There will be a lot of “eyes on the skies” this weekend, on the 13th March, as Raptor Watch 2021 takes place again on the shores and headland of Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve, just south of Port Dickson.
Last year the event was cancelled due to Covid restrictions and this year the festival will take place virtually with instructions on how to participate listed below.
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 always delivered with enough birds flying overhead to keep spectators’ binoculars, telescopes and eyes glued to the sky.
This time around it will take place on phone or computer screens.
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 (6th to 21st March 2021) which is undertaken by the Raptor Study Group of the MNS Bird Conservation Council and members of the Selangor Branch Bird Group.
The main event online will offer multiple activities and contests for viewers and participants, including quizzes, ad hoc contests and webinars.
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’.
The best times to see Raptors in the wild are between 11am and 3pm when they are the most active in the heat of the day, hunting for prey.