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A remarkable mass fly-in of Honey Buzzards, harriers and other birds of prey took place over the past two days. This was due to prevailing Mistral-wind in combination with unsettled weather conditions. According to the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), thousands of Honey Buzzards, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers as well as a few Black Kites spent last night roosting on Malta and Gozo.
The night roosts chosen included the Mizieb woodland, the area around Little Armier, the vicinity of Buskett and Mgarr as well as the Delimara Peninsula. “The majority of the birds continued their migration this morning unscathed” comments CABS spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld. “Nevertheless, despite a massive police presence, a number of poachers used the opportunity to shoot down several birds of prey yesterday evening and this morning.”
CABS said that the first casualty was recorded at about 17:45 hours yesterday evening in the eastern part of the Mizieb woodland, where a poacher fired two shots at a group of Honey Buzzards as they came in to land. One bird was mortally injured. The police, alerted by a CABS patrol, searched the area and checked suspicious vehicles, unfortunately without success.
CABS said it was also informed by police sources that a male Marsh Harrier with shotgun injuries had been recovered at 16:00 hours in the Gnejna Bay area by the ALE and taken to a veterinary surgeon.
At 19:16 hours a CABS said a team, deployed together with police officers in Delimara, witnessed a Honey Buzzard coming under fire from several locations. It finally fell to earth dead. In the time-frame 15:00 to 19:30 hours a total of 46 shots were registered at Delimara.
Shortly before 20:00 hours the same team recorded 5 shots in the vicinity of Zejtun. A short time previously several Montagu’s Harriers had been sighted in the area, CABS reported.
The largest night roost, with some 200 birds of prey, was the Mizieb woodland. Although at least 50 persons with shotguns were out and about there this morning the three CABS teams deployed in the area recorded no killing of protected species. “It was fantastic to see these rare birds fly off unharmed. In view of the massacres of birds of prey in this very area over the past few years this represents real progress,” commented a satisfied Alexander Heyd, CABS’ General Secretary.
CABS went on to say, “the other – and darker – side of the coin was revealed near Little Armier area, where at least 100 Honey Buzzards had roosted in the nearby picnic grounds. The on-site CABS team were this morning witness to the shooting down of the first Honey Buzzard at 05:32 hours. A bird leaving some time later around 09:50 hours was killed near the Red Tower. In the period 08:00 to 09:00 hours three further Honey Buzzards were shot at while leaving the roost but were not mortally hit. The ALE was informed of the situation and they despatched several patrols to the eastern Marfa Ridge. The result of their operation is not yet known.”
CABS said it also reported the arrest of a poacher by police near Zejtun after he had shot down a Honey Buzzard.
CABS concluded by saying it “has at present four teams in the field on Malta. They have the task of monitoring illegal hunting in cooperation with the police and BirdLife Malta. Since the start of its operations last weekend it has recorded 158 contraventions of hunting and bird protection legislation. These include 119 shots outside permitted hunting times, the illegal use of electronic decoys on 16 occasions, 12 occurrences of the shooting at or shooting down of protected bird species (the figures include yesterday’s and today’s events), 7 instances of the use of firearms with more than 3 consecutive shots, 3 cases of hunters not wearing the essential armbands as well as one case of illegal trapping of protected song birds. The latter offender was filmed. In addition a total of 9 birds of prey with obvious shotgun injuries were observed.”
Photo shows an injured male Marsh Harrier that was recovered yesterday afternoon in the Gnejna Bay area by officers of the ALE.