Royal Photographic Society Magazine, April 2014

Still life (natur mort) is a grimly accurate description of this dead Bee-eater lying on a vet’s steel table. Found at Xemxija on the island of Malta, 20th April 2011 the cause of death was due to gunshot injury on its left side. Hundreds of thousands of birds return north every spring from Africa and are greeted with a storm of gunfire. Three main avian motorways guide birds across the Mediterranean, over nation’s with unsustainable hunting cultures. Malta is a stepping stone on the central route that continues up through Italy. Gibraltar and Cyprus mark the western and eastern flyways, respectively. This work documented the birdwatchers who watch the hunters watching the birds on Birdlife Malta’s Spring Watch camps. Malta’s 11,000 permitted hunters give the island the highest per head in Europe backed by a powerful political lobby with guns! No where is birdwatching so countercultural and subversive. In northern Europe millions are spent on habitat conservation yet birds may never return. Turtle dove and quail can be shot in limited numbers but everything from eagles to herons are been seen falling from the sky every spring.

Kieran Dodds Royal Photographic Society Magazine, April 2014 A dead Bee-eater found at Xemxija, 20th April 2011 suffered gunshot injury to its left side of the body.  

Spring Watch Malta is a conservation camp run by BirdLife Malta’s  In 2012, fifty volunteers from across Europe coverged in a tourist hotel in Bugibba, north Malta, to track migrating birds and monitor any illegal spring hunting by the 11,000 permitted hunters.

Under EU leglislation, Spring hunting is illegal but the Maltese government, which joined the EU in 2004, allows hunting of turtle dove and quail.  Hunters regularly shoot other species including birds of prey which are made stuffed for private collection.