Birdlife and bird crime in Malta

This BirdLife in Malta video says about itself:

10 April 2017

After the waterfowl migration, we are now at the peak of the spring migration for herons and egrets. Raptor migration is also picking up.

Spring migration occurs between mid-March and the end of May when birds leave their wintering grounds in Africa to travel back to Europe to breed. It is in the birds’ instinct that as soon as this beautiful time of year arrives they start to build up fat and change plumage to enable them to start their long migratory trip.

During this mammoth migration, birds face many obstacles including the arduous journey over the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea, making the Maltese Islands a crucial stop-over point on the migration route for these birds to seek refuge and rest before continuing further north.

Here is some footage of different heron species which were observed at our Għadira Nature Reserve in the past days. A number of Grey Herons spent the night at the reserve where a Squacco Heron was also spotted together with a Little Egret.

Footage by Aron Tanti, editing by Nathaniel Attard.

This BirdLife in Malta video says about itself:

7 April 2017

As the spring migration continues, here is some footage of different bird species which were observed during the past days in different parts of the Maltese Islands.

Spring is the most beautiful season of the year and at this time of year many families enjoy the Maltese countryside and also visit BirdLife Malta‘s nature reserves to have a close encounter with nature. This is just a glimpse of what one can find right now in different parts of Malta and Gozo.

Footage by Antaia Christou, Simon Hoggett and Aron Tanti. Editing by Nathaniel Attard.

This BirdLife in Malta video says about itself:

The latest casualty of the 2017 spring hunting season is another protected bird of prey – a shot male Lesser Kestrel which was retrieved by the Gozo Police yesterday (4th April 2017). The Lesser Kestrel was suffering from injuries to the right wing and the left leg and had to be euthanised.

This BirdLife in Malta video says about itself:

3 April 2017

From birds of prey such as Marsh Harriers and a Common Kestrel to other smaller birds such as a Common Swift, a Barn Swallow and Hoopoes, the first week of the 2017 spring hunting season has already taken its toll on several protected species. Nothing was spared, as the total of known illegally shot birds since the start of the season on Saturday 25th March has now reached eight. Four of these protected birds succumbed to their injuries after they were shot down. More than half of these illegally shot birds were retrieved just over the last weekend alone from different parts of Malta and Gozo.

This Marsh Harrier was the first casualty of the season. It was retrieved from a field in Selmun on the second day of the hunting season. The vet confirmed it was shot and suffering from injuries to its right wing.

The fact that all of these shot birds were retrieved from different localities across Malta and Gozo clearly indicates that illegalities are widespread across the country during the current open spring hunting season. One needs to keep in mind that these retrieved injured birds represent only a fraction of the illegal hunting which is actually happening in the countryside.

This is why BirdLife Malta reiterated its call on the Government and on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to close the hunting season with immediate effect as it had done in the past.

(Footage by Nicholas Barbara, editing by Nathaniel Attard)

This BirdLife in Malta video says about itself:

28 March 2017

Here is some footage of three Purple Herons (Russett Aħmar) in flight at Delimara. This footage was shot by volunteers from our Conservation team this morning.

The Purple Heron is a slender, snaky-necked heron of reedbeds and dense marshes. It is somewhat smaller than the Grey Heron, from which it can be distinguished by its darker reddish-brown plumage, and, in adults, darker grey back. It has a narrower yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding adults. It is often hard to see as it prefers to hide in the reeds, unlike the Grey Heron.

The long neck of the Purple Heron looks particularly snake-like, with more of an S-shape in flight. The call is a loud croaking “krek”.

This bird is regularly seen during migration; some singles, some in flocks and some in mixed flocks with other herons, mainly Grey Herons. (Footage by Antaia Christou, editing by Nathaniel Attard)

This BirdLife in Malta video says about itself:

On Sunday 26th March 2017 a flock of around 15 Black-winged Stilts spent a day at Is-Salina Nature Reserve.

Here is some footage of the salt pans full of life, as the beautiful birds attracted lots of people to the area as they mingled with other species which were feeding and resting on site at the time. It was the third time in a week that Black-winged Stilts were noticed at the Salina salt pans during the 2017 spring migration. (Footage and editing by Nathaniel Attard)


European bird news

This video from Malta says about itself:

4 April 2009

This video shows that birds can be enjoyed in the wild state in the Maltese Islands. Creating habitat, like Birdlife Malta did at the reserves at Simar and Ghadira helps birds to find refuge during their migration and breeding seasons.

From BirdLife:

24 Mar 2017

The Bird Bulletin

By Gui-Xi Young

Welcome to the first edition of ‘The Bird Bulletin’ – our new weekly news brief. Every Friday morning, we’ll bring you bite-sized updates from all across Europe & Central Asia – now you can kick start every weekend with ‘what a little bird told me’!

SPRING IS IN THE AIR – Have you heard? Spring has officially sprung according to BirdLife Malta. Keen birdwatchers have observed teams of spring migrating ducks over the MaltaGozo channel: Ferruginous ducks, Garganeys, Pintails, Shovelers, Eurasian Teams [sic: Teals] and Wigeons.

INTRODUCING Ferula mikraskythiana, the latest cellular sensation to take the botanical world stage by storm! Yes, that’s right – biologists from SOR-BirdLife have discovered a whole new species of flowering plant in Romania. Read more…

Atlantic Puffin at the crossroads: alarm bells rang out when the iconic seabird was red-listed as being ‘vulnerable’ to global extinction in 2015. This week, marine experts gathered for an international workshop organised by Fuglavernd/BirdLife Iceland to address this dramatic decline. Read the RSPB’s report on Reykjavik here.

As William Shakespeare wrote “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Thousands of swans – the Danish national bird – have been killed by collisions with power lines in recent weeks. The area where this is happening has been dubbed ‘the field of death’ by the media. Our Danish partner DOF has posted heart-breaking visual evidence online; amid public outcry, the energy company involved has now engaged in a constructive dialogue with DOF in order to prevent further casualties.

Our ‘office’ bird is back! There are very few birds around our Brussels office so we are particularly fond of the little Black Redstart that frequents the hotel roof across from us. It is a migrant (to the west Mediterranean) and Wim Van Den Bossche, our Flyway Conservation officer, last recorded it here last autumn on 26th of October 2016. What a journey for such a little fellow! Listen to its high pitched song here.

Mute swans’ rare visit to Malta

This video from Malta says about itself:

Mute Swans in Gozo

4 January 2017

Since the beginning of the New Year hundreds of people have visited Marsalforn Valley to see the 12 Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) which have been resting and feeding in the artificial reservoir since Monday.

The four adult and eight juvenile Mute Swans (Ċinji in Maltese) probably landed in Gozo because of the cold weather in Europe seeking warmer surroundings. Earlier today some of them flew off, only to return to the area an hour later.

The Mute Swan is native to much of Europe and Asia, and (as a rare winter visitor) the far north of Africa. The name ‘mute’ derives from it being less vocal than other swan species. Measuring 125 to 170 centimetres in length, this large swan is wholly white in plumage with an orange bill bordered with black. It is recognisable by its pronounced knob atop the bill. Mute Swans nest on large mounds that they build with waterside vegetation in shallow water on islands in the middle or at the very edge of a lake. They are monogamous and often reuse the same nest each year, restoring or rebuilding it as needed.

Although the Mute Swan‘s status is ‘very rare’, some of these birds are recorded in the Maltese Islands from time to time in winter (mostly December and January), especially when it is a really cold winter in Europe. Some records are of small flocks.

The birds are being constantly monitored by the Gozo Police and by members of the Administrative Law Enforcement Unit (ALE).

People are urged not to get too close to the birds to take pictures and close-ups, and not to disturb the swans in any other way, especially by throwing pebbles and stones into the water to attract their attention.

This video from Malta says about itself:

7 January 2017

Here is the latest footage taken by BirdLife Malta of the 12 Mute Swans currently in Gozo. The swans – 4 adults and 8 juveniles – have been resting and feeding at Marsalforn Valley since the first day of 2017 and have attracted hundreds of people to the area to take pictures of this rare sight.

Throughout the week BirdLife Malta urged the general public not to feed the Mute Swans and not to throw bread to the birds as this would do them more harm than good, causing them irreparable damage in the long run even though it may seem harmless. Most bread is essentially junk food for these birds, with white bread being the worst as it can cause them a range of problems, including a debilitating disease rendering them unable to fly.

After discussions with the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), later in the week, BirdLife Malta began giving the appropriate food to the birds in the reservoir – a fodder mix of legumes and cereals (ġwież).

From BirdLife:

Mute Swans make the Maltese headlines

By Jessica Irwin, 1 Feb 2017

Jessica Irwin (BirdLife Malta) fills us in on the latest ‘celebrity’ sensation to grip Malta – a flock of Mute Swans that have sought refuge from the recent cold snap in the shelter of Marsalforn Valley.

As the first dawn of 2017 broke across the Maltese Islands, who could have guessed that a flock of unexpected visitors were already on their way? The next day, they were spotted in Gozo’s Marsalforn Valley, unleashing a frenzy of excitement amongst locals. As news quickly spread, it suddenly seemed like everyone in Malta wanted to catch a glimpse of these rare guests – a small flock of majestic Mute Swans!

Although common across most of Europe, these waterbirds are a rare sight in these parts. But with the recent cold snap across much of the continent, it is likely that this group of four adults and eight juveniles sought the refuge of warmer surroundings. With their slender white necks, striking orange bills and graceful presence, it’s easy to see how these elegant creatures have captured the imaginations of so many, from fairy-tales to Tchaikovsky and now the people of Malta. Within days, the swans had become local celebrities, with thousands visiting the valley to see them – they even dominated the national news for the first week of the New Year.

Of course, amidst the hype, many visitors were keen to feed the birds and BirdLife Malta made calls, urging the public to watch from a safe distance and avoid feeding them white bread (which can cause irreparable harm). After a few days, the overwhelming attention began to take its toll on several of the juveniles that appeared weak from a combination of stress and lack of adequate food. Mute Swans have enormous appetites and have been noted to eat up to eight pounds of aquatic plants per day, so a proper feeding protocol was necessary to give the swans the fuel they needed to continue on their migration.

With the help of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, we began feeding the birds a combination of legumes and cereals to help them regain their strength. At this point, BirdLife Malta also reached out to the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) and to the Kaċċaturi San Ubertu (KSU) in the hopes of collaborating on the feeding effort and finding common ground for the benefit of wildlife and nature.After much deliberation, it was agreed that, in the best interests of the birds and their wellbeing, a collaborative effort was important. Since then, we have all worked together to ensure regular feeding and the FKNK has even helped secure a sponsor for most of the food.

While BirdLife Malta may not always see eye to eye with hunting groups, our recent joint efforts shows that collaboration is possible. The Mute Swans have cast a magical spell over Malta, uniting two opposing forces and many thousands of people together behind nature. We hope they leave this magic behind when they continue on their journey.

LGBTQ conversion quackery ban in Malta

This video says about itself:

15 April 2014

Malta’s gay community celebrates new law recognising same-sex partnerships as marriages

Malta’s Labour Prime Minister Joseph Muscat joined around 1,000 people celebrating a new law on the Mediterranean island which recognises same-sex marriage on a legal par with marriage and gives gay couples the right to adopt.

The opposition Nationalist party abstained from the vote and said it had reservations about gay adoptions claiming 80 percent of the population were against the law.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Gay conversion therapy‘ becomes illegal in Malta

Today, 18:12

Malta has introduced a ban on therapies that aim to ‘cure’ homosexuals from their orientation. The law was passed unanimously by parliament.

Therapists who go wrong may get a prison sentence or fine. The same applies to medical professionals who prescribe such therapies.

So far in Europe, therapies ‘curing’ LGBTQ people had not been punishable anywhere. Only in some states in the United States, it is forbidden by law to treat minors because of their sexual orientation.


Gay advocacy group COC in the Netherlands has asked Minister [of Health] Schippers two years ago to have such a ban. The minister said she did not need new rules, because these treatments in the Netherlands are considered to be inadequate therapies. Against that, the Inspectorate for Healthcare can act.

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.”

Nathaniel Attard celebrates a historic agreement with the Maltese government which sees BirdLife Malta entrusted with its fourth national land management project – the Salini Salt Pan nature reserve, a site of huge cultural significance for the country: here.

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.