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A Report from


Justin Vassallo

"My name is Justin Vassallo, a very active volunteer within Birdlife Malta. Since last year I, within BirdLife of course, have initiated a new campaign aimed particularly at protecting the migrating birds. This consists of welcoming birdwatchers from abroad during peak migration season.

With the help of these birdwatchers, we first of all record passing birds, and at the same time report to the police any illegalities we see. Of course the police are still used to the old system and are quite reluctant to work. However, during the past three years we have been working a lot on building good personal relationships with high figures in the police force, and we have even arranged for three special police inspectors to travel to Calabria (Italy) on a training course to instruct them how to act against these situations.

The forces they met were the Italian forestal guards and police who ten years ago were facing exactly the same situation. This training course, apart from instructing the police, helped incredibly in biulding personal relationships with them! What I am basically trying to say is: yes, we have a huge problem here. However, by stating it you solve nothing. If you come to our camp, enjoy the migrating birds, and help us protect them, then hopefully in ten years time any birdwatcher will be able to come to Malta and watch the birds without fearing them to be shot.

This is a real problem, already this year we have recieved injured birds of prey. If you come here and help us, there will be less dead birds. If you do not come, in ten years time you will still be advising birders not to come to Malta for birdwatching. As for some numbers, here is a list of birds killed last year INSIDE a nature reserve, let's work to reduce numbers this year...

Birds shot in Buskett Nature Reserve, Autumn migration,1999

Date Time No Species Comments
28/8/99 15.30-18.30 18 Merops apiaster (Bee Eater) Still in the close season
5/9/99 16.40-17.10 6 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard) Sunday afternoon
7/9/99 18.00 -19.00 7 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
7/9/99 18.00 1 Circus aeruginosus (Marsh Harrier)  
8/9/99 15.00-17.00 2 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
  15.00-17.00 2 Circus aeruginosus (Marsh Harrier)  
9/9/99 15.00-18.00 5 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
  15.00-18.00 5 Circus aeruginosus (Marsh Harrier)  
9/9/99 16.00-18.00 5 Merops apiaster (Bee Eater)  
10/9/99 18.00 onwards 22 Circus aeruginosus (Marsh Harrier) Attempted to roost
10/9/99 17.45 1 Merops apiaster (Bee Eater)  
11/9/99 17.00 onwards 14 Nycticorax nicticorax (Night Heron) Attempted to roost
  17.30-19.00 2 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
  17.30-19.00 4 Circus aeruginosus (Marsh Harrier)  
12/9/99 18.00 2 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
14/9/99 18.30-19.00 3 Nycticorax nicticorax (Night Heron)  
  17.45 1 Coracias garrulus (Roller)  
  17.00 onwards 8 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard) Attempted to roost
  17.00 onwards 6 Circus aeruginosus (Marsh Harrier) Attempted to roost
15/9/99 18.45 2 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
16/9/99 19.30 1 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
17/9/99 17.00-19.45 5 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
18/9/99 16.30 1 Circus aeruginosus (Marsh Harrier)  
  17.30 onwards 5 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard) Attempted to roost
23/9/99 17.30 onwards 10 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard) Attempted to roost
24/9/99 16.40 onwards 4 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard) Attempted to roost
  16.40 onwards 1 Falco subeteo (Hobby) Attempted to roost
25/9/99 17.30 -19.15 4 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
26/9/99 18.00- 20.00 4 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard) Attempted to roost
  18.30 1 Nycticorax nicticorax (Night Heron)  
27/9/99 17.10 onwards 4 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard) Attempted to roost
  17.10 onwards 1 Circus aeruginosus (Marsh Harrier) Attempted to roost
28/9/99 19.05 1 Falco subeteo (Hobby)  
30/9/99 18.20 1 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
1/10/99 17.35 1 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  
  18.00 1 Pernis apivorus (Honey Buzzard)  

Besides these birds recorded shot, there were many other birds (of prey and not) that were shot at in Buskett Nature Reserve last September 1999. These included a Black Stork, Ospreys and an Egyptian Vulture. Hunters also shot at Swallows. No observations were made in the morning, so birds shot in the morning at Buskett have not been recorded. for more info go to: (

At the website indicated, you can see a list of all birds observed at Buskett last Autumn migration."

Justin Vassallo, Malta

Footnote by Keith Pritchard (UK):

"I have been birding to Malta several times, at various times of the year, and have enjoyed it immensely. Believe it or not there are Maltese birders. Membership of BirdLife Malta (formerly Malta Ornithological Society) is steadily growing. Despite often very difficult circumstances they have established some excellent reserves, where on occasions, you may have to queue to enter or be shown around. These guys are some of the most dedicated ornithologists you could ever wish to meet. They are extremely active in promoting environmental awareness, particularly among their country's schoolchildren - despite the fact that in the past their leaders have faced serious threats of personal injury from a minority of justifiably paranoid hunters who realise that the days they can enjoy their 'sport', with the degree of freedom they have until late, are numbered.

You WILL encounter shooting and trapping in Malta. However, you will not solve this problem by staying away. You will only make it worse. The Maltese birders WANT and NEED as many of us as possible to go there, and every assistance and support we can offer.

Have a look at the Malta BirdLife ( ) and the Valletta Bird Ringing Scheme websites ( and please think and act positively about this."

Keith Pritchard, Portland, UK.

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