In search of the Maltese Falcon # 2 - Yellow Wagtail, Ghadira Nature Reserve, Malta
The Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava, is a small passerine in the wagtail family Motacillidae, which also includes the pipits and longclaws.
This species breeds in much of temperate Europe and Asia and has a foothold in North America in Alaska. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, such as western Europe, but northern and eastern populations migrate to Africa and south Asia. The Beringian population, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, winters further down the Pacific coast.
This is an insectivorous bird of open country near water, such as wet meadows. It nests in tussocks, laying 4-8 speckled eggs.
This is a slender 15-16 cm long bird, with the characteristic long, constantly wagging tail of its genus. It is the shortest tailed of the European wagtails. The breeding adult male is basically olive above and yellow below. In other plumages, the yellow may be diluted by white.
The heads of breeding males come in a variety of colours and patterns depending on subspecies.
BirdLife Malta was the driving force behind the creation of Ghadira Nature Reserve in Mellieha, next to Malta’s most popular sandy beach.
It is of ecological importance because it encloses two types of habitat which are very rare in Malta: wetland and saltmarsh.
The area was declared a bird sanctuary in 1978 after BirdLife Malta presented scientific data to the government showing the ornithological value of the wetland. Our work continues to ensure that this area remain a haven for birds. The protection the reserve enjoys ensures that as the seasons change, Ghadira hosts a variety of animal and plant life.
As a result of the management and protection of the site, the reserve offers a stunning combination of biodiversity and natural beauty. Today the area is home to a variety of flora and fauna, some of which is rare and endangered and given special protection by the European Union.
Ghadira offers a taste of what the Maltese islands would be like if illegal hunting and trapping are stopped. Malta sits at the heart of the central Mediterranean migration route and could be host to many species of wild birds that stop here en route.
The indiscriminate hunting and trapping that has occurred over the last fifty years means that significant numbers of migrating birds that land in Malta never make it to their final destination. The reserve is a rare sanctuary. Hunting and trapping of birds within 500m of the area has been banned here for over three decades. Although hunting is permitted on more than two-thirds of the Maltese islands, hunters still occasionally break into the reserve and shoot any migrating birds that land there for a well-deserved rest. The reserve has also been attacked in other ways - for example, large quantities of oil were dumped into the pools and reservoirs in an attempt to destroy the fragile wetland ecosystem.
From November to May, Ghadira and Is-Simar reserves are open to the public. BirdLife volunteers lead guide walks along the nature trail.
Useful information for visiting the Ghadira Nature Reserve:
* Opening Times: Saturdays and Sundays from November until May. Visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
* Public Transport from/to Valletta: Buses 44 and 45.
* The reserve is a no smoking area.
* No pets are allowed inside the reserve.
* Entrance is free.
From Wikipedia and Birdlife Malta