey buzzard and a Black kite) came in amounting to a total of 62 Honey Buzzard and 30 Marsh harrier. Other raptors were another Black kite with a very white head and pale patches on the wing, a hunting male Sparrowhawk, 15 Lesser Kestrel, 1 Common Kestrel and two Hobbies. The highlight were three Rollers, a lifer for me, two adults seen in the begining of the afternoon flying around giving good views before flying down in some trees. Another flew fast overhead later in the evening. Really stunning birds! Another beautiful bird was a Black Stork which flew in from Gozo (took it 15 minutes) circled a bit with someHoneys and continued far out at sea and probably migrated. A flock of seven Turtle Doves were a nice sighting. There were many hirundines down in the valley, mostly Swallows (400+) with some House Martins (30+) and at least one Sand Martin. Swifts were well represented with 1 Alpine, 3 Common and 3 Pallid. One more enjoyable evening, which ended with three Nightjars, a Little Bittern and a Night Heron (the last two only heard) after dusk.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lesser Spotted Eagle - what a bird!

Adult male Honey Buzzard

Record shot of Lesser Spotted Eagle

After getting a message from another birder up at Buskett that there were quite a few raptors including a Lesser Spotted Eagle as well as a Black Stork, we rushed (well it takes an hour with the bus) up and got excellent and long views of the superb juvenile eagle, my first really good views of the species. A pity that we lost the stork though. Around 150 Marsh Harriers were circling around some quite close in addition to circa 25 Honey Buzzard. Also fun were a flock of 24 Lesser Kestrel hunting over the ridge. Furhermore 2 Ospreys migrated over and as always were a joy to see! 6 Grey Herons and two singles were spotted in the distance. As the wind strengthened the birds were pushed to the south of the island were more birds were coming in while we saw barely anything. Even more frustrating and saddening were the reports of much shooting on birds of prey (illegal of course) while going down to roost. We suspect that even the Lesser Spotted Eagle was shot... Finally there were three Hobbies (one with dangling leg), large flocks of Yellow wagtails and got to a total of 600+, a Golden Oriole, 4 Turtle Doves, 1 Whinchat, 1 Wheatear and a Pied Flycatcher female.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Migration before the rain and Peregrine Airshow

The weather today was terrible - force 6-7 south east wind and frequent rain, however we got some good birds especially in the morning at Ghadira Nature Reserve. There was quite a lot of migration before the worst of the rain which provided a hectic an exciting hour. A total of 60 Grey herons (largest flock of 32) 1 Purple Heron, 25 Little Egret (2 injured), 1 Night Heron were the herons seen. Raptors were represented by around 40 Marsh harrier, 3 Honey Buzzard, 7 Lesser kestrel, 5 Common kestrel, a Hobby and the best of all the very scarce Hen Harrier (male). Some so called hunter shot at it and it seemed as if it got injured but continued flying. Just as exciting was a Whiskered tern also scarce and a lifer. It entertained us with its successful fishing in front of the hide. The most interesting wader present was a Spotted Redshank while 1 Wood sandpiper, 1 Common sandpiper, 5 Dunlin, 8 Little stint weren't bad either. Moreover two Kingfishers were also fun to watch as well as a Black-eared Wheatear.

At Buskett there was no migration except for 10 Honey buzzards, otherwise around 5 Marsh harrier, 10 Hobby, 8 Lesser kestrel, 3 Common Kestrel were staying in the area. The treat of the afternoon were two juvenile Peregrine falcons mobbing aggressively all other raptors. As too often hunting ruined it all: after dusk a shot was heard from underneath the tree where one of the Peregrines had roosted. Will it be there tomorrow? On a more positive note we managed to flush 4 quails (one of my favourite parts of birding - flushing quails and grouse). Finally we saw 7 Night heron, 8 Turtle dove, a Golden oriole, 120 Yellow wagtail, 3 Tree pipits, 60 Barn Swallow and 5 House martin.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A dream bird come true...

The afternoon at Buskett began with a steady trickle of migrating Honey Buzzards and Marsh harriers as well as less numbers of Hobbies, Kestrels and Lesser kestrels. As the clouds cleared migration came to a near stop but two Black kites, an Osprey appeared while the Honey buzzards and Marsh harriers that didn't continue migration circled above in small flocks. An unexpected and good record was A Caspian tern which flew over, a species I had never seen in Malta. Even better was a pair of Peregrine falcons! We got splendid views of the male bird which hunted low over the valley. A lifer I had long longed for! Its not a common bird here, with only a few records each year. Finally we aslo saw 5 Alpine swift, 2 Grey heron, 1 Purple heron and good numbers of hirundines - four species present: Barn Swallow, House martin, Sand martin and a Red-rumped Swallow.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The fate of the Black Storks

I spent the afternoon in the limits of Mosta searching the skies for two Black Storks which had been sighted from Buskett. After a lot scanning I found them, far away but still rewarding to see these great and rare birds. All was ruined when I heard from another birder at Buskett that both had been shot down! They were juveniles, learnt to fly around two months ago, lucky to find a rock in the Mediterranean and not having to cross it all in one go, then blasted down by a maltese "hunter"! All sorts of emotions - sadness, anger and bewilderment over the egoism of these people! This is the sad fate of too many Black Storks that decide to rest in Malta...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Not the most exciting day!

There was very little migration today except a short while of about half an hour when a total of 35 Honey Buzzards migrated. The largest flock was of 20 birds. Otherwise it was very quiet with only 4 Marsh harriers, a Sparrowhawk, a Hobby, a Lesser and a Common Kestrel. A male Nightjar was seen twice in daylight, probably flushed. A Pallid Swift must have been shot at as it had quite a few feathers missing. Finally beautiful Red-rumped swallow, rare in autumn migration, caused some excitement. Well I guess thats birding, one day there's loads of birds, the next barely anything...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A lucky Osprey and much more...

Woke up at 5.45 and set off to Qawra, the best point for seawatching at this time of the year. It started well with a winter plumage Turnstone flying close to shore. There was not much migration though and I didn't get the Audouin's gull I had hoped for! Two Grey and three Purple herons weren't a bad compensation. After quite some time with only Yellow-legged gulls, a wave of migrants: 3 Wheatear, 1 Redstart, 1 Willow warbler and a Hoopoe, provided some action.

In the afternoon we went up to Buskett for some raptor watching. Unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side so no large numbers. A small migration of Lesser Kestrels was going on which was fun (33 in all). When a Black kite was spotted in the distance we thought it had a dangling leg but it turned out to be the tail of a rat it was feeding on! A total of four of the latter raptor was seen as well as 15 Honey Buzzard, 35 Marsh harrier, 3 Hobby and 4 Common Kestrel. Later on in the afternoon it got exciting when an Osprey flew low over the area for a place to rest. This often spells disaster but fortunately it escaped being seriously injured although it was shot at 5 times and landed on a pole. We didn't expect it to live long being very exposed, but it did and made of to roost at dusk! One lucky Osprey and some lucky birders to witness it! Further there was a good migration of Barn Swallows (700) and good numbers of Yellow Wagtails (250). The first Starling was recorded - winter is on the way! Before leaving the watch point a flock of 23 Grey Herons flew past. The day ended well with three Nightjars down in the valley and two Little Bitterns heard calling.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Raptor migration - a good variety

As we arrived at the raptor migration view point at Buskett (a hill over looking a small wooded valley) a flock of 11 bee-eaters were feeding overhead. Soon after the first honey buzzard appeared and not before long a flock of 6 and another of 9 flew over and migrated against the wind. An Osprey, followed by another later, were the highlight together with a female Pallid harrier, the first this autumn. Together with the honey buzzards that continued coming mostly in singles there were quite a few Marsh harriers (total: 29)as well a beautiful Montagu's harrier male. As the afternoon went on the honey buzzards (total: 65) didn't migrate but the same birds circled overhead giving good views as they came down to roost. A sparrowhawk was spotted in the distance. Falcons were represented by 4 Lesser kestrles and two hobbies. Finally we also saw 19 Grey herons, a turtle dove, a flock of 12 Alpine swift and over 70 yellow wagtails. Although we could have hoped for a larger number of BOPs it was an enjoyable afternoon made even better by there being no hunting, very good considered low flying raptors are quite often targeted!