This is the list of the birds observed migrating from Qammieh in Malta between 16 - 26th. March 2000. This coastal site is located on the north-western part of Malta and where regular sea-watching is made during the spring migration.
1 Great Crested Grebe Haubentaucher (Podiceps cristatus)
max.100 Cory's Shearwater Gelbschnabel-Sturmtaucher (Calonectris diomedea)
max.10 Levantine Shearwater Mittelmeer-Sturmtaucher (Puffinus yelkouan)
1 Gannet Baßtölpel (Sula bassana)
8 Cormorant Kormoran (Phalacrocorax carbo)
6 Little Egret Seidenreiher (Egretta garzetta)
117 Grey Heron Graureiher (Ardea cinerea)
70 Glossy Ibis Sichler (Plegadis falcinellus)
35 Wigeon Pfeifente (Anas penelope)
480 Pintail Spießente (Anas acuta)
1165 Garganey Knäkente (Anas querquedula)
25 Shoveler Löffelente (Anas clypeata)
206 Ferruginous Duck Moorente (Aythya nyroca)
31 Marsh Harrier Rohrweihe (Circus aeruginosus)
1 Pallid Harrier Steppenweihe (Circus macrourus)
1 Osprey Fischadler (Pandion haliaetus)
10 Kestrel Turmfalke (Falco tinnunculus)
2 Curlew Großer Brachvogel (Numenius arquata)
1 Great Skua Skua (Stercorarius skua)
8 Mediterranean Gull Schwarzkopfmöwe (Larus melanocephalus)
5 Black-headed Gull Lachmöwe (Larus ridibundus)
13 Slender-billed Gull Dünnschnabelmöwe (Larus genei)
1 Lesser Black-backed Gull Heringsmöwe (Larus fuscus)
max. 35 Yellow-legged Gull Weißkopfmöwe (Larus cachinnans)
16 Sandwich Tern Brandseeschwalbe (Sterna sandvicensis)
6 Hoopoe Wiedehopf (Upupa epops)
1 Wryneck Wendehals (Jynx torquilla)
14 Skylark Feldlerche (Alauda arvensis)
35 Wheatear Steinschmätzer (Oenanthe oenanthe)
2 Rock Thrush Steinrötel (Monticola saxatilis)
17 Song Thrush Singdrossel (Turdus philomelos)
Charles Coleiro firstname.lastname@example.org
HUNTING OF BIRDS IN MALTA
Yesterday, 8th March, there was a very interesting, and equally disturbing, talk on this subject by Max Ferrugia. He is Chairman of International Rescue (Wildlife Section) in Malta, an organisation that seeks to rescue injured birds and return them to the wild. Unfortunately, they are not able to keep birds that are incapable of returning to the wild; these have to be destroyed.
Max Ferrugia is looking at hunting issues in Europe and plans to produce a report resulting from his doctorate studies, which explains his visit to UK. He hopes to have the report ready later next year. Incidentally, his role of Chairman of Int. Rescue is a voluntary one, he is actually employed as an archivist in a library in Malta.
M.E., a UK Birder with special interest in the hunting of migrating birds in France and one of the leading organisers of the British signatories to 'La Petition' –some notes he took during the talk are of interest:-
- Out of a population of 400,000 there are 14,000 registered hunters. He estimated there are about another 5,000 unregistered (i.e. illegal) hunters.
- As in France and elsewhere the hunters are often more interested in shooting than bagging specific game species and will blast away at anything. They have even been known to remove their shoes, throw them into the air and shoot at them when there are no birds about! Road signs are also a favourite target as, from time to time, are each other albeit by mistake. The days when hunters needed to kill for food are long gone but the tradition goes back to medieval times.
- Malta has also been condemned for sea-shooting. This is illegal within 3 km of the shore in Malta but hunters are known to use high-speed boats and shoot at anything including gulls and Cory's Shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea).
- Killing raptors is also illegal but the penalty is only £5 Maltese (about £10 sterling/ DM 30,00).
- Trapping is as big a problem as shooting. There is much illegal netting combined with live tethered decoys. Most hunters are also trappers and vice versa. Many birds such as Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) and Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris) are illegally imported from countries such as Tunisia and the UK for use as decoys for trapping.
- One form of trapping is Robin-trapping using baited box traps. Malta is a haven for migrating Robins (Erithacus rubecula). The one piece of good news in all this is that a 15-year campaign, including "a book for a trap" schemes whereby trappers are given a free book if they hand in their traps, has reduced this activity by about 60%. Some 1,200 traps were exchanged in this scheme.
- Conservationists are campaigning strongly for Malta to join the EU, the idea being that Malta will then be subject to EU laws such as, especially, the Birds Directive.
- There are several nature reserves in Malta but they are largely ignored by hunters who see themselves as free to roam wherever they please – very aggressively sometimes!
- Many birds are shot for taxidermy and more wealthy hunters have collections of anything up to 1000 mounted specimens. Many of these would represent rare or very rare birds to British birders in the field. Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus) are a favourite!
- There is much use of home-made shot made to an illegally large gauge.
- The last pair of Barn Owls (Tyto alba) were shot on Gozo in 1998 leaving 5 young to die in the nest.
There seems to have been much complacency of late, with an assumption that the Mediterranean massacre has eased. If it has, it is only because there are not enough birds left any more.
The suggestion that Malta joining the EU would have even the slightest effect is remarkably naive. Aren't Greece and France members? And what about Spain and Italy? If anyone has not seen a copy of the current (March 2000) issue of BBC Wildlife get one. The facts are frightening. There are pictures of shot Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Hoopoe (Upupa epops), White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii), Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) and Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus). Tales of Eleonora's Falcons (Falco eleonorae) hunted when young are still in the nest; the facts are appalling.
One study calculated the number of birds shot in Italy by the number of cartridges used. Assuming an average of five cartridges per hit target, the calculation came up with 100-150 million birds shot annually - roughly one tenth of Italy's migrants. By the same equation, France shoots another 55 million (a total which does not include birds netted or trapped). If one tenth of all Mediterranean migrants are lost, that's 500 million birds killed every year.
The following comments on some of the main culprits sum it all up.
Malta: A tenth of the population shoot and trap and decades of hunting have reduced the number of breeding bird species to 13. The Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), though protected, was exterminated in 1956, the last known breeding pair of Peregrines (Falco peregrinus) was shot from a boat off Gozo in 1983 and the last breeding pair of Barn Owls (Tyto alba) was shot in 1988 - their five chicks died of starvation.
Greece: Businessmen shoot migrating doves from helicopters and each hunter is allowed to kill 14,851 birds each year. Since there are 375,000 registered Greek hunters, the Greek government are theoretically happy to see nearly six million birds slaughtered.
France: As many as 13 million thrushes have been shot in one season, according to an official enquiry. On one October morning, observers recorded more than 25,000 separate gunshots, all within hearing range, in a small area of the Pyrenees.
Italy: Birds are caught and blinded to act as decoys to trap others. Methods of blinding include putting acid in the decoys' eyes or driving a hot nail through them. One of the most popular post-war popes, John XXIII, shared a hunting cabin with his three brothers, who were all hunters.
We still do not have enough laws protecting wildlife. Remember, the EU Birds Directive is just that; a directive, not law.
These people are despicable, as is anyone who kills any animal for fun, leisure or financial gain. Kill to eat by all means, but don't believe the lies about tradition - helicopters and machine guns?? Some tradition!
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