Young White Storks from Hungary delight locals in Mgarr
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BirdLife Malta Raptor Camp teams and the police this morning escorted three White Storks to safety, watching them as they spiralled high into the clouds before heading out to sea.
The storks came to Malta yesterday afternoon, stopping for a while on residential roofs before settling for the night on the floodlights of the Mgarr football pitch. Perched just metres above the road they attracted a lot of attention, quickly drawing admiring onlookers.
“The community spirit was impressive; families watched the birds, people drove up from the surrounding areas just to see them, cameras were everywhere. We set up telescopes and invited the public to watch the storks through them – around 200 people took up the offer and it was fantastic seeing their enthusiasm.” stated Bob Elliot, RSPB Scotland Head of Investigations and Raptor Camp team member.Birdlife said that Raptor Camp teams and the police who stayed with the birds through the night were joined in the early hours of the morning by several locals. Teams were even offered coffee through the night by residents appreciative of their protecting these birds.
“Rare birds are highly prized by poachers and often shot at night. The storks’ visible location and the strong public presence have undoubtedly helped to protect them – the result is a rare success story where the birds not only delighted viewers, but also safely left the islands.” said Geoffrey Saliba, BirdLife Malta Campaigns Coordinator.
All three White Storks had metal rings, clearly visible even without optical equipment. Bird watchers read the uniquely number rings using telescopes, managing to identify each bird.
Birdlife said that the result is an important discovery which for the first time shows that White Storks which migrate over Malta originate from Hungary. Two of the young storks were taken to a rescue centre after falling out of their nests; the third was born to a flightless pair at the centre. All three were released back into the wild.
This is the second sighting in Malta this year of birds ringed as chicks in Hungary, after a Hungarian Spoonbill was shot dead in the Salina Bird Sanctuary in June.
Commenting on the White Storks sighting in Malta, Mr Zsolt Karcza, head of Hungary’s ringing scheme said “A lot of effort has gone into protecting these storks in Hungary and we are grateful to all of the people in Malta for watching over them during their stay. We hope that on their return migration the vigilant BirdLife team will ensure they are able to travel home safely.”“Today’s good news is tempered by bad news from yesterday morning when a shot Black Stork was recovered from the sea near Zurrieq by an ALE team. A shot Grey Heron was also recovered from the area. Both birds are protected species and may not be hunted. The Black Stork died shortly after recovery, and the Grey Heron was euthanised due to the extent of its injuries,” Birdlife concluded.
Photos : White Storks – Bob Elliot, Storks on floodlights – Steve Miller, Black Stork – Lawrie Phipps/BirdLife Malta.