Joe Sultana: Il-Wirt Naturali ta’ Għawdex. A BirdLife Malta
EkoGħawdex publication, 2018.

As I grew up in Sir Paul Boffa Street in Victoria (Gozo), I noticed that one of our neighbours – a middle-aged man of average height wearing a beard – used to visit and stay in a house next door with his wife and two children. 

When I asked why, unlike our other neighbours, he did not stay on a permanent basis, the reply was that the gentleman’s name was Joe Sultana; he hailed from Xagħra, but crossed to Gozo to spend time observing nature and doing bird ringing.

The reason for his frequent visits became more obvious when my elder brother began to accompany him on these ventures which took place various hours before dawn. 

When, recently, Il-Wirt Naturali ta’ Għawdex came into my hands, I instantly guessed that the author would be the same Joe Sultana, an accomplished ornithologist, writer, visionary, environmental activist, but above all, a naturalist.

As Jason Aloisio states in the foreword to the book, Il-Wirt Naturali ta’ Għawdex began as a series of articles that the ex-editor of Il-Ħajja f’Għawdex, Joe W. Psaila – an established poet and writer himself – invited Sultana to write, for publication in the Gozitan diocesan review.  The first of these appeared in the August 2007 issue and, when Francesco Pio Attard took over as editor of the review at the end of 2016, Sultana continued his series of articles.

By now, the amount of articles was so numerous that it was possible to gather them and get them published in book form. 

What we now have in our hands is an attractive publication consisting of five important sections covering the sites of natural importance in Gozo; the natural features of the island throughout the year; an encyclopaedia of flora and fauna found in Gozo; information about birds which settle in Gozo and other interesting curiosities related to the island’s flora and fauna.

This last section will be of interest not only to those who are keen ornithologists and lovers of Mother Nature but also to those who cherish our native language with its many proverbs related to birdlife in general. 

A must for all those who live the natural habitat of our islands

Il-Wirt Naturali ta’ Għawdex is a must for all those who love the natural habitat of our Mediterranean islands.  The articles are accompanied by numerous photographs which are in full colour, that feature several of the local plants and animal life.

Although BirdLife Malta is the name of the association, the birds are far from being its only field of interest and study. 

The book throws light on various indigenous plants and tiny creatures which would pass unnoticed were it not for the observant naturalist who takes the time to stop, observe and where possible even take close photographs of the particular species he or she is focusing upon. 

With direct references to Gian Francesco Buonamico’s manuscript of 1670 to the pictures of Johann Michael von Borch’s engravings of Dwejra’s renowned Għerq is-Sinjur, Joe Sultana’s magnificent opus is the product of many years of research, as well as meticulous observation, that is bound to attract the attention of both student and academic alike.

De Soldanis would have danced for joy to know that yet another Gozitan bearing  his own surname would too delve so deeply into a subject that he merely wrote abouten passant!


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