Malta 11th to 18th of June 2005

From June 11 to 18 I and Lars-Göte Nilsson, a dear old friend since childhood, went for one week's vacation in Malta. The goal was just to relax and to do some herphunting and birdwatching.

The situation for birds is very sad because of the mostly illegal hunting and trapping during the spring and autumn seasons. That's why only about 20 species are breeding in Malta! There are 10 species of herptiles (1 amphibian and 9 reptiles). We managed to see 24 species of birds and 6 herps.

A great Thank You to the members of BirdLife Malta like Charles, Alex, Ian, Jason, Charles and Victor, who gave us permission to visit the Nature reserves Ghadira and Is-Simar. These reserves are normally closed June to October. They also provided useful information about herp and bird sites.
Also a big Thank You to Jeroen Speybroeck for his as usual great help.

11th of June, Saturday
We flew from Copenhagen in the evening and then continued by rentalcar to our Internet booked apartment in Mellieha on the north side of the island. Lars-Göte quite soon learned to drive on the left hand side of the road!

12th of June, Sunday
This first day was mostly a look around at the surroundings of Mellieha. It was sad to see the hunting hides everywhere at the coast. No herps this first day! Where were all the wall lizards?

The apartment hotel in Mellieha, © Lars Bergendorf Ghadira and Mellieha, © Lars Bergendorf

13th of June, Monday
In the morning we drove to Ghadira Nature reserve, with its salt pools. At this time of the year they were nearly empty of birds. Alex and Charles who work at the reserve gave us a guided tour and some useful information about Maltas fauna and flora. Here we found the first Ocellated Skinks (Chalcides ocellatus), Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) and Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica).

After lunch, next site to visit was Buskett Gardens south of Rabat. Driving there was rather tricky and we got completely lost and spend some hours driving in circles before we found the place. Once there, we saw and took some pictures of an Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus) and some Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) on a stone wall.
Another day without Wall Lizards!!

Buskett gardens, © Lars Bergendorf

14th of June, Tuesday
First place to visit in the morning was the other Nature Reserve, Is-Simar. Here Charles and Jason helped us with access and guiding. Jason showed us a freshwater pool with some very small juveniles of Painted Frogs (Discoglossus pictus) and also some tadpoles. This was a new species for me! As usual there were some Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) on walls.

Around noon we went to Gozo, the island north of Malta, which takes just 25 minutes by ferry.
At the first stop we found the first Maltese Wall Lizards (Podarcis filfolensis). During the rest of the day in Gozo we saw hundreds of them. The colour and pattern of these lizards are highly variable. Some almost uniform in colour and others with beautiful patterns and often green-backed. This was my second and last new herpspecies during the journey.

Göte and Jason in Is-Simar, © Lars Bergendorf Spanish sparrow, © Lars Bergendorf
Ferry to Gozo, © Lars Bergendorf Qawra, Gozo, © Lars Bergendorf

15th of June, Wednesday
We spent most of the day in Buskett Gardens that we found very fast and easy this time! On the way there a Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) crossed the road just in front of us. We ensured that it arrived safely on the other side of the road before we drove on.

In Buskett when we came walking on a small trail we heard something fall down from a tree just near us. To our surprise it was a Chameleon!! It looked very dizzy, halted and sometimes fell when it tried to reach nearest tree. It changed colour from blackish to greenish in just a few minutes! I helped it up in a tree and after some minutes it looked OK again.
A few more Ocellated Skinks (Chalcides ocellatus) and Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) were also seen.

16th of June, Thursday
Half the day was spent by the pool at our apartment and in the afternoon we made a brief tour to the salt pans at Salina Bay. Here I saw the first Maltese Wall Lizards (Podarcis filfolensis) on the main island. Later at Ghadira we saw another one. Here we also saw the only snake in our trip, a black Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus).

17th of June, Friday
We spent the whole day in Gozo. A little bit rainy this day but good enough to see a lot of Maltese Wall Lizards (Podarcis filfolensis) and some Ocellated Skinks (Chalcides ocellatus). In a small dam I also heard the introduced Levant Water Frog (Pelophylax bedriagae).

Göte birdwatching at Ta Cent cliffs, Gozo, © Lars Bergendorf Lasse herphunting in Gozo, © Lars Bergendorf

18th of June, Saturday
The last day of our journey we drove back to the airport in slow tempo. Then via Copenhagen back to Helsingborg in Sweden.

Herpspecies we did not see were the Turkish Gecko, Cat Snake, Leopard Snake and the for Europe endemic Algerian Whip Snake. Sad for the last one, but I knew it would be rather hard to find.

/Lasse Bergendorf

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