Let’s help the birds breed

April 2, 2015

times of malta

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Let’s help the birds breed

Alfred E. Baldacchino

I was introduced to birds before I could even speak. As a toddler, I used to frequent our house garden, observing the hens, rabbits and pigeons we kept for the occasional special lunch. But there was a rule for harvesting: the selected food for the table was not chosen haphazardly.

The brooding hens, nesting pigeons and rabbits with litters were spared and when they were harvested, they were not let loose and chased for the thrill of the kill.

juvenile-turtle-doves-in-malta---2012.07.01---Natalino-Fenech

If the parents did not escape the greed for the kill in spring, these juveniles would not have seen the light of day. Photo: Natalino Fenech 2012.07.01

Coming from Rabat, it was, at the time, almost impossible not to join relatives on trapping and shooting sprees, even at a tender age. I can still remember cycling, two hours before sunrise, to Dingli or Raba’ Nemel, to lay the nets for trapping finches or turtle doves. That was the way we were taught then. I also learnt to appreciate nature without the need to destroy it.

At the age of 12, we went to live in Cospicua. At first I thought I had lost the birds and the wildlife forever, though they were only a couple of kilometres away. My love for nature made me look for alternative ways. I used to go out for country walks on weekends and holidays, and I remember, in my early teens, buying magazines about nature. This opened the way for positive appreciation. I also bought a sophisticated ‘gun’, aiming at and shooting to my heart’s content, without the birds or other wildlife being harmed or even knowing about it. It was my first SLR camera.

quail-in-Malta-by-Natalino-Fenech

Quail – another breeding bird of the Maltese Islands, despite the urge to kill it. Photo: Natalino Fenech

Living in Cospicua, I experienced that sense of loss and anguish when birds were decimated and killed just for the fun of it, more so when this was claimed to be out of a love for birds.

The more I grew in years, knowledge and experience, the more satisfaction and pleasure did wildlife bring to me. The road was not an easy one: it was full of ups and downs. I often remind myself one is not paid to uphold one’s principles but one has to pay for them.

But I was determined to continue sharing my experience and knowledge with those who, though they really loved birds, unfortunately were never taught to express their appreciation in a positive way. Indeed, they were prevented from doing so because their love for birds was used or abused for political gain in exchange for their vote, irrespective of the negative psychological impact it had on them.

They formed part of a ‘minority’ that, instead of being encouraged to give their share, considering their knowledge, eagerness and enthusiasm, were abused for political gain.

What a wonderful place it would be if all those who love birds would work together to safeguard them so they could be positively appreciated and enjoyed by one and all, even by the shooters, for the benefit of the birds, the ecosystem and the country as a whole.

turtle-dove

How can one say that one loves birds and to show one’s appreciation one shoots to kill the bird one says one loves.

 

That is why I shall be voting No, to stop the hunting of birds during their breeding season. During their delicate time of reproduction, birds deserve the utmost care and protection. This is the basic concept of any true conservationist.

Voting No to spring shooting when the birds are on their way to breed will make us proud to be Maltese, at par with the best in the European Union. And only this will make birds and nature lovers unite.

I trust common sense will prevail.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

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The Caper at Couvre Porte

November 7, 2013

times

Thursday November 7th, 2013. 

The Caper at Couvre Porte

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

2013.10.22---Birgu-flag

Citta Vittoriosa flag

The Birgu Local Council deserves warm congratulations for the way they organised the Birgu Fest especially the candle­lit night which showed the splendour of the city: the overpowering majestic bastions, the Maltese workmanship, the architecture, the intricate sculptures, the winding streets, the renovated old buildings, and the growing public awareness of such a historical heritage.  Unfortunately this cannot be said for the way the Birgu environs are being landscaped.

2013.10.22---couvre-port-gate

Couvre Porte Gate

I entered through Couvre Porte, the  magnificent covered  gateway, admiring  the surroundings. I crossed the bridge  over the ditch, still in total darkness as to its future, at least from a public point of view. I wonder why no public consultations were ever held on such projects. Perhaps the present Minister would consider this before the works are done and public money spent and not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Once through the main entrance of Couvre Porte, I climbed the 10 cm or so high steps leading to the top of the bastions. I could almost re­live the moments of such a historical architectural heritage left to us by the Knights of St. John.

There, on the highest part of the bastions something caught my eye: it was a caper (kappara) growing on one of the cordons, so soon on the freshly restored bastions, with defiance and a sense of victory. In the dim light, I could see the silhouettes of other indigenous plants which had also set foot on the fortifications: indigenous species which colonised these islands before man set foot on them.

2013.10.22---kappar-mas-swar

The caper on the bastions

The indigenous plants on the bastions echoed Rużar Briffa’s Jum ir­-Rebħ “Jien Maltija! Miskin min ikasbarni, miskin min jidħak bija” (I am Maltese! Pity the one who disgraces me, pity the one who mocks me”).

As I looked towards the Vittoriosa water front, the historic bastion rose as a background to a number of recently imported alien, toxic and some invasive trees. The never conquered Citta Vittoriosa, lied at the mercy of these introduced foreign species, some also invasive, politically approved and publicly funded. How could one accept the fact that there at the foot of the bastions exotic species had taken over the beds of the indigenous Maltese species, through the political apathy still accepting foreign colours to the indigenous splendour.

I slowly descended the steps, seemingly so much higher now, and mingled with the crowds till I found my way in front of the St. Lawrence Parish Church. Towering in front of the Church on my left was the Għolja tal­Ħelsien monument, a reminder of the last foreign power which had a foot in Malta. But even in the semi­darkness I could see the monument invaded with more than half a dozen exotic species, two or three invasive. Two palm trees on the monument seemed to have succumbed to the Red Palm Weevil, an introduced alien invasive species.  On my right along the waterfront leading to dock 1, I could see other exotic species, some invasive, introduced from around the world, including the now ubiquitous fountain grass. Could it be possible that the exit of the foreign powers opened the doors to the exotic alien flora and fauna to set foot on the Islands even growing on the very monument itself?

2013.10.22---għolja-tal-ħelsien

Three exotic alien species surround the fanfare of the departure of the last foreign soldier.

Landscapers equipped with a can of chemicals will no doubt be sent by their political master, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, to spray the indigenous caper and allies to oblivion, something in which I must admit, they are very good at. But these are wild species and do not fatten anybody’s pockets. I am sure that the indigenous species will rise again, and again, and again in protest with the same determination, as one or two have already done at the newly renovated Mdina bastions, made more to resemble Windsor Castle rising out of an expanse of turf, so artificial and unnatural to a Mediterranean fortification rising out of garigue vegetation. As long as the people and the EU pay, who cares? Who would be that Minister who,  during whose tenure, approved the introduction of the most exotic alien species, not excluding invasives, in the Maltese Islands at the expense of local indigenous species, in the name of landscaping? The wisdom of some politicians knows no bounds despite national and international obligations, and should I add electoral promises!

2013.10.22---inula-chritmoides

The Golden Samphire on the restored Vittoriosa bastions. It can easily replace the introduced exotic invasive species of Fountain Grass occupying the flower beds on the waterfront.

I walked heavily to where my car was parked close to St. Helena Bastions ­ another jewel of the Knights of St. John. Another gem of a historical heritage so conspicuous by its neglected and abandoned state.  If only the funds coming from the European Union and public funds lavishly spent on the importation, advice, planting and profits made on the exotic trees, went to the restoration of such other gem at Bormla (Cospicua) they would have been much better spent.

2013,10,22---fountain-grass

The now ubiquitous introduced alien invasvie Fountain Grass, in the shadow of alien trees, competing and taking over from indigenous flora.

It was a relief to drive back home. But not before driving through a breach in the Cottonera bastion lines leading from San Ġwann t’Għuxa to Għajn Dwieli. The mismanagement, lack of planning and financial driving force in landscaping with its negative social, historical and ecological impact had ruined the enjoyable candle­lit evening at the historical city of Birgu. The good thing about it was that the candle­lit environment had hidden the look of disappointment on my face: the lack of considerations for local biodiversity makes me feel ashamed that I am Maltese, when this is appreciated more by the foreigners than by the local politicians. When money grows on trees and it talks, there is nobody ready to listen.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com