The Raptor Watch - Scott's Hills, Taiping

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The raptors have crossed the international border of Malaysia And Thailand. They would normally follow the western coastal route of Peninsula Malaysia, staying very close the Main Range for up draft and deflective winds when the westerly hits the mountain Range. The Hijau Range that runs in the north south direction from the State of kedah is just ideal. Then just above the town of Taiping, there would be 2 peaks close to one another. The Bukit Maxwell peak at 1036 m and the Gunong Hijau peak at 1448 m. These high mountains would be a great boost for the raptors journey.

At the foot of Bukit Hijau, where the plain for the ricefields of Krian district ends, there are a series of hillocks, well forested and all below 200 m which serve as roosting places for the Raptors for the night. The next morning as sure as the sun rises, there would be updraft and wind deflection to good altitude.

It is with knowledge of this strategic setting and the experiences of seeing how the Raptors gather each morning over the many years of observation that a proper spot where the Raptors could be counted.

This place is an abandoned piece of flatland in a high spot among these rolling hills. If you ask any Taipingnites or search in the local map, there is no such name as Scotts Hills. I too, would like to know the original of this name. The vacant land, level and with vantage points belongs to Asiabina Sdn. Bhd. who had officially allow the events to use their premises in Scotts Hills.

Raptor Watch in the Scotts Hills started in the year 2001 by the Perak branch of the Malaysian Nature Society and has since become an annual branch activities. Over the years there were changes introduced but the more substantial changes came in 2010 when the organizers was given a Merdeka Grant for a full session of raptors count lasting 58 days. Then exhibition space was made available at the Taiping Sentral, a complex at the foot of Scotts Hills. This became the official point and publicity area for the annual events. Furthermore visitors need not hike to Scotts Hills anymore but could park their cars in the compound of Taiping Villa to watch the Raptors passing by in comfort.

Activities and venue
Bird watching for public at Taiping Lake Gardens
Festival opens at Taiping Sentral car park:
  • Photo exhibit on raptors and birds in and around Taiping
  • Photo exhibit on the migratory raptors of Taiping
  • Video on “The Birds of Perak”
  • Sales of nature-related items, books, t-shirts etc
  • Leica demo and sales of bird watching equipment
  • Children’s coloring contest and games
  • Demo and display of nature-related handicraft
Public raptor watching on Scott’s Hill in Taiping Villa
Slide presentation on “The birds found in Taiping and its vicinity” at Taiping Zoo auditorium

The event's organizer had learnt over the years as to how add spices in making the seemingly dry topics of bird watching interesting.

Here I have downloaded a sample of the program planned for each year. May not be entirely the same or stereotype but with variations.

Helps the parent in explaining to the younger set what is the gathering all about and inculcating new values. Then the games made their visit memorable.

For the adults, the exhibits answering many FAQs from those showing interest

The timing for the Raptors Watch is l slotted in from early morning  normally around 9.00am onwards and right through to the early afternoon. This is the time that birds get their thermal to take them on to their next leg of their journey. It is along day and most of them would take flight at the first available and not wait for the afternoon.

There would be fresh Raptors arriving in the evening. Usually in the late evening at twilight to maximize on daylight hours. However, not surprising some birds could sense the bad weather ahead and make early stop in the afternoon, when there are promises of good roosting sites for the night. Scotts Hills is among one of those..

The bird watchers who arrived from all over the country would strayed away from their main mission of coming to Taiping. In the afternoon, most birds would be doing some catching up in the sprawling compound of the famous Taiping Lake Garden.

The main attractions here were Rhinoceros Hornbills, Great Hornbills, Lineated Barbet and White-bellied Sea eagles. You are likely to get Owls and Parakeets in the morning, but that's the timing reserved for Raptors Watch.

 Today, one could drive the cars into the private compound and watch in comforts, spending longer hours and driving out again for breaks.

I have posted here some pictures of the early days and also when we could watch the Raptors in complete isolation i.e the original sites where the event first started.

I have posted a couple of pictures. I find that this way is more authentic as we are so used to watching birds in the wilderness. So the ambience and the efforts to reach the right spots counts.

After the area of the car park, the highest point on this low hill is near. There was this sandy lateritic track that we followed as shown in the picture, bottom left for a short distance. Quickly led to what was left of a paved road.

Here are the views of the conditions of both the tracks. Fairly level, tidy and easy to walk pass.

The end of which is a flat piece of land without vegetations, edges with small half embedded boulders then a steep drop.

 

   

From this high ground, it offered a panoramic views of the town areas in two directions.

It is higher than a couple of wooded hill locks with the exception of a narrow angle blocked by a slightly higher peak.

Lastly the whole Maxwell Hill in full view.

Raptors would be flying in from a northerly direction and likewise would be taking the thermal above the lower hills around. The birds could be spotted at eye level and then rapidly rising directly over head. The marvelous sight would be the gathering of the birds in the morning after they left their roosting for the night They would all be circling in batches awaiting and seeking out the thermal for the lift.

 

The bird watcher too would cluster themselves in small groups.

 Discussing and comparing sightings for ID and counting.

More pictures below showing the tiny and informal official station for collecting and accumulating the count of the day. The vastness of the open space and the almost 180 degrees view of the surrounding.

 

Plenty of breeze and birds throughout the day, when it is not raining.

Getting a reference point of where the Raptors Watch in the wilderness was taking place. Here is a couple of views of where we entered

The cars parked just before the reservoir.

Then the view of this reference point when seen from above looking down.

Well, you have seen some pictures and getting an impression. Once again I must say the events is very special that certain time of the year we could be blessed with such sight without the need to travel too far. But this event until now is very much confined to the in-group. People who gets informed from the forum and members of Malaysian Nature Society. Then there is also a need to have some understandings as what is actually happening to enjoy seeing the various species taking off to the sky.

I find it wonderful as all those gathered there sincerely share the common interest of seeing the Raptors getting on their way. For those keen on joining, now there is a map, some one has shown the way, where and when to see the Raptors. Should not be difficult to be there on your own around that time of the year to enjoy part of the show.

Malaysia now has 2 annual Watch Sites, this one in Taiping for winter migration and another in Port Dickson for Spring migration.