Birdwatching and conservation in Malta


This video says about itself:

LIFE + Malta Seabird Project: Rats & Shearwater Conservation

22 July 2015

A short documentary looking at the effects rats are having on shearwater populations that breed in the area of Comino.

From BirdLife:

Malta’s commitment to protect marine life

By Edward Jenkins, Janina Laurent and Bruna Campos, 13 July 2016

Malta is an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunisia. Despite its size (300 sq km), Malta punches above its weight both culturally and ecologically. With a long human history that spans 7000 years, modern Malta has much to offer: the capital Valetta is the upcoming EU city of culture in 2018.

Malta also boasts beautiful coastlines, including sandy beaches and impressive limestone cliffs. Endemic species include the Maltese freshwater crab, Maltese wall lizard, Maltese ruby tiger moth, and a host of diverse plants. It’s also a great spot to birdwatch during migrations because of its position on the Central Mediterranean Flyway.

Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) designated by BirdLife Malta (BirdLife’s national partner there) protect habitat used by fish, turtles, dolphins, and seabirds. Snorkeling and diving are popular activities and initiatives such as LIFE Bahar and the LIFE Migrate Project are working on identifying and designating more areas for marine conservation. This includes the small island of Comino and its surrounding ocean, an important breeding site for seabirds.

Years ago, I was privileged to be on a boat near Comino, seeing a flock of five squacco herons flying on their spring migration north.

Cool birds to see

Three seabird species have internationally important breeding colonies on Malta, making it a fantastic holiday destination for seabird enthusiasts. The Yelkouan Shearwater is found only in the Mediterranean and around 10% (2,000 pairs) breed in Malta. Named after its habit of “shearing” above the water, it flies low over the waves, soaring from side to side with few wingbeats, wingtips almost touching the surface. It has been the focus of two EU LIFE projects, including the newly launched Arcipelagu Garnija which aims to secure the future of this vulnerable species.

The Scopoli’s Shearwater, a larger cousin of the Yelkouan Shearwater, is more abundant with 5,000-7,000 pairs, while the tiny Mediterranean Storm-petrel breeds primarily on the tiny islet of Filfla where 5,000-8,000 pairs make up over 50% of the world population. The EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project, which ends this month, has been instrumental in expanding understanding of these species and working towards their conservation.

Beware of rats, cats and light

Rats introduced by humans are the greatest suppressor of breeding success among Maltese seabirds as they can access even the steepest cliffs to eat eggs and young chicks. Light pollution attracts newly fledged chicks to strand on land, making them vulnerable to cats.

This high chick mortality combined with the death of adults offshore from irresponsible fishing practices has resulted in steep declines of the species. Arcipelagu Garnija is working to reverse these declines by controlling rat populations, educating the public to use environmentally-friendly lighting at night and to promote ecotourism so visitors can enjoy these enigmatic birds while investing in their future.

When exploring Malta’s marine environment and natural sea, always watch out for injured wild birds. In case you see one, contact BirdLife Malta and they will take care of it as part of the bird rescue programme.

What’s happening in Malta?

Want to see some shearwaters? Try a sunset shearwater boat trip around the Ta’ Cenc Cliffs. Looking to support conservation efforts in Malta? Try volunteering for BirdLife Malta – they’re always looking for help at events or in nature reserves where you can spend time talking to other people, including children, about the great outdoors of Malta.

Tips from a local: Nicholas Barbara

“Hear the colonies of Scopoli’s Shearwaters come alive at night, as pairs visit their nesting sites calling out for each other between June and August. See if you can distinguish the baby-like harsher call of the female in comparison to that of the males. The cliffs of Ta’ Cenc on the island of Gozo are teeming with life after sunset.

Take a walk along the western cliffs of Malta and Gozo in the summer evening and attempt to spot rafting groups of Scopoli’s Shearwater awaiting nightfall to feed their young at the cliffs. You might even be lucky enough to spot feeding aggregations along the coast as tuna, dolphins and shearwaters often splash in to feed on shoals of fish together.

Charter a boat and venture into the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. Loggerhead Turtles can often be spotted basking at the surface soaking up the morning sun, while Storm-petrels are harder to spot when they come to the shore at night.”

Good seabird news from Malta


This November 2015 video is called Saving Malta’s Seabirds – Protecting our Seas.

From BirdLife:

Malta’s first marine Special Protection Areas announced

By Sanya Khetani-Shah, 29 Jun 2016

Good news for endangered Maltese seabirds! The national government has given Malta its first eight marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs) specifically for birds. Now that these sites have been designated, Malta will also be fulfilling its obligation of implementing the EU Birds Directive.

The eight SPAs now form part of the EU-wide Natura 2000 network, which is essential for the protection and long-term survival of Europe’s natural heritage on land and at sea. They will improve the conservation of all three protected and declining seabird species in Malta: the Yelkouan Shearwater, Scopoli’s Shearwater and European Storm-petrel. This is of global importance as Malta is home to 10% of the world’s Yelkouan Shearwaters, 3% of Scopoli’s Shearwaters and 50% of the Mediterranean subspecies of European Storm-petrels.

The inventory of these sites was created by BirdLife Malta in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK), the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA, BirdLife in Portugal) and Malta’s Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change through the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project, which came to a successful end on 28 June. Throughout the project’s lifespan (September 2011-June 2016) BirdLife Malta’s researchers identified the most important sites at sea frequented by seabirds – marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) – and proposed to the national government that they be legally protected and managed as SPAs.

The project came to a close at an event in Ċirkewwa to announce the SPA designation and present the project’s findings. Malta’s Environment Minister Josè Herrera opened the proceedings and European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella – in a video message – described this project as a cause for celebration and also as a perfect example of the value of collaboration.

“With the hard work of BirdLife Malta and its partners, the problem [biodiversity loss in Europe] is addressed and nature is protected,” he said, while appealing for more international collaboration to protect seabirds.

The next step in seabird conservation in the country will be the creation and implementation by the Maltese authorities of management plans for all the marine protected areas, as well as eventually monitoring them to ensure that seabirds and other marine life are safe and that these areas have Good Environmental Status (meaning that they are biodiverse, clean and used sustainably) by 2020.

This is also not the end of Malta’s research and conservation projects for seabirds. The LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project is the second of three seabird-related LIFE projects (after the LIFE Yelkouan Shearwater project) being carried out by BirdLife Malta and its international partners over a span of fifteen years. The third project, LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija, was launched by BirdLife Malta a few weeks ago and seeks to complement the findings of the first two.

One refugee girl, two brothers, reality-based fiction


This video from Turkey says about itself:

2 September 2015

Where’s Humanity? Bodies found washed up a Turkish shore of Syrian children refugees who tried escaping war.

The core of this story is a dream which I had last night. However, there is so much reality in it that it is not fiction in the narrow sense.

Stormy in the Mediterranean.

The tiny overloaded Libyan fishing boat is minutes from capsizing, drowning all Syrian, Libyan, Iraqi and Somali refugees aboard.

Then, suddenly, a Maltese coast guard ship which happened to be in the same part of the sea.

The refugees jump on board. However, there is Maryam Haddad. A fictional name, for reasons of privacy, like most names in this story.

The ardous journey from Syria has weakened ten-year-old Maryam with her headscarf on. She jumps, but falls into the merciless waves.

For the last time, she cries out for help.

Too late … but then, Maltese coast guard officer Peter Zammit jumps into the water, grabbing little Maryam.

‘Now they will both drown!’ one of Peter’s colleagues thinks. But another colleague throws a lifeline, saving Peter and Maryam.

There happened to be a photographer on the ship. Many TV stations, radio stations, newspapers and Internet sites reported on this rescue.

Some of the reports praised Peter Zammit as a hero. Not so Katie Hopkins in The Sun daily, owned by Rupert Murdoch:

As I have proved before, these so-called ‘refugees’ are not refugees at all. They are cockroaches. Cockroaches are vermin which you should not leave alive. Peter Zammit, this ‘hero’ of the liberal media, is in fact a traitor to western values. He aided and abetted the towelhead invasion of Europe. Ten-year-old Maryam, looking so innocent on the liberal media photos, won’t be innocent in four years time. Then, she will breed ten or more Islamic terrorists, as we all know muzzies breed with the speed of rabbits.

The morning after the media publicity, Peter Zammit’s wife Rosie found her husband dead just outside the front door, dressed in his pyamas. A gun laying next to him.

A police inspector said: ‘This is either suicide, or foul play trying to make it look like suicide. Peter cannot be buried yet. We have to investigate’.

‘Suicide?’ Rosie exclaimed to the inspector. ‘Impossible! We were always happy together. I had told Peter how proud I was about what he had done to rescue that girl. I am expecting our first child. Peter looked forward so much to becoming a father. Yesterday night, before falling asleep, we had talked about how we would educate our child. We had agreed that if the child would be a girl, we would call her Maryam, after the Syrian girl whom Peter saved’.

A Maltese newspaper interviewed Peter’s older brother Cain. Cain looked much like Peter. Like Peter, he was a law enforcement officer: police, not coast guard. But that was about all these two had in common.

‘So, Peter is dead?’ Cain said. ‘Does not surprise me really. Maybe suicide as he finally realized that do-gooder saving of Muslim so-called ‘refugees’ basically is just aiding and abetting genocide of the white race. I read Ms Hopkins column, and she tells the truth. It is also possible that someone who was fed up with liberal commie faggots like Peter killed him’.

‘You call your brother a faggot’, the journalist said, ‘Do you have any proof that he was a homosexual?’

‘Well, proof … proof is a big word’, Cain said. ‘But I have suspected him all my life really. When we were teenagers, I asked him to help me shooting birds. But, no sir, not Peter. He said: ‘These birds have come such a long way to Malta, and still have such a long way to go. Let them live.’ No real man would ever say such a thing. Only a liberal commie sentimental sodomite like my goddamn own brother would say such a thing’.

When the police inspector read the interview, he thought he should ask his colleague Cain Zammit some questions.

As Cain entered the room, the inspector said: ‘Colleague Zammit, I have sad news. The DNA traces on the gun laying next to your murdered brother Peter match with your DNA’.

Cain Zammit face went very disturbed, ashen. Only for five seconds. Then, he composed himself. ‘Yes, I did kill that f-ing faggot commie liberal. Not only did he save that muzzie vermin from drowning. When he was still in the police like us, he arrested a man for killing a golden oriole. ‘Poaching‘, my goddamn so-called brother called that! As we both know, I would never arrest a man for such sportsmanship.

At midnight, I rang his doorbell. I was lucky that Islam lover woke up and opened the door, while his wife kept sleeping. The rest was easy.’

For the information of Cain Zammit and others: the Haddad family was Christian, not Muslim. The Middle Eastern custom of headscarves for women dates from the Christian Byzantine empire, before the rise of Islam.

Maryam Haddad’s parents asked the authorities: ‘Please, please allow us to attend the funeral of Peter Zammit, who saved the life of our little girl’.

The authorities replied: ‘You are in an asylum seekers camp. No one is allowed to leave that camp’.

Daoud Haddad cried for hours. Leyla Haddad cried for hours.

Stop bird killing in the Mediteranean


This video says about itself:

Stop Illegal Bird Hunting In Malta

13 April 2015

Every year countless rare and protected birds are shot out of the sky in Malta, while on migration.

For many years, BirdLife Malta has been working to stop this senseless killing. Every spring and autumn, our volunteers are active in the countryside to monitor and attempt to prevent illegal hunting.

Coordinating these efforts is extremely expensive. We need vital funds to purchase suitable vehicles, surveillance and monitoring equipment, and to train our volunteers.

With your help, we can stop this illegal killing of birds on Malta.

From BirdLife:

Extent of illegal killing of birds in the Mediterranean revealed in BirdLife report

By Finlay Duncan, Fri, 21/08/2015 – 17:00

BirdLife International’s first review into the illegal killing of birds in the Mediterranean has been published – and it’s uncovered the shocking death toll suffered by a number of the region’s species.

Unlawfully shot, trapped or even glued: the review estimates 25 million birds are being killed illegally each year. With the help of BirdLife Partners, a list of the ten Mediterranean countries with the highest number of birds thought to be killed each year has been compiled. The review lays bare the areas where conservation efforts need to be stepped up.

Countries currently hit by conflict, such as Syria and Libya, do feature highly in the rankings, but so do some European nations too. Italy comes second only to Egypt for the estimated mean number of illegal killings each year. Meanwhile, the Famagusta area of Cyprus has the unenviable position of being the single worst location in the Mediterranean under the same criteria.

Other European countries featuring in the top 10 are Greece, France, Croatia and Albania. Despite not ranking in the top 10 overall, Malta sees the region’s highest estimated number of birds illegally killed per square kilometre.

For BirdLife, the review further demonstrates why the Birds Directive, currently under examination by the European Commission, should be better implemented, rather than re-opened.

The review also exposes some of the common methods of killing in use across the Mediterranean; which include illegal shooting, capture in nets and recordings of bird sounds used to lure them to illegal trapping locations. Many of the cruel methods used, such as lime sticks that glue the birds to branches, cause considerable suffering before resulting in the bird’s death.

Figures suggest Eurasian Chaffinch comes top of the ‘kill list’ (an estimated 2.9 million are killed each year), with Eurasian Blackcap (1.8 million), Common Quail (1.6 million) and Song Thrush (1.2 million) making up the rest of the top four. A number of species already listed as ‘Near Threatened’ or ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List are also in danger, according to the review.

The review’s publication comes as the British Birdwatching Fair gets underway today (Friday 21 August 2015) at Rutland Water Nature Reserve. It also marks the launch of BirdLife’s new Keeping the Flyway Safe fundraising campaign to help target resources for conservation in the worst affected locations.

Commenting on the publication, BirdLife International CEO, Patricia Zurita, said: “This review shows the gruesome extent to which birds are being killed illegally in the Mediterranean. Populations of some species that were once abundant in Europe are declining, with a number even in free-fall and disappearing altogether.”

“Our birds deserve safer flyways – concluded BirdLife’s CEO – and we want conservation efforts to be increased now, before it’s too late.”

The data in the review previews a scientific paper due to be published soon giving a full assessment of the situation in the Mediterranean.

For a full breakdown of the numbers for each country and species mentioned in this article, please see the review itself here or press release here.

New marine wildlife discoveries in Maltese waters


This vide is called Malta Diving Adventure: Marine Life.

From the Times of Malta:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015, 12:23

73 new species recorded in Maltese waters

A total of 61 authenticated alien species and another five unconfirmed ones were recorded in Maltese waters by the end of last year, according to an extensive survey Julian Evans, Jacqueline Barbara and Patrick J Schembri, from the university’s Department of Biology.

Analysis of the known or probable mode of arrival of these species indicated that the most common mode of introduction was through boating and shipping.

Other species were first introduced elsewhere in the Mediterranean and then managed to spread to the Maltese Islands under their own steam.

Thirty of these records were made since the turn of the century, clearly indicating that the rate of new records was at an all-time high. This was likely due to the present day warming trend of Mediterranean surface water, which favoured the occurrence, establishment and range extension of warm-water species in the central Mediterranean.

The researchers also documented another phenomenon – the spread of Atlantic warm-water species to the central Mediterranean – which was almost certainly related to this warming trend. To date, seven such species have been recorded in the Maltese Islands, so the total number of new species (aliens + Atlantic range extenders) now stood at 73.

Overall, the most represented groups were molluscs (21 species), fish (15 species), crustaceans (eight species) and red algae (seven species).

More than half of the newcomers (38 species) established breeding populations, while a further eight species were considered to be invasive.

These species were the seaweeds Lophocladia lallemandii, Womersleyella setacea and Caulerpa cylindracea, the bivalve Crachidontes pharaonis, the crab Percnon gibbesi, and the fish Fistularia commersonii, Siganus luridus and Sphoeroides pachygaster.

The latter species, a pufferfish, was particularly interesting because it was one of the Atlantic species that extended their range to reach the central Mediterranean independent of any human involvement, and was therefore not considered to be an alien species.

Scopoli’s shearwaters off Malta


This video says about itself:

LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project: A Life of Sound

30 June 2015

Seabirds have some truly amazing calls. In this video you will hear…

Storm Petrel, 30 jun. 2015

Seabirds have some truly amazing calls. In this video you will hear…

Storm Petrel, Yelkouan & Scopoli’s Shearwater sound recordings recorded during the project. In the darkness of a cave or whilst flying at night, vocal communications are often how individuals communicate with each other.

From daily The Independent in Malta:

Secretive birds: BirdLife Malta members enjoying shearwaters at sunset

Saturday, 11 July 2015, 14:38

Over two hundred people have set sail on BirdLife Malta’s sunset boat trips to experience the natural spectacle of hundreds of incoming Scopoli’s shearwaters (ċiefa) as they return to their nests deep in the Ta’ Cenc cliffs, Gozo, the NGO said.

During the trips, participants were able to see these amazing birds up close as some 800 birds surrounded the boats. The adult birds spend all day at sea, finding food to bring back to their single chick. Secretive birds, shearwaters will only return to their nest under cover of darkness; and at dusk hundreds of birds may be seen gathering together on the sea waiting to return to their young.

Malta is home to 5% of the world’s Scopoli’s shearwaters, with 1000 pairs nesting at Ta’ Cenc alone. The EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project, led by BirdLife Malta, has been researching their lives with the aim of creating Marine Protected Areas to safeguard Malta’s seabirds.

BirdLife Malta is organising further boat trips in August, open to members and the general public. Interested readers can email ‘events@birdlifemalta.org’.

Rare moth in the Netherlands


This video is called Striped hawk-moth at Buskett Woodland, Malta.

Translated from the Dutch Butterfly Foundation:

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

This spring is good for migratory butterflies and moths. Besides painted ladies and red admirals which have flown to the Netherlands in large numbers there are also many reports of hummingbird hawk-moths. The crowning touch is the striped hawk-moth which on June 7 was seen in a garden in Velserbroek.

This South European species had been seen for the last time in the Netherlands in 2011.