Friday, 23 April 2010

Malta - the migrants

Though Maltese hunters have wiped out many of the country's breeding birds, at migration time lots of species traverse the islands. All are targetted by illegal hunters, especially the raptors. Here are some of the ones we saw.

Male Collared Flycatcher, keeping still for a split second. Collareds, Pieds and Semi-collareds all stop off in the Mizieb woodlands on migration.

There are a few pairs of Common Kestrels breeding on the Maltese islands this year, but this is a male Lesser Kestrel, which occurs as a migrant only. No doubt this very rare species could become an established breeding bird on Malta if the hunters would leave it alone.

All four European harriers may be seen on migration in Malta. Montagu's is the second commonest after Marsh, with Pallid in third place and Hen Harrier the rarest. This male Monty's was hunting low over fields - we were willing it to just gain some height and fly away.

After Sardinian Warbler (which breeds here), the commonest Sylvia warbler is  Subalpine, a passage migrant here. This soggy female was photographed drying off from a bath in the fountain of a small park near our hotel.

Swifts and hirundines were numerous during our visit, mostly around the coast. Besides this Alpine Swift there were also Common and Pallid Swifts, and hirundine-wise countless Barn Swallows, a few Red-rumped, and House and Sand Martins.

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