I'm dead tired trying to write this with nearly all spare time out in the field, even a couple of days out from dawn till dusk!
11th September: Variable wind and few birds! Only one Honey Buzzard, one Grey heron and a Ringtail harrier which we left unidentified plus an Audouin's gull from the coast.
12th September: Nothing special this seawatch either...3 Purple herons, a Little Egret, a Marsh harrier and two Sandwich terns. 3 Honey Buzzards just before we left lifted hopes of some raptor migration...we continued directly to Buskett. We had to be content with 28 Honey Buzzards and 9 Marsh harriers tough. A Nightjar at dusk was a good end to the long day.
Bee-eaters are a daily entertainment at Buskett, photo taken by R Galea.
13th September: Work nearly all day, only saw a Grey heron and 14 Bee-eater in the evening.
14th September: Some variety at Buskett, a great Pallid harrier male, 22 Marsh harrier, 25 Honey Buzzard, 3 Eleonora's falcon all dark phase 2nd years, and 3 Hobbies. What's more a Turtle Dove and 200 Bee-eater.
15th Spetember: Finally not such a bad day! Started off with seawatching as usual from 07:00 till 12:30. Well for the long hours of birding maybe not so productive but the the more I'm out the more restless I get and the more I want to be out and about with bins and telescope! A flock of 24 Grey heron circled a lot about undecided whether to migrate or not, while a single Purple heron and 14 Marsh harrier did probably migrate. Over 200 Cory's shearwater offshore as well as two Common Sandpipers flying past.
The flock of 24 Grey heron in V-formation
Continued up to Buskett, one of the better afternoons so far at least where variety is concerned. Arrived just to late to see a Black Stork but nothing we could do with that! Apart from 33 Honey Buzzard, over 50 Marsh harrier, we saw 2 Ospreys, a Black kite, 10 Lesser kestrels, 3 Hobbies and 2 Light phase Eleonora's falcon! Not was not all, the first Sparrowhawk of the autumn was spotted and gave good views. At dusk 14 Night heron and a Purple heron flew up from the trees. Peak of Bee-eaters and the highest number recorded in autumn...400+ birds! 3 Turtle Doves flashed past and a flock 13 Alpine Swift circled above. A Pied flycatcher was seen in the valley being rather scarce at this time of year.
16th September: Continued up to Buskett right after work and glad I did...walking up to the watchpoint I got a call from my sister about two Black Storks they were seeing. A sprint and found the birds just in time circling in the distance before they migrated. Not a bad day for birds of prey either, around 40 Honey Buzzards, more than 50 Marsh harrier, 4 Hobby and 4 Lesser Kestrel. However it was herons that got to a peak. A flock of 32 Grey heron was only a mere starter to an amazing flock of over 200 Grey herons in the distance. Largest flock I have ever seen with around 100 birds concentrated at the point of the V-formation! Another 51 Grey herons plus one Purple followed. A beautiful adult Red-rumped Swallow scarce in autumn was a good bonus as was the first Snipe I've seen this autumn.
17th September: Seawatch in the morning started off with a flock of 26 Little Egret followed by another 30 later. An early Marsh harrier at 07:22! Another 5 were seen. Two Audouin's gulls and two Garganeys were also spotted. My third record of Pomarine skua made the morning complete!
Up to Buskett in the afternoon was also successful. Nearly 200 BOPs in all, mostly Marsh harriers (130+) but quite a few Honey Buzzards too (60+). 3 Ospreys made us all happy as did a Black kite low in the valley. Finally 4 Hobbies and a juvenile Pallid harrier were sighted too!
Pallid harrier juvenile, photo by R Galea
As too often is the case we witnessed illegal hunting, a male Marsh harrier was shot down, and two Honey buzzards were shot at from within Buskett one being injured seen with a dangling leg. Hunting within Buskett is illegal to say nothing about the birds targeted...
18th September: Another good long day of birding! 17 Night herons were seen from the coast flying out of their roost. 13 more were seen later. Caspian tern was still not on my yearlist so I was happy to see it especially as a flock of 15! It is unusual to see this species in such a number for us, even more when the flock was followed by another flock of 7 also flying up the coast. Probably a record total for Malta! Other birds included 16 Ferruginous ducks, small flocks of Grey heron adding up to 34 in all as well as a Purple heron with them, 19 Marsh harrier, a Dunlin and 2 Sandwich tern. Unconfirmed record of Great white egret at Salina, so we sped off to have a look! Sure there it was standing in the middle of the flooded salt pans, its size and yellow bill standing out! Second yearer of the day! To make it even better an Osprey flew low over in from the sea!
Record shot of the Great white egret at Salina
Up to Buskett in a hurry after that, as already quite a few Honey Buzzards were being seen migrating over. We were just in time to see the last of the birds that actually migrated, the rest remained circling around all afternoon. Sometimes they picked up a line as if to migrate but only came back shortly afterwards. We saw around 60 of 140 Honey Buzzards seen that afternoon. 60 Marsh harriers were noted, but the highlight was yet another 3 Ospreys of the 5 recorded that afternoon! Also good was another great Pallid harrier male and a Black kite! Two flocks of Lesser kestrels (18) and 5 Hobbies. Finally 3 Tawny pipits can be worth mentioning.
One of the 5 Ospreys recorded that afternoon from Buskett, with a male Marsh harrier.
The Black kite and a juvenile Honey Buzzard. Both the above photos taken by R Galea
19th September: Strong Northerly winds aren't favourable but some birds must have been caught up and passed over Malta. An Osprey made the afternoon at Buskett worthwhile, as did a hunting Eleonora's falcon dark phase. Maybe not an adult but still it was definitely in its 3cy. Photo by R Galea.
51 Honey Buzzards, 16 Marsh harrier, 3 Hobbies and two Common Kestrels weren't bad numbers for this kind of weather. Closing on a bad note is not pleasant but its reality. Two of the Honey Buzzards had missing primaries and one a damaged carpal joint flying with difficulty...hunting is such a sport...
Injured Honey Buzzard, Photo by R Galea