Each springtime as birds begin their migration north from their wintering grounds in Africa, BirdLife Malta starts to rally together volunteers from across Europe to participate in Spring Watch, a conservation camp working to monitor migration and tackle wildlife crime.
Situated along one of the main migratory routes, Malta provides an ideal spot for birds to rest whilst on their arduous migratory journey to their breeding grounds. However, the Islands’ spring hunting season can put many of these birds at risk of even passing through safely. In fact, Malta is the only country in the European Union that derogates from the Birds Directive to open a spring hunting season for Turtle Dove and Common Quail.
This year, the spring hunting season will be open only for Quail, following the moratorium on Turtle Dove in 2016 after the species was uplisted to a ‘vulnerable’ status by the IUCN. However, the season is still that of much controversy, given that studies commissioned and paid for by the government show that during autumn, there is a sufficient passage of Quails during the first two months of the hunting season to oppose the justification for a season a spring. Not to mention that wildlife crime including the targeting of protected species, the use of modified shotguns and hunting taking place in protected areas still occur despite the regulations, namely being recorded when the season is open.
This is where Spring Watch comes in. Organised during the peak of migration, the camp of dedicated volunteers and staff work together across various points in Malta to collect important data on bird migration as well monitoring the countryside for any potential illegalities over a three-week. With early morning shifts and long hours, the group works tirelessly to work against the threats of spring hunting to migratory species and their conservation status.
Spring Watch is an essential part of BirdLife Malta’s work and is only possible with the support of volunteers and with funds raised through memberships and donations. To help BirdLife Malta continue this vital work or if you are interested in participating, please visit the website.
BirdLife Malta will always continue to work against the unsustainable practice of spring hunting which takes place and ensure that the law is properly enforced in the case of any illegalities.