Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend on Comino

Black-eared Wheatear ringed at dawn

Part of a flock of 15 Little Egrets

One of several Cory's shearwaters flying close to the ferry on leaving Comino

Male Cuckoo

Spent a great weekend on Comino Ringing Observatory. Nothing special and a bit quite with some 90 birds caught and ringed in all as part of the annual ringing scheme on the island involving a month in Spring and a few weeks in autumn. But still spending a few days on such a quite island, with barely any people and buidings is an experience!
A male Cuckoo caught early Sunday morning was the definite highlight for me. Also good were beautiful a male Black-eared wheatear, two Woodchat srikes and a Collared Flycatcher all caught. Failed to catch any Scops Owls which I had really hoped for but at least a Nightjar flew quickly by one of the mornings. The most abundant passerines caught were Whinchats, Willow Warblers, Subalpine Warblers, Whitethroats and Pied Flycatchers as well as a Wheatear, two Sedge Warblers and two Garden Warblers.
The first Purple Herons of the year, 4 in all, were sighted. Most herons have still to be seen in good numbers this spring. A total of 31 Little egrets resting on the rocks along the shore as well as a Night Heron heard at night.
Birds of Prey were represented by a few Marsh harriers, a Black Kite, some Kestrels hunting without the fear of being hunted and a Hobby. Finally three Golden oriole males were also great as were a Quail and two Hoopoes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ghadira and Cumnija area

Male Black-winged Stilt at Ghadira Nature reserve

Female Black-winged stilt and Wood sandpiper

Woodchat Shrike

Male Black-eared Wheatear

Seawatching at Cirkewwa was quickly interupted by a call about a Glossy ibis at Ghadira. So we quickly hurried off. We hadn't seen much anyway, 6 Sandwhich terns and 2 Marsh harriers were the birds of note.
At Ghadira there was no sign of the Glossy ibis, just my luck that it had left! But still some other good birds the best being the first two Golden Orioles flying over! A Hobby was also good as were a pair of Black-winged Stilts, quite a flock of Little Stints, a Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Ruffs and 4 Wood sandpipers. The female Garganey is still present too. Migratory warblers were well represented with a couple of Great Reed and Sedge Warblers singing, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Subalpine present and Wood warblers being quite abundant. A late White wagtail payed a visit its black chest distinctive between all the Yellow wagtails.
A walk behind the reserve produced a good number of birds too. Not less than three Woodcaht shrikes were fun as they flew down from their perches the catch some unfortunate insect. Three Wheatears and 2 Black-eared wheatears were a good addition to the list as was a Hoopoe, a Wryneck and three Spectacled warblers. A male marsh harrier and then a female flew over. Even better we spotted our first Black kite this year below Mellieha, and another great bird of prey was a female Pallid harrier soaring overhead. Another two Marsh harriers while waiting for the bus ended a satisfying morning.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Windy afternoon at Dwejra

Digiscoped pic of two female Lesser Kestrels, part of a flock of nine.

The only male Lesser Kestrel present.

A hoopoe that flew too soon...

The first two of the five Marsh harriers, were soaring above as I was climbing the hill up to Dwejra. Four House martins were to be the only hirundines of the afternoon. What's more my first Hobby this year struggled in the strong NE wind followed by another two latter on in the evening.
Not much else to see when arriving at the hill top, but a hunting Common Kestrel so decided to take a walk to Bingemma valley. Nightingales were calling, a few Tree Pipits and 4 Yellow wagtails passing overhead at first. It was only when I got to the more sheltered valley that a Hoopoe flew up to perch on a stone wall giving great views. Of course it had to fly off when I went nearer for photos but got a grainy shot of it in flight. A Northern Wheatear female, more Nightingales, Wood warblers and a Redstart were also seen. Two more Hoopoes on walking back flying up from the track. Usually they'd be long gone due to noisy picnicers but today I was alone thanks to the gloomy weather.
Then I spotted 4 Lesser Kestrels resting on some electricity lines. Occasionly flying off to hunt and also joined by 5 more. Suddenly they were all in the air. First thinking someone had passed by but it was a feathered creature that had scared them. A female Pallid harrier! And while wathcing it, another appreared. They were quiclky gone tough, one coming back just before I left only sillhouette visible against the setting sun.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A "Very Nice" Day!

Flock of 29 Little egrets, taken by Olivier Seys.

Tought I'd better use the superior photos of Nicholas Galea and Oliver Seys this time :).
Note the dangling leg on one of the glossy ibis on the top left part of the flock.

My sister, another young birder and me popped into Ghadira at the crack of dawn before meeting up with three other young birders, one of them a Belgian guy and whose favourite phrase I've used in the title :).

Three Grey herons flying down into the reserve, the first signs of migration movement of the day, a Little egret plus the usual waders with a larger number of Little Stints. My first Common whitethroat of the year, and even better a Savi's warbler caught by a ringer just before we sixth lifer in a week!

On boarding the ferry for a small island, Comino, between Gozo and Malta free of hunting and bird and birding paradise, some 8 Marsh harriers and yet another highlight 6 Great white egrets flying throught the channel.

On nearing our destination we spotted 29 Little egrets resting on the rocky shore flying up as we approached only to settle again in a cloud of white wings. Later in the day another 4 and 37 Little egrets were seen.

As we started walking another few Marsh harriers and a Grey heron. Passerines weren't the most evident, and well its still quite early. Got a few good birds though, a beautiful Black-eared wheatear, some 8 Northern wheatears, 4 Whinchats, a male Common Redstart, several Nightingales (good passage this spring), and two Hoopoes, female Semi-collared and male Collared flycatcher as well as some 6 Wrynecks.

Moreover a flock of 9 Common cranes flying over north of Malta and a good sighting for this time of year altoguh nothing compared to the 65 seen on Saturday. Shortly after 17 Grey herons in V-formation against the clouded sky.
Spent quite some time dosing off in the shade everyone a bit tired, and a walk afterwards did not produce much, but a late Skylark was good. The star species of the day was still to come! On walking to the ferry some one spotted a flock of large birds flying overhead. 19 Suberp Glossy Ibises! A lifer that i had aimed and hoped to get this spring and I did! What's more another flock of 21 from the ferry. Possibly had been one flock but seperated due to being shot at, one of the
birds having a dangling leg.

3 Cory's shearwater shearing the waves ended the Comino adventure with just over 40 species, for now...we'll be back and soon!

To add to the memorable day there was an Avocet paying a visit and being a scarce and magnificent bird wasn't to be missed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Garigue walk

Views of Majjistral N P on coming from Anchor bay

Had planed a morning spent seawatching from Ghajn tuffieha, but the bus never came and being fed up of waiting took a bus to Ghadira and walked it from there through some great garigue habitat at Cumnija and Majjistral national park.

Ghadira nature reserve had a flock of five Little egrets resting on one of the islands, a Green , two Wood and two Common sandpipers, as well as a few feldegg Yellow wagtails of note. Common Swifts and House Martins were flying about too. Managed to spot at least one Pallid swift and a great Red-rumped Swallow which must be the nicest hirundine we get.

Nightingales were singing and calling as we started walking as were Blue rock thrushes also performing display flights blue colour sparkling in the sun. A Woodchat shrike surveying its surroundings for its breakfast. Furthermore two female Marsh harriers coming in from the sea, later a Common Kestrel and yet another two Marsh harriers.

A Hoopoe was feeding on the path before it fluttered off with its butterfly flight. Tree Pipits and Tawny pipits were also present while it seems that all the Meadow pipits have left for their breeding grounds.

Scanning the sea as we walked produced a single Little egret and several Yellow-legged gulls. Back on the garigue two Northern Wheatears, a quite tame male but of course flew off just as I got out my camera. Also sighted was a Wryneck, an Alpine Swift, which are always fun, one of the very few remaining breeding Corn buntings and a female Subalpine warbler. On arriving at Ghajn tuffieha, a half hour seawatch didnt produce anything and quite satisfyed with the morning we headed home.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Some more twitching

Bar-tailed Desert Lark.

Black-eared Wheatear male, found on the way to get the Bar-tailed lark

Bar-tailed Desert lark, 8th record for Malta and a bird not to be missed! Another birder picked me and my sister up and we sped off. On arriving we found two more birders only a couple of meters away from the very tame bird seeming quite at home in what has to be the closest Malta can offer to a desert; an unsurfaced carpark and not at all minding all the attention.
After getting the Bar-tailed lark, we watched a stunning male Pallid harrier hunting over the malta airport runway.
Managed unfortunatly to dip a Lesser short-toed Lark yesterday the third mega in only two days, but a fair variety of other birdssort of made up for it. The best being a Woodchat shrike, 3 Red-rumped swallows, 2 Alpine swifts, Northern wheatears, Tawny Pipits and a Quail.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April's Fool

Common sandpiper at Ghadira

We started off the day at Simar, with Hirundines fluttering above us, mostly Swallows, some House Martins and the odd Sand Martin. At first a message about a Purple Gallinule at another location was taken as a joke and we stayed on at the reserve. Well, glad I did as I got my second lifer in two days, a Little crake, not a rare species but one that had eluded me so far. And altough a female a great bird anyway! Other birds seen were a Collared flycatcher, Snipe, a Little Egret which had a hole in its beak caused by gunshot, 2 Tree Ppits and a Yellow wagtail. Also a handful of migratory warblers; Sedge, subalpine and Wood as well as one or two lingering Chiffchaffs.

When the Puprle Gallinule, which would be a first for Malta, became apparent to be no joke, we hurried off only to arrive too late. However returned to the site in the evening and this time the twitch was succesful. Short views of this misterious and beautiful bird that seems to have been forgotten by evolution and has come directly from the time of the dinosours!

Got to Ghadira too during the day were quite a few waders were present. My first two Wood Sandpipers of the year feeding close to three Green sandpipers. Two Ruffs, a Greenshank, a Black-winged Stilt and 3 Common Sandpipers also present. Incubating Little ringed plovers were given a hard time keeping feeding Moorhens away from their nest. One bird even acting injured, the Moorhens only looking on with curiousity. At least two Hoopoes were flying about and feedin gon the embankment. Of furthernote was a female garganey spending most of the the time dosing, a male wheatear and two Marsh harriers overhead.