BirdLife Malta welcomes Environment Minister to Ghadira

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BirdLife Malta welcomes Environment Minister to GhadiraThis morning, Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, Mr Leo Brincat, was BirdLife Malta’s guest of honour at a birthday activity celebrating the hatching of seven Black-winged Stilt chicks at Ghadira Nature Reserve earlier this month.

The Minister and other guests, including representatives from the High Commissions of Australia, the Netherlands, and Italy, as well as MEPA, the AFM and other NGOs and partner organisations, were treated to a guided tour of the Internationally Important Wetland, taking in some of the results of the intensive habitat restoration and management BirdLife Malta has carried out in partnership with successive governments over the past 30 years.

The highlight, of course, was the chance for the visitors to see the young stilts paddling, eating, swimming and playing in the shallow water of the lake. For many of those present, this was the first time they had ever seen Black-winged Stilts, let alone seeing recently hatched chicks in the wild, in Malta, in the place where they had hatched and will (hopefully) one day return to breed themselves.

Looking at the parent birds, which keep close to their chicks and are quick to chase off any perceived intruders, it is not difficult to see how they got their common name, with their long slender legs, white head and body, and, yes, black wings!

Addressing the guests outside the public bird-watching hide overlooking the wetland’s lagoon and islands, Steve Micklewright, BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director, said, “This is a truly special occasion, and not just for BirdLife Malta, but for conservation in Malta in general, because it shows what can be achieved when conservationists work together with governments and other institutions for the benefit of nature and wildlife.”

In 2011, Black-winged Stilts bred in Malta for the first time on record, with a single pair successfully rearing four chicks here at Ghadira. This year there were two successful nests out of three pairs nesting in the wetland.

But, BirdLife worries that the birds will start running out of space inside the reserve.”In another two years we expect at least some of this year’s fledglings to return as adults looking for somewhere to breed: Black-winged Stilts are quite territorial and need a certain amount of space to pair up and nest,” said Mr Micklewright, “fortunately, we have a couple of years to work on solving that problem, and together with the government we have already started looking at potential solutions.”

Minister Brincat also spoke to the gathered guests, congratulating BirdLife and its partners on this latest success, saying, “I am very pleased that I was invited to this event. It is so important to actually come and see these things for oneself, and see the positive results of the work BirdLife and the government is doing here.”

Having to pause momentarily as one of the adult stilts flew low overhead, distracting the crowd with it’s high pitched cry, Mr Brincat went on to say how encouraged he was to see the FKNK represented at the event: “It shows that there are areas where there is room for dialogue and cooperation, which is essential if we are to resolve many of the environmental challenges we face on these islands.”

BirdLife would like to remind the public Ghadira wetland will be open to visitors this Saturday and Sunday only, for people to come and see the Black-winged Stilt chicks for themselves. The reserve will open from 8.30am to 10.30am on the 29th and 30th June, free of charge, and reserve staff and volunteers will be organising guided walks, including a Black-winged Stilt-watching activity in the bird-watching hide.

Space on the guided walks will be limited, so it is advisable to book you place in advance. Please email office@birdlifemalta.org to reserve your place.

Other activities being organised for the stilts’ birthday weekend include: a kids colouring and art workshop, and a special screening of a new video, “The Breeding Birds of Ghadira.”

Photo . One of the parent Black-winged Stilts leads its young chicks into the water of Ghadira lagoon – the chicks don’t seem too sure about straying too far from the island. Photo by BirdLife Malta.

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