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Autumn Malta & Gozo Camp Blog 2012

CABS Bird Guards on MaltaCABS Bird Guards on MaltaThe Committee Against Bird Slaughter ended its 3 week bird protection camp on Malta and Gozo today 7 October. In the period 14 September to 7 October a total of 32 volunteers from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania and the USA participated in the camp. A final report will be published soon. In the meantime you can read about the course of the camp in our camp blog

The costs of the Malta camp amounting to some 25,000 € are met exclusively from donations; our operations on Gozo were financed by the Foundation Pro Biodiversity .

During this year’s autumn camp we have published four videos in Youtube. (because of the primarily Maltese public the commentaries are in English):

Shooting of birds of prey, herons, Bee-eaters
Marsh Harrier shot down at Dingli Cliffs
Honey Buzzard shot down at Dingli Cliffs
Falcon massacre near the Malta International Airport

Sunday, 07.10.2012

The CABS bird protection camp on Malta ended today after 3 weeks of operations. All volunteers will have left the island tomorrow.

Saturday, 07.10.2012

Starling use a s live decoy - a legal hunting method on MaltaStarling use a s live decoy - a legal hunting method on Malta Four CABS teams were deployed today. It was mainly quiet as few birds arrived on the islands yesterday evening. Nonetheless a team stationed near Safi observed from a great distance the shooting down of a bird of prey (probably a Marsh Harrier that had roosted within the airport perimeter) with five shots, halfway between the runway and Freeport. In addition, in the same area, a high flying Common Kestrel was shot at twice but was able to fly on. Most of the some 100 shots recorded around the airport (unimaginable in any other country with the current constant threat of terrorism!!) were probably aimed at starlings, a huntable species on Malta. Several hunters set out cages with live decoys to lure the flocks of Starlings in front of their guns.

In the afternoon three teams were deployed but there were no incidents of note.

Friday, 05.10.2012

Two CABS teams monitored the corridor to the south-west of the Buskett gardens roost this morning. Almost all Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and falcons passing overhead reached the coast safely and continued their journey to Africa. At 7.49 am an unidentified broadwing (Honey Buzzard or Marsh Harrier) was shot at repeatedly and it is doubtful if the bird survived. Another team registered a shot at a Short-eared Owl that was hunting on the plateau in the early hours. The bird was luckily not hit. The CABS team deployed near Bingemma heard an electronic decoy playing Redshank calls, in addition to at least two other electronic quail decoys. As the team began a search the decoy was turned off.

In the afternoon more than 40 Marsh Harriers and Honey Buzzards made landfall on Malta with most of them heading for Buskett Gardens. Shortly before arriving at the roost site there some of the birds coming in from the south came under fire near the Blue Grotto. Two birds were hit. AN ALE patrol alerted by a CABS team searched the area until dusk . The outcome of the search is not yet known.

At 4.25 pm, at the northern end of Dingli Cliffs, a team filmed the shooting down of a Marsh Harrier. The video of this incident can be seen on Youtube here .

Thursday, 04.10.2012

Hobby shot on Gozo on 04.10.12Hobby shot on Gozo on 04.10.12Our night watch at the vulture roost was successful - both birds flew off safely over the sea at 10.00 am in the morning. Present were ten police officers, two members of the Environment Ministry as well as the CABS and BirdLife teams that had been on duty during the night. Thanks to this overwhelming presence a good number of Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers were also able to continue their migration journey to Africa safely. At 7.45 am a Honey Buzzard with damaged plumage was sighted near Laferla Cross.

In the late afternoon numerous Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and falcons arrived at various points across the island. CABS teams deployed to Safi, Dingli, Bingemma and the area around Bahrija recorded several shots at the incoming birds and witnessed directly the shooting of a Honey Buzzards and a Common Kestrel. Another Honey Buzzard that reached the coast near Dingli shortly before dusk was shot at six times but managed to fly on. The shooting down of a Honey Buzzard near Dingli was filmed and is also on Youtube at YouTube Near Mgarr (Gozo) a witness observed a hunter shooting down a Hobby. The bird was recovered by the police and brought to a veterinary surgeon by members of CABS. A CABS team sent to search for trapping sites near Safi, where a trapper was arrested yesterday, were accosted by a man who ran out of a nearby house and, without warning, struck one of the conservationists full in the face with his fist and felled him to the ground. The 59 year old volunteer from Saxony had to receive medical treatment in Floriana. The attacker was arrested the same evening by the police and spent the night in the cells.

Wednesday, 03.10.2012

A police patrol (left) arrest a trapper (right near Safi after a tip off from CABS. Cages full of live decoys can be seen stacked up in the foreground.A police patrol (left) arrest a trapper (right near Safi after a tip off from CABS. Cages full of live decoys can be seen stacked up in the foreground.Rarity alert on Malta. Our partners BirdLife Malta today informed us that a hunter on the coastline at Qawra had been observed shooting at a flock of Greater Flamingos. A short time later a flamingo with leg injuries was observed in the Salina nature reserve. Another injured flamingo, struggling for its life in the sea one kilometre from the shore near Ghallis, was rescued by an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat and taken to a vet. You can read more on this incident here Times of Malta: AFM rescues injured flamingo

The CABS team stationed in Safi in the morning managed to film a poacher illegally trapping Quails at 7.00 am. The man had placed some 10 live decoys in cages around the perimeter of a huge clap net and was caught red-handed by a police patrol alerted by the CABS team. He will be prosecuted for illegal trapping.

In the afternoon, after a long pause in migration, several dozen Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and falcons arrived at various points on the island. The sighting of two Egyptian Vultures, that settled in a quarry near Dingli Cliffs, was an ornithological sensation for Malta. Two teams of volunteers, from BirdLife Malta and CABS, were positioned overnight at the two entrances to the quarry to prevent hunters collection one of these very coveted trophies.

At 5.00 pm near Freeport a CABS team ob served a high flying Common Kestrel being shot at 6 times but without being hit.

The Maltese environmental police today confiscated three shotguns from hunters who had shot at protected bird species in the area between Fawwara and Safi. In addition a dead Honey Buzzard and a further shot bird of prey were recovered or seized by the police.

Tuesday, 02.10.2012

With poor migration the previous evening only a handful of birds of prey were observed this morning and few hunters were out and about. Two Marsh Harriers and a Common Kestrel that had roosted within the airport perimeter flew safely over the ‘problem area’ at Safi. There were either no hunters present or they are reacting to our permanent presence of our teams there.

In the afternoon there was passage of numerous Pied Wagtails and Swallows as well as a dozen Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers. One of our teams sighted an Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina - a rarity for Malta.

A team on the Dwejra Lines observed a Common Kestrel in the far distance coming under fire. It was lucky and flew on uninjured.

More good news: in the course of Question Time in the Maltese Parliament at the beginning of the week the Minister for Justice, Chris Said, stated that the use of a model aircraft by the German TV station and CABS in spring to detect illegal trapping sites did not, contrary to what the Maltese Hinting Federation claimed, contravene data protection regulations. CABS will therefore make preparations over the next few months to resume operations by the Eye in the Sky next year.

Monday, 01.10.2012

The morning was as quiet as it has been the past few days and, due to poor migration, few hunters were present in the countryside.

The afternoon hunting curfew ended officially today, 1 October. It has been in effect since 15 September to afford a degree of protection for the arrival of birds of prey in the evening. There was a small fly in of falcons, Common and Lesser Kestrels as well as Hobbies, at different locations on the island.

At 4.50 pm, near Bahrija, a Common Kestrel was shot down but the police, who were immediately informed, failed to put in an appearance. At Safi, close to the international airport, a serious incident occurred. At around 5.00 pm a fly in of some 20 to 30 Common and Lesser Kestrels began to seek a night roost place in the eucalyptus trees there. At 5.30 pm the first shots were fired to flush the birds from the trees. Within a period of minutes the CABS team ion the spot observed at least five birds being shot down (and filmed three of the killings), as well as three further shots at birds in flight. A total of some 40 shots were fired and it is can be assumed that more birds were shot down out of sight of the team in this extremely difficult and dense terrain. The police arrived shortly before dusk, more than an hour after we had alerted them. The falcon roost was probably completely wiped out. A video of this massacre can be found immediately below.

Shortly after 6.00 pm a team at Bahrija observed and filmed a Short-eared Owl that had settled on a wall to roost. After dusk several shots were heard from the location but the fate of the owl is unknown.

Sunday, 30.9.2012

CABS volunteers on the west coast of MaltaCABS volunteers on the west coast of MaltaAs the CABS team reached their observation post sin the early morning electronic decoy devices, illegally set out to lure Quail in front of the hunters’ guns, were active at four out of five sites (in Bahrija, Has-Saptan, Safi and at Freeport). At 6.46 am near Safi a Common Kestrel came repeatedly under fire from a hunter but flew on uninjured. In the same location five shots in succession were fired from an automatic weapon at 7.20 am (shotguns firing more than 3 consecutive shot are against the law). The police were called and searched the area but without success. An automatic shotgun was also heard near Marsascala at 7.02 am (four consecutive shots were fired).

In the afternoon there were again very few birds of prey, the highlights being two Peregrine Falcons near Bahrija as well as a good dozen Common and Lesser Kestrels and Hobbies in the Girgenti Valley. The trappers are now busily preparing their trapping sites for the coming Golden Plover season that begins on 20 October. A good number of them will use the opportunity to prepare to illegally trap song birds. With their decision to permit trapping of two species just before the elections the Government has made effective measures against poaching practically impossible.

Nine shots were registered after the 3.00 pm curfew:

  • 15:05, Kercem (Gozo), 4 shots
  • 17:12, Dingli, 1 shot
  • 18:18, Siggiwie, 4 shots

Saturday, 29.09.2012

VIP visit for CABS Malta camp - MEP Andrea Zanoni (left) joined CABS teams for a day in the fieldVIP visit for CABS Malta camp - MEP Andrea Zanoni (left) joined CABS teams for a day in the fieldCABS had a VIP visitor from Brussels today. Andrea Zanoni, Italian MEP, joined CABS in the field to watch the morning departure of birds of prey from the Buskett Gardens roost and again accompanied a team in the afternoon to monitor the hunting curfew. At a meeting with the environmental police unit ALE Zanoni praised their tireless efforts; but criticised the Maltese Government for failing to ensure that the police had adequate personnel on a permanent basis to control hunting and combat poaching.

Today was again quite on Malta. In the morning, just after 6.00 am, a CABS team discovered two electronic decoy devices with quail calls near Clapham Junction. No shots at birds of prey were registered.

Ib the afternoon there was practically no bird of prey migration except for a few Common and Lesser Kestrels, large numbers of Barn Swallows and the occasional Wheatear. At 6.12 pm a CABS team monitoring Mizieb saw a swallow with shotgun damage to its plumage and at 6.45 pm CABS volunteers discovered another electronic calling device in operation close tom the Red Tower on Marfa Ridge. Only two shots were registered after the start of the curfew:

  • 18:02, Mgarr Valley/Dwejra Lines, 1 shot
  • 16:45, Mellieha, 1 shot

Friday, 28.09.2012

There were practically no birds in flight in the morning and consequently little hunting activity. In the afternoon there was a small fly in of Lesser Kestrels, Marsh Harriers and Honey Buzzards but all remained quiet. Four shots were registered after the beginning of the afternoon curfew:

  • 18:03, Bingemma, 2 shots
  • 18:26, Bingemma, 2 shots

We today received information that last weekend near Safi (where our teams filmed most of the birds being shot down) the police had arrested a man in the evening carrying a weapon on which a torch had been mounted for night hunting. The weapon was confiscated and the hunter will appear in court in due course.

Thursday, 27.09.2012

ARD (German 1st TV programme) journalist interviews a Maltese hunterARD (German 1st TV programme) journalist interviews a Maltese hunterIn the morning a CABS team, which was travelling with a Journalist from the 1st German TV programme ARD, became the centre of attention of a group of 7 irate hunters on Gebel Cantar, not far from the large night roost site in Buskett Gardens. The hunters had blocked the team’s exit on a narrow unmade road ending in a cul-de-sac and began to verbally abuse the conservationists and the journalist, whom had just finished a voluntary interview with a fellow hunter. the journalist was interested in getting facts from a hunter’s viewpoint. The police arrived before the situation could escalate and quietened down the excited hunters. Shortly before, at 7.15 am, another CABS team south of the roost sight observed a Honey Buzzard with shotgun damage to its plumage

In the evening there was a small fly-in to Malta of several dozen Honey Buzzards. Four shots were registered after the hunting curfew:

  • 16:25, Bingemma, 2 shots
  • 17:25, Bingemma, 2 shots

Wednesday, 26.09.2012

Honey Buzzard with plumage damage from shotHoney Buzzard with plumage damage from shotMost of the birds that spent the night on Malta arrived safely at the coast and left unscathed for Africa. At 7.23 am however a Honey Buzzard with shotgun damage to its plumage was observed near Ghar Lapsi. The night watch at the Black Stork roost near Ramla Il-Hamra on Gozo ended at 6.25 am with a bang – literally –when a hunter fired what was clearly intended to be a warning shot over the heads of the volunteers from a distance of no more than 10 m. The shooter was concealed behind a wall and despite a search could not be found. The police are investigating. During the night the team had heard a single shot on two occasions, from a great distance, at 11.30 pm and 6.00 am.

The afternoon was again quiet with 5 teams deployed on Malta. Four shots were fired after the hunting curfew between 4.58 pm and 6.30 pm near Has-Saptan not far from the airport.

Tuesday, 25.09.2012

CABS volunteer at our Mtahleb look-out pointCABS volunteer at our Mtahleb look-out pointAlthough hardly and birds of prey spent the night on Malta, at 6.50 am hunters at Ghar Lapsi on the west coast aimed and shot at one of the few Honey Buzzards seen this morning. The bird flew on apparently unscathed. The afternoon was much the same. Due to an almost stillstand in migration there were few birds of prey bone of the Honey Buzzards was shot at but unharmed near Nadur Tower on the Victoria Lines at 6.00 pm.

Migration began however in earnest at dusk. Sevaral Black Storks , which are especially coveted by the hunters, were sighted. On Gozo, near Nadur, the spectacle was watched by a large number of hunters - unarmed of course because of the curfew. As the men were clearly trying to establish exactly where the birds had landed our teams on Gozo decided to organise a night watch. Together with a BirdLife teak that had joined them in Gozo, and who were available to take the early shift until 11.00 pm, the area where the storks went to ground will be guarded overnight. During the night, in the hours of curfew, two distant shots were heard.

Apart from the two shots fired at the Honey Buzzard at Nadur tower and the shots at night on Gozo, five further shots were registered by CABS teams:

  • 17.20 Mtahleb, 1 shot
  • 18.20, Bahrija, 4 shots

Malta is in the middle of a general election campaign with early elections possible in two months time. This is noticeable less because of the election posters but rather the generous gestures to the hunters. The government announced yesterday that Golden Plovers may be caught with clap nets from 20 October onwards. Golden Plover populations are endangered throughout Europe and the use of nets to trap birds is forbidden under the EU bird protection guidelines.!

Monday, 4.09.2012

Marsh HarrierMarsh HarrierAlthough all teams were deployed, they had a well-deserved rest today. The Marsh Harriers in the roost bear Fiddien left without incident this morning, as did the 20 or so harriers in a roost beat San Lawrenz on Gozo. Everywhere else it was also quiet this morning as was the afternoon - there was practically no bird of prey migration today. In the evening the skies were enriched with swallows, martins and even some late swifts and the small sister island also remained quiet. For the first time since the camp began no shots were registered after the 3.00 pm curfew.

Today CABS published a new video online. The public reaction was generally positive. An example of the positive reporting can be seen in the Times of Malta: "CABS claims 'total anarchy' of bird shooting around Safi"

The new youtube video can be seen here.

Sunday 23.09.2012

Decoy Hawfinches and Chaffinches seized by the Gozo police om SundayDecoy Hawfinches and Chaffinches seized by the Gozo police om SundayThe Bird Guards had their hands full again today. In the morning an active trapping site was discovered near Ghajnsielem and a clap net and several live Hawfinches and Chaffinches used as live decoys were seized by a police team. The name of the offended is not yet known but investigations continue.

On them main island of Malta there were again incidents of shooting down and shooting at protected birds. Once again the main focus was the area around the international airport. Between 6.00 and 8.20 am two Honey Buzzards and a Common Kestrel were shot in front of the CABS team deployed to Safi and a further Kestrel was shot at. At 6.28 am a Honey Buzzard flew through a hail of shot from a hunter near Fiddien, but escaped unscathed. Near Bingemma a Marsh Harrier with tattered plumage from gunshot was seen at 7.10 am and an equally war torn Common Kestrel was observed perched on a power cable At Nadur Tower at 8.10 am.

In the afternoon there was a significant fly-in of Marsh Harriers on Malta and a lesser flock on Gozo where a number of Lesser Kestrels put on an impressive flight performance. Around 5.00 pm, a good two hours after the 3.00 pm curfew, the BirdLife Malta and CABS joint security team observed a hunter carrying a weapon. The police were able to apprehend him and also seized an electronic decoy device. In the west of Malta, not far from Rabat, a good number of birds of prey had flown in. A Honey Buzzard was shot here at 6.14 pm. As many Marsh Harriers had chosen this site to roost CABS will organise a night watch,

A total of 60 post-curfew shots were recorded by CAB S teams. The hunters appear to regard it as a joke,

  • 15:30 - 16:30, Sta Katharina, 11 shots
  • 16:35 - 19:00, Mtahleb, 9 shots
  • 17:15 - 18:15, Fiddien, 5 shots
  • 19:30 - 19:45, Ta Santi, 15 shots
  • 18:45 - 19:10, Mtarfa, 16 shots
  • 18:00 - 18:30, Bahrija 4 shots

Saturday, 22.09.2012

Shot down Common KestrelShot down Common KestrelSaturday was again a bad day for Malta AND Gozo: Between 6.30 and 8.30 am a Grey Heron, two Honey Buzzards and a Spanish Sparrow were shot in the vicinity of the international airport. A Common Kestrel was hit but appeared to fly on uninjured. Somewhat to the north near Fawwara, where the birds leaving the large Buskett Gardens roost reach the coast, a CABS team observed the shooting of a further Honey Buzzard at 7.02 am. At midday the shooting continued on Gozo. A local CABS volunteer saw an Osprey coming under fire near Qala at 12.30 but although it appeared to have been hit it carried on. A little later an ALE patrol brought a Grey Heron with severe gunshot wounds to the Gozo team HQ. Volunteers took the unfortunate bird to a local vet in Victoria. Regrettably it seems as though we will become regular customers.

In the afternoon there was a strong fly-in on both islands. In addition to many Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers several Black Storks and even 12 Common Cranes were sighted. The afternoon curfew was not complied with everywhere:

  • 17:20, Bahrija, 1 shot
  • 17:42 - 18:12, Nadur-Tower, 11 shots
  • 19:21, Fiddien, 1 shot
  • 18:06 -19:15, Safi, 6 shots.

The last six shots heard in Safi were probably aimed at an Osprey that was attempting to land in a clump of trees.

Friday, 21.09.2012

Sad discovery on the Dwejra Lines - one of 13 dead Bee-eaters found in fortifications ditchSad discovery on the Dwejra Lines - one of 13 dead Bee-eaters found in fortifications ditchAlthough not many birds spent the night on Malta the day was quite eventful as the hunters had a lot of free time on their hands on Maltese Independence Day. At around 7.00 am a Gozo CABS team, deployed to the northwest between San Lawrenz and Gharb, observed a Honey Buzzard coming under fire as it left its night roost. The bird was hit but flew on. The police arrived rapidly and although they were able to locate the hunter due to our eyewitness accounts there was no firm proof that he was the shooter. A check of his possessions however discovered that he was carrying illegal (large gauge shot) ammunition. He will be charged. On Malta, a CABS team at Safi near the international airport observed the shooting down of a Honey Buzzard at 7.12 am. At 7.25 am, in the same area, a further Honey Buzzard fell dead to the ground and at 7.31 am a Hobby was shot at but was not hit. At 7.50 am, on the Dwejra Lines, a Common Kestrel was shot at but appeared to fly on unhurt. At midday two CABS teams searched the fortification ditch on the Dwejra Lines for shot birds. The several metre sheer ditch, part of the defensive line built across Malta by the British in the19th Century, is difficult to access and is extremely overgrown. Shot birds often fall in to the ditch and are never recovered. Today CABS volunteers abseiled into the ditch and searched a 100 metre stretch. Of the some 3 km long fortifications. In this short stretch the remains of 13 Bee-eaters were found - 12 of the corpses three weeks old (the other was only a skeleton). The birds were handed over to th3e environmental police unit ALE.

In the evening large number of hunters were in the Malta countryside (on Gozo only picnickers). Today the hunting curfew began at 1.00 pm. After this time 24 shots were registered on Malta. 13 shots were fired at Safi alone between 6.58 and 7.24 pm where some 15 Hobbies had gone to roost. Two were fired at as they flew in, the others were shot at as thy perched in the trees. Four or five poachers are believed to have been involved. The police had two mobile patrols in the area and searched for the offenders. The other 11 shots were fired between 6.33 and 7.15 pm in the area of the Victoria Lines.

Thursday, 20.09.2012

Hoopoe with shotgun injuries on GozoHoopoe with shotgun injuries on GozoThe birds of prey that spent the night in the north of Malta came under sustained fire this morning from the Victoria and Dwejra Lines. At 6.38 am a Marsh Harrier was shot at, at 6.40 am an Osprey with completely tattered plumage from gunshot flew over , at 7.39 am a Little Egret was killed with two shots before the eyes of the CABS team stationed and at 8.15 am two Honey Buzzards were shot at by three hunters. One of the birds was killed outright, the other flew on for a short while before being despatched with the third shot. At a night roost near Sarraflu on Gozo five shots were fired at a Honey Buzzard and was killed. The police, who had just paid a liaison visit to the CABS team, immediately returned and a search was made for the dead bird. Neither the Honey Buzzard corpse nor the poacher was found, but a live Hoopoe with shotgun injuries. The police handed the bird over to the CABS team, one of whom was a vet, for treatment

Gruesome discovery - a dead Marsh Harrier, rabbit and a ratsrvation pointGruesome discovery - a dead Marsh Harrier, rabbit and a ratsrvation pointThe team deployed to the Bingemma Fort (Victoria Lines) in the morning at 6.00 am found to their disgust a dead rabbit and rat and a freshly killed Marsh Harrier. The corpses had clearly left there by hunters as a warning. A later examination of the Marsh Harrier revealed 14 shotgun pellets in the body.

At midday we received the news from a concerned Maltese citizen that a Honey Buzzard had also been shot near Xrobb I Ghagin in the south of Malta. Another member of the public on Gozo passed on the information that a tourist couple had witnessed the shooting down of another Honey Buzzard in the San Blas valley on Gozo.

The afternoon was fortunately very quiet and the gusty west wind brought few birds to Malta. Only a few shots were recorded after the hunting curfew:

  • 16:14, San Blas Valley (Gozo), 1 shot
  • 17:12, Ramla (Gozo), 1 shot
  • 18:12, Dwejra Lines, 3 shots
  • 18:24, Dwejra Lines, 1 shot

Wednesday, 19.09.2012

CABS Bird GuardCABS Bird GuardThe two roosts guarded by CABS volunteers throughout the night near Mizieb and Bahrija remained mostly undisturbed. In Bahrija all was quiet; in Mizieb, at 2.15 am a single short was heard, preceded by two shots at 1.58 am from the direction of San Martin.

In the morning some 200 birds of prey left Malta unharmed. Particularly pleasing was the undisturbed departure of some 80 Marsh Harriers from Mizieb, the Maltese Hunting and Trapping Federation (FKNK) hunting reserve. Here there has been more than line massacre of roosting birds; today the hunters left the harriers alone. The only incident occurred at 6.32 am when a Honey Buzzard near Safi, in the immediate vicinity of the international airport, was targeted by a hunter and killed with two shots. The police arrived quickly but were unable to find the offender.

In the afternoon over 400 Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers flew into Malta and Gozo and at least four Black Storks were also sighted. On Malta the birds concentrated at a well protected roost whereas on Gozo some 100 Marsh Harriers and a few Honey Buzzards went down in a more insecure location. A CABS team did a night watch at this latter roost site.

As yesterday, numerous shots were recorded after the 3.00 pm curfew. No aimed shots at birds of prey were however observed. Most areas remained quiet but two CABS volunteers, a Romanian and a Hungarian, were shouted at and verbally abused near Bahrija. No physical violence was however used.

Shots recorded after the 3.00pm curfew::

  • 17:30 , Santa Lucija (Gozo), 3 Shots
  • 17:34 - 17:36 , Safi, 2 Shots
  • 17:52, Gharb (Gozo), 1 Shot
  • 17:54, Safi 1 Shot
  • 18:18, Zeebug (Gozo), 1 Shot
  • 18:18, Gordan (Gozo), 1 Shot
  • 18:26, Gordan-Zeebug (Gozo), 1 Shot
  • 18:34 - 18:51, Bahrija, 15 Shots
  • 18:33, Nadur Tower, 3 Shots
  • 19:06 - 19:10, Birzebugga, 2 Shots
  • 19:15, Bingemma, 2 Shots
  • 19:24, Ta Pinu (Gozo), 2 Shots
  • 19:31 - 19:34 , Ta´Santi, 4 Shots

Tuesday, 18.09.2012

Highly endangered species throughout; but a coveted trophy on Malta  - the Honey BuzzardHighly endangered species throughout; but a coveted trophy on Malta - the Honey BuzzardThe birds of prey that arrived on Malta yesterday left the island unscathed this morning. The some 200 to 300 Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers that arrived this afternoon from Italy were not so fortunate. Between 5.02 and 5.15 pm a large flock of Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers came under fire from the Dwejra Lines in the north of Malta, 9 shots were fired in all at the circling birds. One harrier fell to the ground dead. At 7.07 pm a Marsh Harrier was shot in the Malta International Airport flight approach path (!) and at 7.22 pm a hunter near Safi killed a Honey Buzzard with a single shot. At 7.45 pm, it was already dark, 8 shots were fired in almost as many seconds up into the tree where a few minutes before a Honey Buzzard had roosted. It was almost certainly killed.

Hunters followed the course of events closely at every roost site as the birds settled in. They shouted abusively at the CABS’ team members and quite openly sought out the best firing positions for the following Wednesday morning.

Apart from the illegal shooting of and at protected birds (a total of 19 shots such were recorded, the following numbers of shots were recorded by CABS teams after the 3.00 pm curfew:

  • 16:34 Uhr, Mgarr, 1 Shot
  • 16:47 Uhr, Mgarr, 1 Shot
  • 18:00 Uhr, Bingemma, 2 Schüsse
  • 18:10 Uhr, Zeebug (Gozo), 1 Shot
  • 18:18 Uhr, Safi, 2 Schüsse
  • 18:45 Uhr, Ta´ Seguna (Gozo), 1 Shot
  • 19:00 Uhr, Qala (Gozo), 1 Shot
  • 19:01 Uhr, Safi, 1 Shot

Two CABS teams, together with a team from our partners BirdLife Malta, will spend the night at the most threatened roosts. In the past the hunters have often killed complete roosting bird communities using torches and spotlights to locate the sleeping buzzards and harriers. Those at the roosts guarded by us will at least survive the night.

Monday, 17.09.2012

WespenbussardWespenbussardToday was a thankfully quiet day on Malta and Gozo. Very few birds made the crossing from Sicily last evening so that from midday onwards hunters were very restricted in their activities. Several Marsh Harriers, Honey Buzzards and Hobbies were able to leave for Africa unscathed.

There were also no incidents during the afternoon. From midday steady migration was observed and more than 100 birds of prey reached the islands by evening including above all Hobbies and Kestrels and even an Eleonora’s Falcon. There were also many small song birds, primarily large numbers of Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears, but also Whinchats, Tawny Pipits and a good number of Bee-eaters. No shots at protected birds were recorded by our teams and there were very few hunters out in the countryside. The hunting curfew after 3.00 pm was generally observed with the few exceptions recorded below:

  • 17:26, Mgarr (Malta), 1 shot
  • 18:10, Victoria (Gozo), 1 shot
  • 18:15 Nadur (Gozo), 1 shot
  • 18:31, Mgarr (Malta), 1 shot

Sunday, 16.09.2012

A tragic discovery - falcon skulls in the  Maltese Hunting Association (FKNK) hunting reserveA tragic discovery - falcon skulls in the Maltese Hunting Association (FKNK) hunting reserveIn the morning four CABS teams were deployed on Malta and two on Gozo. Whereas the whole day on Gozo was very quiet, the team deployed near the international airport in the south of Malta had a disastrous morning. At 7.19 am an Osprey that had roosted in a tree near the team was shot at by a hunter as it began its onward flight. The bird was shot at twice and almost certainly hit. Whether or not it survived is unknown. At 7.59 am a Marsh Harrier in almost the same spot was shot at several times by a number of hunters and finally plummeted to the ground. The police arrived quickly but had no chance of catching the offenders in the very impenetrable area near Safi. The good Sunday weather was obviously an invitation to the hunters to take to the field as between 6..00 and 9.00 am an average of 20 shots per minute were fired in many monitored areas of the island.

As in the previous two years a number of CABS volunteers sacrificed their midday break to search for the remains of dead birds in the FKNK hunting reserve. Previously the remains of several hundred protected birds of prey, herons and other species had been found concealed under stones and rubbish in the reserve. This year, in a short space of time, we again sadly found dead bird remains including skeletons of three falcons ssp., a Honey Buzzard, a Marsh Harrier, a Night Heron, Little Egret and four song birds. Judging from the state of decomposition most birds had been shot in 2011; the Marsh Harrier and one of the falcons probably in 2010.

Thankfully the afternoon was quite, although a Barn Swallow was observed near Safi with shot injuries to such an extent that it could hardly fly.

Shots registered after the 1.00pm curfew were as follows:

  • 16:10 bis 16:17 Uhr, Safi, 4 shots
  • 16:43 Uhr Mgarr, 1 shot
  • 17:48 Uhr, Nadur (Gozo), 1 shot
  • 19:03 Uhr, Tas`Santi, 2 shots

Saturday 15.09.2012

Trapping of waders (here a Green Sandpiper) in nets is sadly commonplace on Malta and GozoTrapping of waders (here a Green Sandpiper) in nets is sadly commonplace on Malta and GozoThe windy and stormy weather brought a quite a few migrant birds to the islands, which are an important stepping stone for the transit from Europe to Africa in unclement weather conditions.
In the morning two strategically placed CABS teams at overnight roosts were able to observe some 40 to 50 Marsh Harriers making a safe departure south over the Mediterranean. Although there were many hunters in the countryside, there were no incidents in the vicinity of the major roost at Buskett Gardens. Elsewhere it was a different story. At Safi, close to the international airport (!), a Bee-eater was shot directly in front of a CABS team and a Common Kestrel was shot at and probably injured. The shooters remained unidentified.

In the evening a flock of about 30 Marsh Harriers And a few Hobbies flew into Buskett for the night. A couple of dozen hunters watched the spectacle, clearly unhappy that they were also being observed., but determined to establish the location of the best observation posts for the following morning. Near Marscala in the south-east of Malta a CABS team located an illegal wader trapping site. The police, who were quickly at the scene, seized a huge clap net and two plastic Golden Plover decoys.

The hunting curfew began today. In order to protect the birds of prey that mostly arrive in the early evening, no hunting is permitted After 3.00 pm (Sundays 1.00 pm) until 30 September. Nonetheless our teams recorded 4 shots after this time, probably at Marsh Harriers:

  • 16:19 Uhr, Mgarr, 1 shot
  • 16:44 Uhr, Bahrija, 1 shot
  • 19:11 Uhr, Buskett, 1 shot
  • 19:19 Uhr, Girgenti, 1 shot

Friday 14.09.2012 Our Malta bird protection camp started today. All participants for the first week had arrived by early evening and two teams went out on evening patrol. With a strong west wind blowing it was very quiet in the north of the island (around Marfa-Ridge and near Mellieha); no appreciable migration activity was seen in these areas and there were very few hunters in the countryside. . ´Further to the south, on the Victoria Lines and in the area of the international airport some 20 to 30 Marsh Harriers and Honey Buzzards were sighted. More than 50 shots were recorded but no evidence of shot birds was observed. Today was the last time this month that evening hunting is permitted; from tomorrow until the end of the month there is an afternoon hunting curfew to protect birds arriving on migration.