The Common Crane flushed from Cuminija area behind Ghadira, taken by Nick Galea
Scenery at Ta' Zuta close to Buskett
Christmas holidays at last and more time for birding! The 23rd of December started off at Gahdira nature reserve. Two female Teals feeding on one of the islands, eleven Black-necked and three Little grebes, the highest number of grebes I can remeber here, six coots, a Dunlin and two Common sandpipers were to be seen. A flock of 9 Shelduck were spotted flying over the bay and great to see. We went to check if they had settled on the water but all we saw were two Cormorants flying above us.
We continued to the garigue area behind the reserve. A few stonechats, black redstarts, meadow pipits, blue-rock thrushes as well as a Linnet and two Skylarks. It got more exciting when a sharp call alerted us to two Lapwings flying along the small valley. Even better and quite a surprise was a Common Crane that alighted on the opposite side of the valley 200 meters away. Circled around for a while before continuing down the coast it gave good views. Unfortunalty it was apparent that it had missing primaries altough it was flying well.
Christmas eve was windy and a walk through a valley dominated by farmland and a watercourse with abundant reeds and fresh water, was t say the least unproductive. At least I got my only Firecrest of the year in a public garden close to home.
The next two days seemed perfect for Cranes with low cloud cover and westerly winds but watching from Qawra and Dwejra was futile and indeed from anywhere on the island at that.
Monday we were off to Gozo, concentrating on Ta' Cenc, sea cliffs and one of the richest garigue areas of the island. Black redstarts were dominant. A few Spectacled warblers which are restricted to such areas. Two Linnets were good as were three hunting Common Kestrels. The definite highlight was a Golden Plover flushed from an unsurfaced road full of water puddles. I had missed a major passage two weeks earlier so at least cought up with this species this year too.
A penduline tit had been seen at Simar on Boxing day but weren't lucky with visiting the reserve on Tuesday. Little Grebes are in full breeding plumage and becoming territorial...soon chicks will be emerging from the reeds :). Other birds were three Water rail, two Common Snipe, a female teal, loads of Chiffchaffs and two Reed Buntings.
Next was an early morning at Buskett. As usual Robins were calling from everywhere as well as as less numbers of Blackcaps, Dunnocks and Chaffinches. Two Wrynecks heard but not seen as too often. A male Blackbird was flushed from a nearly dried up resevoir. Other birds inlcuded 12 Song Thrush making the best of ripening ivy berries and two Greenfinches a yearer for me and a Malta tick for my sister.
Walking to Laferla cross afterwards apart from the beautiful countryside gave nothing much but a flock of four Linnets were good though. Two large thrushes flying over gave too short views and from the back to confirm as Fieldfares rahter than the less likely Mistle thrush.
Twitched a Moussier's Redstart, female and 11th record for Malta in the evening. Altough less impressive as a male spending the winter of 2008 -2009 at Xaghra il-Hamra it was still nice to see this vagrant again on the island. Record shot by Ray Galea can be seen at http://www.surfbirds.com/cgi-bin/gallery/display.cgi?gallery=gallery11
Last two days of the year spent inside unfortunatly trying to recover from a cold so no more last minute yearers. Still many great birding experiences this year and hopefully 2011 will be even better.
Happy New Year everyone!