Spring has most certainly sprung over the Maltese Islands, and the first of the spring migrants and some unusual visitors have already been observed.
The first signs of spring migration have come about, offering the perfect opportunity for families to observe the beauty of nature and the great outdoors. The past few weeks have brought exciting sightings of a Great Crested Grebe at Manoel Island, Hoopoes and House Martins, as well as the first birds of prey such as Marsh Harriers.
Last week’s full moon also marked a peak time to observe duck migration with Ferruginous Ducks, Garganeys, Pintails, Shovelers, Common Shelducks, Eurasian Teals and Wigeons, with many keen birdwatchers gathering at Ċirkewwa to watch their movements over the Malta-Gozo Channel. There have also been sightings of herons, egrets and waders such as Black-tailed Godwits, Common Sandpipers, Common Redshanks and Ruffs.
Although the Channel acts as a bottleneck for migration for all these duck species, it’s of particular importance for the Ferruginous Duck – a ‘nearthreatened’ bird. In fact, one of the reasons why this stretch of sea between the islands was designated as a marine Special Protection Area and also Malta’s first marine Important Bird Area is because a critical number of these ducks are seen passing through at this time of the year.
Image above: Hoopoe feeding at Hal Far
Most notably, Common Cranes and Glossy Ibises – irregular visitors to the Maltese Islands – have also already been spotted. Springtime, however, also marks the opening of the spring hunting season which will take place between the 25th March and the 14th April. This year, only hunting for Quail will be permitted due to a moratorium on the hunting of Turtle Dove.
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.
Content by Birdlife Malta