Monday, May 30

Back in raptor-land

We were back!

I had just been to Pagudpud and Claveria a month before for the peak of Grey-faced Buzzard migration and a series of community conservation fora, but I woke up again bright and early on the bus from an all-night trip and I was back in Pannzian for the weekend!  This time, Adri was free to come along and look out for the migration spectacle. We were hoping for a repeat of last year's river of raptors at the tail end of the peak of Chinese Sparrowhawk migration! Suzanne had also tagged along for some R&R away from the city.

After breakfast, Adri and I headed straight for the raptorwatch command centre, where Alex, Tere and Mike were already settled and counting.

It was sizzling hot!  The heat was soon broken by a sudden summer shower, making the air humid and sticky!

We settled down with the counters and watched the hills for the raptors rising high into the skies.

We were not disappointed.  Although our count was not as high as last year's weekend, the sight of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of raptors swirling around in a tornado pattern was still breath-taking!

As the sparrowhawks rode the wind thermals to gain height, they flapped their wings fast and hard, alternating dark upper parts with their bright white under wings.  This gave them a twinkling pattern, like diamonds shimmering in the blue summer sky. 

Sometimes they were quite far, right above the hills, looking like tiny dots.

Other times they flew nearer to us...

And fewer times we would be surprised to have them suddenly thermaling or streaming right above us!

A stray individual would pass very close every now and then, allowing us to admire the classic Chinese Sparrowhawk silhouette and diagnostic black "fingertips".

During the times that there weren't any migrants, the resident raptors such as the Honey -buzzards, Serpent Eagles and Hawk-eagles, would keep us entertained.

Several Brahminy kites flew by.

The huge and always majestic White-bellied Sea-eagle was always exciting to see up close.

Resident Spotted Doves and Red Turtledoves paid no attention to us and foraged around our watch site, peering at us curiously.

Admittedly, raptorwatch can get quite tedious, especially if the kettles are few and far in between.  

But there is always something else to see, and not only birds! Even the daily routine of the community was a feast for our eyes. A clanging bell would signal the arrival of the fishing boats, and the locals would rush to the beach to help bring in the boats.

But of course the highlight was definitely the Chinese Sparrowhawk migration!  Once you catch a glimpse of a kettle of hundreds of raptors forming, and watch the raptors eventually achieve an altitude so high it hurts the eyes to be staring up in the sky, and eventually count them as the stream off: it sends shivers up your spine. It is surely a sight to behold.

I have yet to tire seeing these small raptors embark on their long journey across the ocean back to their breeding grounds.  It is truly one of the wonders of the natural world.

See you next year!

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