Malta’s Secretive Seabirds


Originally posted on Life+ Malta Seabird Project:

P1110684 Ed Drewitt and Ben Metzger admiring the views from the top of a Scopoli’s Shearwater colony

Standing on the golden limestone cliffs that were once the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, I paused to appreciate these sheer vertical forms on the island of Gozo in Malta in later summer this year. Metres away Birdlife Malta’s seabird scientists Dr Ben Metzger (head of seabird research) and Paulo Lago Barreiro were showing myself and Caroline Rance (also Birdlife Malta) how to look for signs of something very special living here. We could see some splashes of poo and a few white feathers; kneeling down on the hard, crusty rocks we peered with torches into a shallow burrow that had been scarped out beneath a huge boulder. At the end in a larger space a large ball of fluff shuffled and revealed a glistening eye and beak. This was a seabird, a baby in…

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Young stork killed in Malta by poacher


This video by the BBC’s Chris Packham is called Malta – Massacre on Migration (Episode 1).

From Wildlife Extra:

Tempers flare as Malta temporarily bans legal hunting season

Following the illegal shooting of a rare juvenile white stork, and the growing body of support for the campaign against illegal hunting, the Maltese government has decided to temporarily close the autumn legal hunting season until 10 October.

This move is to prevent illegal hunters using the legal hunting season as a cover to shoot endangered birds.

“The urge to target these protected species is something we continue seeing each and every time rare visitors, such as storks, grace these islands,” said Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager.

The ringed stork was a migrant from a reintroduction project in Udine, Italy that was set up by the local community to help stork repopulate the area.

“This is a loss of great significance as we would have expected the bird to return to Fagagna in a few years to breed,” said Bruno Dentesani the project’s scientific ringer.

“This was its first migration, I’m very sad to hear of this news.”

The government’s decision was welcomed by Birdlife Malta, whose Executive Director, Steve Micklewright said: The government has repeatedly stated that it will not tolerate the illegal hunting of protected species of bird.”

“The announcement shows the government are prepared to take appropriate steps when hunters behave without any respect for the law, as they have done in recent days.”

However, hunters opposed to the government’s decision organised a protest march in Valletta which was attended by up to 200. Later on in the day at least 13 volunteer birdwatchers were then attacked at Buskett as they watched birds coming in to the woodlands at Buskett to rest for the night.

It is believed one elderly man was attacked by about four hunters, his camera was stolen and he was punched in the face and suffered facial injuries. Another sustained a leg injury after he was hit by a rock thrown by a member of the group of hunters.

Geoffrey Saliba, BirdLife Malta President, said: “We understand that those that attacked our volunteers had joined in the demonstration in Valletta earlier in the day and it appears that the attack was planned at that illegal protest.

“No one has been arrested as a result of the attack, but we understand that the volunteers might be able to recognise some of their attackers.”

Read Chris Packham’s thoughts about Malta’s hunting season HERE.

Watch Chris Packham’s films about Malta HERE.

Malta migratory bird massacre, filmed by Chris Packham


This video is called Illegal finch trapping, spring 2014, Malta.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife presenter Chris Packham to film the indiscriminate shooting of migrating birds on Malta

April 2014: Heading a self-funded camera crew, wildlife presenter Chris Packham will be filing nightly reports on YouTube of the events in Malta, as thousands of illegal hunters kill all manner of migrating birds as they pass over the island on their way from Africa to their European breeding grounds. These films, which Packham says on his website (www.chrispackham.co.uk) will not make comfortable viewing, will be shown from Easter Monday until Saturday, 26 April.

The annual spring slaughter on Malta, which last year involved at least 24 protected species, accounts for the deaths of honey buzzards, golden orioles, ospreys, cuckoos, night herons and black storks, among many others, and jeopardises future populations of these birds, which are either officially endangered or in severe decline here and in other parts of Europe.

In addition, many smaller species of birds such as finches, are trapped in nets, which also often account for the deaths of other animals accidentally caught in them.

On his website, Packham says of his team: “Our mission is to generate a wider awareness of this heinous practice with frank and factual reports from the frontline where our much loved migrant birds are being shot in huge numbers. It will not be pretty, the species killed include many UK favourites and rarities and the hunters are infamous for being confrontational and violent. I don’t care, this is not a holiday, it’s an attempt to bring this forgotten issue to a wider public attention and then to offer a couple of ways the viewers can actually do something to effect positive change.

“Please try to watch our broadcasts and please publicise them as widely as possible. I believe that people will be truly horrified when they see what happens on Malta to ‘our birds’, I believe they care and they will do something to change it.”

Existing Maltese laws that cover the hunting season, which is between 12 and 30 April, allow strictly regulated hunting of turtle doves and quail only, but these are openly flouted by local hunters. Following its entry into the EU in 2004, Malta was expected to curtail the spring hunting of turtle doves and quail, in line with the EU Birds Directive that prohibits the killing of such wild birds during the breeding or spring migration season. When this was not enforced by 2007, the European Courts of Justice ordered the country’s government not to open the spring hunting season in 2008. However, to date this has not happened. The illegal hunting of other birds, such as raptors, is not prosecuted in the country as there are limited resources to police it, and there is a strong pro-hunting lobby.

Birdlife Malta organises a Spring Watch camp, supported by ordinary people from all over Europe, to monitor bird migration on Malta and Gozo during the spring hunting season and prevent illegal hunting and trapping. Members of the camp have often been targeted by hunters with aggressive abuse and criminal damage.

For more information visit www.birdlifemalta.org.

To see Chris Packham’s films visit YouTube at 9.00pm UK time between 21 and 26 April.

See also here.

The video diary of events at the illegal spring hunting season on the Mediterranean island of Malta became an audio diary on Saturday 26 April, informing viewers that Chris Packham was arrested by Maltese police and held for four hours of questioning: here.

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Storm petrels nesting in Tunisia?


This video says about itself:

10 Sep 2012

Video from the EU Life+ Malta Seabird Project of a Mediterranean Storm Petrel chick being visited on its nest by one of its parents.

From North African Birds blog:

February 16, 2014 by

Ouni, R., Durand, J.-P., Mayol Serra, J., Essetti, I., Thevenet, M., & Renou, S. (2012). Nidification possible de l’Océanite tempête Hydrobates pelagicus à l’île Zembra, Tunisie. Alauda 80(4): 301–304.   PDF

Abstract:

Possible breeding of European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus at Zembra Island, Tunisia.

After investigations over five years, the first record of 6 individuals in late June 2012 suggests the possibility that this species breeds on Zembra and Zembretta archipelago in Tunisia.
Related papers:

Bourgeois, K., Ouni, R., Pascal, M., Dromzée, S., Fourcy, D., & Abiadh, A. (2013). Dramatic increase in the Zembretta Yelkouan shearwater breeding population following ship rat eradication spurs interest in managing a 1500-year old invasionBiological Invasions 15(3) : 475-482.

Revealing the steep decline of European Storm Petrels at western Scotland’s largest colony: here.

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Good Indian Amur falcon news, bad Maltese eagle news


This video is called Amur falcon‘s epic journey.

From Wildlife Extra:

Amur falcon massacre one year on – No birds killed so far!

Three weeks into the migration – Amur falcons hunted: Zero

October 2013. One year ago, more than 100,000 Amur falcons were killed in Nagaland in north-east India where they stop over on migration from southern Africa to Mongolia and eastern China. They make this journey, an extraordinary round-trip of some 14,000 miles every year, but it recently became apparent that as many as 100,000 falcons (some estimate even more) were being killed on their migration when they reached Nagaland. Witnesses claimed that tens of thousands of Amur falcons were being trapped and slaughtered every day during their migration.

So far in 2013, more than 300,000 Amur Falcons have arrived in Nagaland on migration. However, thanks to a campaign organised by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), squads of ex-hunters and youths from three villages in the area have been patrolling the falcon roosting areas day and night to ensure they are safe.

Remarkably, the squads have recorded that not a single bird has been killed.

WTI and Natural Nagas started the project to prevent the slaughter of Amur falcons earlier this year, with support from CAF-India in collaboration with Nagaland Forest Department. The Village Council Members of three villages pledged that their respective villages would [stop to] hunt or kill falcons and made it a punishable offence. This was preceded and followed by a number of awareness campaigns and meetings with the villagers.

This video from 2012 is called Thousands of Amur falcon birds poached in Nagaland. I hope that the horrible images of this video will now be history forever.

Unfortunately, not all bird news is as good as this item from India.

This video from Malta says about itself:

12 confirmed shot in Maltese eagle massacre

Thursday 24th October- This morning the confirmed body count of eagles shot down by hunters in Malta and Gozo reached 12, after two more of these rare and highly protected birds of prey were killed in front of watching BirdLife Malta volunteers.

BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager, Nicholas Barbara, described the events as a tragic wake-up call:

“We haven’t seen the wanton slaughter of this many protected birds by this many hunters in Malta for a long time. It is difficult to see this as anything other than a complete catastrophe and the descriptions of the scale of killing we have seen in the last 24 hours as an “isolated incident” and the scenario that only a few rogue bad apples are responsible for killing protected birds is not consistent with reality.”

“We can only hope that these events serve as a serious wake-up call to the government that the current enforcement of hunting is not doing the job and things need to change for the situation to improve.”

Read the full story here.

Lampedusa, European governmental xenophobia kills refugees


This video is called (Again) More than 50 Migrant deaths Near Lampedusa 11/10/2013.

By Alex Lantier:

Fifty dead as another migrant ship sinks off Italy

12 October 2013

Dozens of migrants died yesterday when their boat capsized in heavy seas 100 kilometers south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, only one week after a similar disaster claimed the lives of at least 339 migrants within sight of the island.

Italian news agency Ansa said approximately 50 bodies, including women and 10 children, had been pulled from the water.

The navies of Italy and the nearby island nation of Malta worked to rescue survivors of the sinking. A Maltese ship reported having picked up approximately 150 people, while the Italian navy said it had rescued around 50 survivors and was sending more rescue boats to the scene.

“The operation is in progress. The navigational conditions are difficult, with a strong wind,” a Maltese navy spokesman told Agence France-Presse last night.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told a news conference in Valletta that Maltese officials could confirm the death of at least 27 people, and “the number is expected to rise, possibly drastically.”

An Italian helicopter flew 10 rescued children to Lampedusa—where the survivors of last week’s sinking are being held under guard, threatened with deportation and fines of up to €5,000.

Initial reports indicated that the migrant ship ran into difficulty from the heavy seas and decided to signal for help. The boat allegedly capsized when those aboard gathered at one end of the vessel to catch the attention of a military aircraft flying nearby.

This shocking tragedy again underscores the terrible toll in lives from the European Union’s (EU) reactionary Frontex anti-immigrant legislation. Designed to keep immigrants from reaching Europe, it forces them to take unsafe routes into Europe and trust their lives to unseaworthy vessels, with tragic results.

Over the past 20 years, an estimated 25,000 people have died trying to enter Europe, many of them in the Mediterranean.

Public anger over the legislation has risen since last week’s Lampedusa sinking, with protests in Africa and in Italy, including a candlelight vigil on Lampedusa itself. When Manuel Barroso, the head of the EU Commission, arrived in Lampedusa on Wednesday, he was met with cries of “shame.”

The nationalities of the victims of yesterday’s sinking are not yet known. UN officials told the Associated Press that migrants today are generally fleeing persecution and wars in countries like Syria or Egypt.

Escalating fighting triggered by NATO-led proxy wars in Syria and Africa is forcing ever larger numbers of people to flee for their lives. The ship that sank on October 3 was carrying migrants from the East African countries of Eritrea and Somalia. Somalia has been the target of US drone strikes, invasions by regional military powers, and escalating tribal fighting.

Some 30,100 migrants arrived in Italy and Malta in the first nine months of 2013, compared with 15,000 in all of 2012. The 2013 figure included 7,500 refugees from Syria and 3,000 from Somalia.

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Fortress Europe’s rising death toll.