Sunday 4 May 2014

Lade Garganey

Lade - 0600hrs - cold, dry, sunny, n 1 - Another nippy start to the day with a very light grass frost in places. All the usual breeding birds were in fine voice and easy to see due to the light airs. The reed swamp was quiet due an influx of weekend fishermen with overnight tents on every swim bank.
Scanning from the aerial mound yielded nothing passing over but out on south lake a smart drake Garganey was swimming on the edge of the reedbed by the wall `mirror`, my first of the year here.

                                Garganey, Lade

Dungeness - 1430hrs - With the wind swinging round to the south-east we tried an afternoon seawatch from the hide in the company of TG and PB who`d just had three Arctic Skuas ten minutes earlier. However, during the course of 90 minutes the following trickle of seabirds moved up-Channel, most of them pretty distant and in poor light conditions: Red-throated Diver 2, Black-throated Diver 1, Gannet 15, Common Scoter 80, Barwit 40, Whimbrel 6, Kittiwake 5, Arctic Skua 3, Bonxie 2, Commic Tern 300.
Elsewhere across the peninsula today Spoonbill, Red Kite and Common Crane passed overhead (per PB).

                                Seawatching, zzzzzzz .....

Maltese Massacre - Back in the 1970`s, while in the RN, I had the misfortune to visit Malta on two occasions; once for six months, when our frigate carried out guard ship duties based in Grand Harbour,Valletta. There was plenty of shore leave and as it was spring I remember being excited at the prospect of getting out and about birding. At the first opportunity myself and another ship mate birder headed out of town to the countryside around Rabat, being completely unaware (naively so looking back now) of what was about to confront us. For the most part Malta is a barren rocky island, but dotted here and there are patches of man-made greenery, cemeteries in particular being popular with tired migrants (talk about irony). Anyhow, I`m sure you know what`s coming next; yep, I`m afraid a catalogue of misery, shot before our very eyes, of dead and dying Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes, Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, Turtle Dove and a host of other passage migrants. We watched, helplessly, as the hunters downed a White Stork and Purple Heron, and later on that day an Osprey, and there was simply nothing we could do to prevent it.
Fast forward 40 years and the carnage is still continuing in Malta, only now more is being done to try and put a stop to this senseless slaughter, most notably this spring by Chris Packham who`s been out there, in the firing line, and posting a video blog of his findings on YouTube. I admit to blubbing along with him when he held up that pitiful Monty`s Harrier that expired in his hands while at the vets, having been shot earlier. There is some heart breaking footage on his video blog, but hats off to CP, and let`s hope that someone with his high profile can make a difference.
I`m sure many birders have been following this story online and if you haven't already done so bombard your MEP with protest letters, and support BirdLife Malta in their on going quest to silence the gunners. 

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