We spent a nice evening at a viewpoint near Mtahleb on our third day at the Springwatch camp. We were stationed on a narrow road which descended into a very scenic valley. Few birds were about. No hunting activity was observed either, but a couple of pickups came by and slowed down as they went past, their occupants giving us the long, hard and very unfriendly stare that we'd already become used to.
What's going on with these guys? They already have the most generous legal hunting situation in Europe, both in terms of number of quarry species and the length of the open season. Spring hunting for Quail and Turtle Dove was legal for a short season until 2008, and a very short season has been reopened this year. (This is bad news for the two species concerned, both of which are in serious decline across Europe.) But some of the hunters want to shoot all the time, at everything. Most of all, they want to shoot raptors, the rarer the better, and the fact that all of the raptors are protected at all times doesn't deter them at all. A hugely overstretched police force plus a disinterested, head-in-the-sand government mean they often get away with it, but BirdLife Malta's activities do make a huge difference.
Many birdwatchers have boycotted Malta for years, in protest at the continued illegal hunting situation and the government's failure to sort things out. The BirdLife Malta message is... don't. Come to Malta on your holidays, but be aware of what goes on and be ready to report any illegal activity you see to the police. These are our birds, trying to migrate to northern Europe, and they need our protection. The more birdwatchers active in the countryside, whether on BirdLife Malta conservation camps or not, the more the hunters and trappers will have to curtail their activities. See here for everything you need to know: http://www.birdlifemalta.org.