The sun creeps above the horizon. The morning is cool and still; dew redolent in the air and on the ground. For some, this would be the end of a particularly late night. For seasoned birders, it’s the start of an excellent day. Fortunately, the migratory birds of prey that use the Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve in Melaka, on the border of Negeri Sembilan and across the Straits of Melaka from Sumatra, keep a more considerate schedule. We’re here as a preview to the 11th annual Raptor Watch, which will be held 13-14 March in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the organisers, Malaysian Nature Society, at the event’s traditional grounds of the Ilham Resort Tanjung Tuan.
The majestic birds of prey we’ve come to see won’t take flight before the sun has warmed the ground, creating thermal updrafts that lift the raptors and keep them aloft. Starting at about 11am, visitors to the reserve can witness the birds as they begin making the crossing. Many of them are dedicated bird watchers, especially of raptors, with Malaysia home to a growing number of enthusiasts. Indeed, the International Ecotourism Society cites birdwatchers as the largest group of ecotourists, estimated at more than 19 million worldwide, and Malaysia, with more than 600 species of birds, is a bird watchers’ haven.
Amongst the natural splendour and spectacle of thousands of migratory birds making the crossing and roosting in Tanjung Tuan, a festival atmosphere will hit Melaka’s Ilham Resort. Adopting a something for everyone approach, the organisers realise that not all visitors will be as dedicated to birding as they.
That’s why sponsors will set up booths to sell and brand their products, while visitors will go on nature hikes, listen to interesting talks and participate in games. Everything carries a strong message of conservation, and Raptor Watch’s impact on the birds is carefully managed, as the main goal of the event is to raise awareness for the importance of environmental conservation.
From seasoned birdwatchers to those with little or no knowledge of things avian and from nature nuts to neophytes, Raptor Watch acts as a showcase for the magnificence and mystery of the natural world. Seeing these majestic birds in flight reminds us of nature’s splendour, and gives an appreciation of these kings of the sky.