Thursday, April 28, 2011

Comino and more

To start with were we left off last week...a late Shelduck at Ghadira and a Temminck's stint as well as a Red-footed falcon female, 2 Montagu's harriers, a few Turtle doves, Collared and Pied flycatchers on the 21st. To ruin the morning birding one of the Montagu's harriers, a male, was shot down up on the ridge above Foresta 2000! Police did not respond to the report, that much to the government's promise to strictly enforce the law!

At Simar on Good Friday morning some variation with 3 Night heron, an adult Purple heron, 10 Wood Sandpiper, some 15 Turtle Dove and 8 Golden oriole plus my first Reed Warblers this year.

Little did I know that later I was going to see a bird that has eluded me so far, nervous moments waiting for the bus and on site searching for it amongst a flock of 36 Little Egrets resting on the rocks at Ghajn Tuffieha. Finally it stretched its neck from beneath its wing, and the yellow tinged head, and short orange bill became evident...Cattle egret! Fantastic bird!

Record shots, click on the image to enlarge, in the above the Cattle egret is in lower right part of the flock...

Yet another victim to illegal hunting...a Common Cuckoo shot right in the chest found dead on the roadside leading to Bidnija. This has to stop!

Back to birding, nothing much more till Comino where we stayed at the ringing station from Monday evening till Thursday morning. Great couple of days with yet another lifer and quite a good deal of other good birds like these stunning Bee-eaters!

Three Bee-eaters ringed in all...on Tuesday over a hundred were seen both migrating and feeding in the valleys with less numbers on the other days. After being fitted with a light-weight ring, and measurements taken such as weight and wing lenght the birds are released.

Only around 8 Turtle Doves seen but here's the first I've seen in the hand! Pity that it's declining and fast!

A few Golden Orioles about too...second year male above.

Another second year male, this time a Common Kestrel tough! Maybe the best bird ringed, had never seen a bird of prey on such close quarters except injured birds...

One of four Icterine warblers ringed, other passrines included quite a few Collared, Pied and Spotted flycatchers, a few Whinchats, Whitethroats, Willow warblers, a late Chiffchaff, Wood Warblers and Woodchat Shrikes.

Moreover, witnessed one of the best spectacles nature has to offer, more than 600 Honey buzzards migrating over on Wednesday. The change from south east to north east winds and low cloud cover meant that the birds few low over the islands in large flocks. Largest seen was over 150. An unforgettable experience!

The next day, the ones that had roosted on the islands, were seen gathering in small flocks and as the day started heating up, rise on the thermals and leave for Sicily and who knows where after that.

Other birds of prey seen were seven Black kites, over 10 Montagu's harriers including a few hunting low over the garigue, a Peregrine falcon stooping down on Pigeons, a Hobby and the first Sparrowhawk I've ever seen in spring.

Two Hoopoes, probably the last ones I'll see this spring were nice too. 6 Alpine Swifts and 4 Red-rumped swallow are worth mentioning apart from loads of Common Swift, House martin and Swallows passing over.

As most birds are still migrating to hurrying to their breeding grounds further north, a pair of Spectacled warblers were busy feeding four nestlings coming to and fro with food constantly.

And finally for the lifer...Stone Curlew! A scarce visitor to our shores and the 185th bird on my list of birds seen in Malta. Located first by another birdwatcher we went in search for it, walking spread out over the garigue. It flew up from between us only to settle quickly again running further away from us. Still we managed to locate it as it hid hunched up between some bushes. Amazing owl like eyes and characteristic behaviour made it really fun to watch!

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