Saturday, May 19, 2012

Watching raptors migrating is a rewarding experience

Honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
September is raptor migration month. Every year large numbers of birds of prey such as honey buzzards (kuċċard), several species of harriers (bugħadan), eagles (ajkli) and falcons (isqra) fly over the Maltese islands while travelling from their breeding grounds in Europe to their wintering grounds in Africa. 

Malta is on one of their routes because these birds travel on land and avoid as much as possible crossing large stretches of open water. 

Raptors travel mostly by making use of hot air currents, known as thermals, to soar with the minimum of effort. We are all familiar with films and documentaries showing vultures soaring in search of dead animals.

Migrating raptors tend to congregate mainly but not solely at Buskett. Birdwatchers have been monitoring these magnificent birds for more than three decades and have become experts at raptor identification, being able to not only to tell species apart but also sexing and aging migrating birds.

Raptor watching in Malta has become very interesting and exciting. Thirty years ago the challenge was to count the birds including the large numbers that were illegally shot while avoiding being shot yourself. This situation has changed and bird shooting in and around Buskett is mostly under control. As a result of this the number of migrating raptors has increased and birdwatchers are getting spectacular views of these birds as they fly low in search of a place to land.

Watching raptors on migration is an incredibly rewarding experience and I urge readers to go to Buskett to experience this natural phenomenon. Anybody wishing to give it a try should go to Buskett this afternoon from three o’clock onward where a group of experienced birdwatchers will be near the cart ruts site known as Clapham Junction to help those present to get the most out of the experience.

This article was published in The Times on 21.09.11

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