Thursday, September 15, 2011

Raptor Camp Day 1

Picture the scene; a quiet clifftop overlooking a tranquil bay, a handful of pleasure boats rocking gently from the onshore breeze that is taking a welcome edge off the afternoons heat. A few Swallows pass twittering overhead as they migrate south and a Sardinian Warbler chatters from the scrub behind. Suddenly the peace is shattered as two gunshots ring out and everyone is reminded that this is Malta. Turning to the direction of the shots, we see a Little Egret tumbling from the sky into the azure waters, foundering for a while, then agonisingly slowly hauling itself onto the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. Welcome to Raptor Camp!
We call the ALE, the police branch responsible for wildlife crime, who manage to communicate with a local group in a boat who are attempting to rescue the bird from the rocks. It flaps feebly out to sea but soon drops again into the water in the middle of the bay, where, clearly exhausted it allows itself to be plucked to the relative safety of the boat. They pull alongside at a basic jetty for fishing vessels where we take it off their hands, grateful that most Maltese are an infinitely better bunch than the hunters who tar the name of these islands. On inspection, the bird is found to have several wounds to its body, wings and legs. It is whisked away to the vet, but its chances of survival appear slim. We continue our watch and hold our breaths as two juvenile Night Herons approach the same bay after a journey over the sea from Sicily. To our relief, they appear to sense that all is not well at the site, and turn sharply before heading purposefully South, next stop: Africa.

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