There will be a lot of "eyes on the skies" this weekend,10-11 March, as Raptor Watch 2018 takes place again on the shores and headland of Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve, south of Port Dickson.
The event is somewhat dependent on nature turning up as the stars of the show, in the form of large predatory birds flying over head, are animals and rely on nature and instinct to guide them. But over the years the show has been good and there have been enough birds to keep spectators' binoculars, telescopes and eyes glued to the sky.
Eagles, Baza's,Buzzards, Sea eagles, Serpent eagles,Kites, Sparrowhawks and other raptors swarm every year in the thermal passages around Cape Rachado lighthouse at Tanjung Tuan, giving spectators an insight into these birds' incredible abilities to GPS locate natural signposts for their migration to and from Indonesia and Australia.
It's not just spectators having a look either as the numbers of raptors crossing the Straits of Melaka are diligently counted and recorded by a team of dedicated volunteers and staff to monitor patterns, movement and numbers over the years.
They record crucial data to feed into the research, understanding and knowledge of the numbers, distribution and species involved in this great exodus, and they have done such for more than 10 years.
This year’s raptor counting period is for 15 days (4th to 18th March 2018) which is undertaken by the Raptor Study Group of the MNS Bird Conservation Council and members of the Selangor Branch Bird Group.
It is a challenge every year to secure funds needed to support this research, as well as having available volunteers that are willing to spend their time, in the heat of the day, up at the lighthouse counting raptors.
The haze conditions can impede the view and at times prevent the raptors from flying across. Although it is not possible to draw conclusions from the data received to date, members are concerned that the numbers of raptors counted recently are far from spectacular counts recorded in the early 70’s, and numbers seem to be on a worrying downward trend.
Also remember, the raptor migration cannot be guaranteed. Nature is unpredictable. A change in wind direction, haze, or rain may deter the birds from flying across leading to a `no bird day’.
On a more positive note there are guided walks, arts and crafts, and games to educate and amuse, particularly the young about this natural, yearly migration that emphasises the need for connections. The raptors cannot continue migrating if the forests in Malaysia and Indonesia are not there - Raptor Watch is all about the forest, raptors, sea, mangroves and the ecosystem, come along and support them.
Shown below are some of the raptors you may see as well as the location of the event - the best times to visit are between 11am and 3pm when the raptors are the most active in the heat of the day.