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.