This year’s bird hunting season closed yesterday and not a day too soon; it should not have been opened in the first place.
The common sandpiper that I photographed at the Għadira Nature Reserve last Sunday was a lucky bird.For some years we had become used to the idea of seeing migrating birds reaching our shores and being able to continue their journey north. However, this year, flying over the Maltese islands was like running the gauntlet for many migrating birds.
In spring, adult birds return to their breeding grounds to breed. Every bird shot is one nest less. Legally, hunters were permitted to shoot at turtle doves and quail, and hunting had to stop as soon as the bag limit was reached. Obviously the limit was never reached.
Before this year’s season opened, I was told by a number of hunters that they had no intention of sending an SMS – as they were obliged to whenever they shot a turtle dove – as they had no intention of reaching the bag limit.
Shooting turtle doves should not be allowed by law as in many parts of Europe the bird is in serious decline and needs protection.
To make matters worse, this year many hunters were under the impression that the season was a free for all and openly ignored the law.
Protected birds, including rare species such as the pallid harrier, were shot indiscriminately. Some hunters even ignored the boundaries of nature reserves.
Many hunters made non-hunters, including tourists, feel unwelcome in the countryside. Having somebody glaring angrily at you with a gun in hand is to say the least intimidating.
Last week I was even sworn at while taking pictures of flowers growing along a country path near Rabat.
The shooting of migratory birds in spring brings about a widespread negative reaction that should not be ignored. It is giving Malta a bad image and action must be taken for the sake of the birds and ours.
This article was published in The Times of Malta on 1 May 2013.