Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One of those days!

12 Grey Herons from Qawra, the reddish colour on some of them is due to the early morning light.

Just a very small part of the many flocks circling around over Malta this afternoon.

Honey Buzzard silhouette

Whatever amount of hours and days you spend birding there are still those days that stand out in your memory for some time. That start good and end good, with a lifer or two and leaving you with a great feeling of content forgetting all the other birdless frustrating hours. Today was just such a day and to make it better it was the end of the summer holidays!

We started off with a Hoopoe flushed on arriving at the seawatching point at Qawra. We said that this made it worth even if we would se nothing else. But soon afterwards a flock of 12 Grey heron flew right over us,soon followed by a flock of 5 Little Egret. Not long after that again a flock of 9 Grey Heron and 13 Little Egret up the coast. Four more flocks of the latter were seen, 8, 18, 11 and 20, making up a very good total. The bird or birds of the morning were 4 Avocets which flew by Qawra point, not only being beautiful birds, but also rather scarce. By 9 am birds of prey started to make a move hinting on the passage that was to come later. A total of 12 Marsh harriers, 4 Honey Buzzards, an Osprey, 4 Common, 2 Lesser and 4 unidentified Kestrels. That was it, we left Qawra with hope to come up to Buskett as quickly as possible.

It was only two hours later though thanks to unreliable maltese buses! We came panting up the hill crossing fingers that we hadn't lost any large flocks or anything rare. Luckily the other birders had just arrived and the first flock of 6 honey buzzards was still ciricling around. The next flock was larger and with them 2 Ospreys. The flocks of Honey Buzzards and Marsh harriers didn't stop coming the largest of around 50 birds like bomber planes coming in formation over the maltese islands. They seemed to be in a hurry to escape the bad weather that is forecasted and although the first flocks migrated by the evening 300 or so raptors were circling around in huge funnels were ever you set your bins and still they were coming, a spectacle I had never witnessed in such "epic"proportions! While they stayed over Malta held by the now complete cloud cover, Kestrels(30), Lesser Kestrels (7) and Hobbies (20) were also migrating. To make it even better a male Pallid harrier was sighted, another two Ospreys - one with a ring seen blinking, a Black kite, 2 Grey and 2 Purple Herons. The best of all was a flock of 22 Spoonbills, a lifer for me and the largest flock seen by many present. We had been getting reports of them from the south of Malta but hadn't managed to see them, then a report from closer to us, from Dingli...a lot of frantic scanning and finally someone, who deserves a big thanks spotted them flashing white over Verdala Palace.
Totals of Marsh hariers and Honey Buzzards by the end of the evening were 350+ and 450+ respectively. Good numbers of Yellow wagtails (500+) and Swallows (600+) were noted as well as the first Grey Wagtail.


  1. hi Martin, I see you are having a good autumn birding. some great birds ,keep up the blog, lets hope more to come. How was Norway any good pictures ? We have had a large influx of lapland buntings in the uk with 3 birds on my local patch. So keep an eye out for them this winter. Is their a maltese record. Kevin

  2. Hi Kevin, Yes the autumn migration has picked up well after a rather poor start at least raptor wise. Great with the lapland buntings, was too late to find them in Norway...you can read about the holiday here: http://tripreport2010.blogspot.com/
    There's only one record in Malta from Nov 1975 so we will definetly keep our eyes open!