A good seawatching morning was 24th September producing as highlights a Great White Egret, 2 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Slender-billed gull, the latter two species being yearers. As a bonus was 76 Grey heron in small flocks, a Purple heron and a small influx of birds of prey...42 Honey Buzzards and 33 Marsh harrier. We went up as quickly as possible to Buskett, we expected a peak. For this year it was. Nothing spectacular though with many migrating high up and on a broadfront. 220 Marsh harrier and c100 Honey buzzard in all. 3 Ospreys, a Pallid harrier, 2 Sparrowhawks and a juvenile Peregrine falcon made the day. On the 25th September the dark phase Eleonora's falcon that had been hunting in Buskett valley for a week was shot from inside the bird sanctuary, when on it favourite perch! As a mere compensation 2 Hoopoes were seen coming in from the sea, and four Ospreys sighted in the afternoon.
26th September: A lifer in the morning...a Black Tern seen mobbed by gulls. Only the second sighting this year, but even when coming in good numbers it had eluded me so far. Another interesting sighting was a Nightjar coming in from the sea in broad daylight after trying to land on a yacht!
28th September: After a rather boring day we got a report of 3 White Storks perched near a football ground in Mgarr. First disbelief, then panic that we would be too late as it was soon dark!We arrived to quite a scene! Storks were perched on the floodlights above a chaos of shouting children, hunters and birders right in the middle of the village all awed by such an unusual sight for Malta! What's more they were ringed, in the fading light we managed to read Budapest! Hungarian White Storks! Confirmed in the morning when they left peacefully! In Malta such a story couldn't have a happy ending, they were shot down in the south of Malta later in the day...
29th September: On the bus stop waiting to get up to Buskett after work, when I got a call from a fellow birder. Lesser Spotted eagle! When I finally arrived it had already migrated, but soon another was spotted coming in from the same direction!! It became even more unbelievable when two more came in later in the afternoon! They gave stunning views soaring low over Buskett! It got even better with a juvenile Short-toed eagle flying over! A Steppe Buzzard not quite as exciting but still a good addition to a lengthening yearlist. At dusk one of the LSE flew down to roost in an adjacent valley to meet its fate...a volley of shots...
Lesser Spotted Eagle juvenile, photo by N Galea
A Sparrowhawk also gracing the sky with the eagles, by N Galea
The North easterly wind continued producing more eagles the next day! Four Short-toed eagles this time! I was at work and couldn't leave all afternoon...quite a lot of cursing to say the least. More cursing from the birders that saw one of the eagles being shot down! The fate of the others is not known. 3rd October: Morning at Simar, helping out with cutting some reeds to prevent the overgrowing of all the shorelines as well as observing the ringing. A Common Snipe was a first in the hand for me, and a Collored flycathcer was a good record for autumn. Other birds were a Wryneck, a Kingfisher of the 5 or so present, Willow, Reed, Garden and Wood Warblers.
Lack of sleep cought up on me when I got home, slept an hour and feeling like continuing to sleep I had to convince myself that I shouldn't miss Buskett. Nearly there when I got a call about something I in the hast of sprinting up the hill I did not quite catch. But 4 Lesser Spotted Eagles soaring above us with a Black kite was well worth it! Saw them leave northwards, where another birder saw them get shot at. Soon after only three returned...one immeadiately roosted with an injury to its left wing, another with missing secondaries...You start wishing such majestic birds do not come to Malta! After enjoying them alive you have to witness them being killed or injured by poachers. Suddenly a call of Booted eagle light phase! Sure was! Soaring above us was the lifer I and others of the younger generation had longed to see it been quite a few years since it was sighted from autumn migration!
Collared Flycatcher ringed at Simar, quite rare in autumn
The flock of Lesser Spotted Eagles before they were shot at by poachers, Photo by N Galea
Photos of the Booted Eagle at dusk by N Galea