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!