Much of the Park’s landscape in July is dry, brown and seemingly barren. It is the dry season after all!
However the coastal area beneath the cliffs is green, a stark contrast with the rocky plateau. Climbing plants of Smilax (Sarsaparilla) form impassable spiny thickets.
Flowers usually appear later on in the year, though one can find its red fruits hanging like decorations, but naturally they are advertisements of food for birds to come and eat them and in this way disperse its seeds.
Another climber is gentler, sort of, as it is not armed with spines – the Black Bryony (Brijonja Sewda). This plant has conspicuous heart-shaped leaves and red fruits.
The Sea Samphire or Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum), Maltese: Bużbież tal-Blat, Bużbież il-Baħar
The Sea Samphire, also called the Rock Samphire (Bużbież tal-Blat, Bużbież il-Baħar) flowers from July onward. This perennial greyish-green plant has fleshy leaves cut in flat segments, and yellowish-green flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters. Another plant tied to the coastal area is the Maltese Salt-tree (Xebb), a shrub that is endemic to the Maltese islands. A number of these plants can be found at Prajjiet in the northern limit of the Park. The flowers are small and can be seen in the summer months, and are aromatic.
Growing from fissures and cracks are Fig trees (Tin) with ripe fruits that are food for birds. The Fig is one of those plants that are leafless in winter, emerging new palmate (hand-like) leaves in spring.
Caper (Capparis orientalis), Maltese: Kappar
Caper (Kappar) plants abound in the coastal area, and both flowers and fruits can be found in July. This plant is also leafless in winter. The whole plant has a characteristic fragrance. In the coastal and other areas of the Park other flowers can be spotted.
The Purple Garlic (Tewm Vjola) and the Maltese Dwarf Garlic (Tewm Irqiq ta’ Malta) are members of the same family that grow from bulbs. The Purple Garlic has small rounded purple flower heads, while the much inconspicuous tiny endemic Maltese Dwarf Garlic has whitish tubular flowers. This plant often goes unnoticed. Showy flowers of the Silvery Ragwort cannot be missed. The underside of their leaves is whitish, aiding in reflecting off sunlight.
Silvery Ragwort (Jacobaea maritima), Maltese: Kromb il-baħar isfar
In July the singing of Cicada (Werżieq) is almost incessant. This insect lives much of its life underground, then lives a short life on the wing, the males singing to attract and mate with a female. Butterflies also make a presence in July, and at times good numbers of the Painted Lady (Farfett tax-Xewk) can be seen.
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Summer is a good time to see reptiles, including snakes, but it is not that easy. The snake observed most at Majjistral is the Western Whip Snake (Serp Iswed); the Cat Snake (Teleskopu) is another snake recorded in the Park. The Cat Snake ventures out mainly after sunset, so it is unusual to see one by day.
Early morning strolls in the Park could reveal a rabbit (Fenek) or two. This largest mammal to occur in our islands often reveals its presence by its droppings.
Rabbit – Fenek
BirdLife is rather quiet in July at the Park, with some of the resident birds often the only ones to encounter. However some migratory birds have already started their migration south to Africa, including the Subalpine Warbler (Bufula Passajra). This small bird often associates itself with plants having fruits, such as those of the Fig and the Olive-leaved Buckthorn (Żiju).
Due to the heat of summer, it is advisable to walk early mornings or late in the evening. To end a day in fashion, watch a sunset from the Park!
When you visit the Park walk along the trails and do not trample. Do not leave litter behind. If you come with your pet dog please keep it on a leash, especially at this time of the year when birds are nesting. Thank you.
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*Photo provided by Aron Tanti.