Oct 27, 2011

Raptors Watch at Chumphonraptorcenter - Radar & Pencil Hills, Thailand.

From Oct 14 -19 2011, 27 members of MNS Selangor boarded a bus at the central bus station (Pudu Raya) in downtown Kuala Lumpur for what would be a 19 hour road trip to Chumphon, Thailand. We spent the night at the Morakot Hotel located in downtown.

Thailand is famous for it rich variety of food and the group lived up to it's equally famous or maybe it's infamous reputation of  Makan Non-Stop or Minum Non-Stop in a mix of Malay and English words, taking cognizance to the Malaysian Nature Society's abbreviated letters MNS. Loosely translated into English it meant Eating Non-Stop or Drinking Non-Stop. Both remarks are to be  taken in a light hearted manner just for some laughs. 

So in keeping true to the iconic abbreviation of MNS the group spent the first night in Chumphon doing just that. Eating and albeit moderately drinking Non-Stop. LOL

Here is the 'evidence' and happy faces all round. No prize for correctly guessing who is the Man in Black. :-)

The tummies well satisfied now on to the more serious stuff. We came to see the Raptors migrating from their northern hemisphere wintering homelands like Mongolia, China, Japan, Siberia, Russia etc to warmer countries in the south. Radar Hill aka Khao Radar in Thai has been identified as being strategically located along one of the migrating routes of the Raptors. Hence bird watchers from around the world converge here every year to watch the repeat of the spectacle year after year.

The weather was hot and humid. The sky was clear of clouds. Good news for the Raptors but not so good news for Raptor watchers. With abundant hot thermal filling the sky the Raptors fly high and most times are seen as just tiny specks thousands of feet above us. We ended the day with good observations using our viewing scopes and binoculars. But no close -up photos. 

Pencil Hill aka Khao Dinsor

The next morning we started early. After a hearty buffet breakfast the entourage hopped into 3 spacious vans and by 7 am we were well on our way to Pencil Hill. We were informed that from what was experienced in the past years Raptors fly lower around Pencil Hill. Our enthusiasm were lifted and faces lighted up on hearing the good news. 

Soon enough we were at the foothill. Unlike Radar Hill where we were driven all the up to the observation plateau, at Pencil Hill it was a steep climb for the first 500 or so meters and then a gradual gradient ascending to the 3 covered counting stations. The top most station do not have a shelter. So if one choose to be here it will be out in the open come rain or shine. I did spend the best part of the second day here.

As we had anticipated the Raptors passing here did pass closer than those we saw at Radar Hill. However the direction and speed in which they approach and fly pass were unpredictable. When one or a group of Raptors is seen in the distance loud announcements could be heard from either the counters or visitors like us. There will then be a period of keen observation and excitement if the Raptors should pass by in the vicinity. And sighs of disappointment should they follow the wind and change direction before reaching the hill. 

Some from the group spent the second day on Pencil Hill whilst others decided to visit King's Park to check-out the lowland birds and waders there. I have posted the birds found on Radar Hill and those in King's Park in separate postings in this blog. 

For this posting I will only post photos of the Raptors. So here goes,

                                  Oriental Honey Buzzard

                                Japanese Sparrowhawk (Juvenile)

                                Prerigrine Falcan


                                    Black Eagle

                                 Oriental Honey Buzzard

                                 Japanese Sparrowhawk

The beautiful Gulf of Siam and eastern scene overlooking Pencil Hill


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