Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Come Together: Raptor Watch 2011
What is it about animal migrations that fascinates humans so much? Could it be that we are awed and humbled by the distances animals are willing to travel, relying only on their instincts, and the hardships they are willing to endure just to ensure the survival of their species? Could it be that the sight of large-scale animal movement evokes emotion in us because it brings back certain atavistic memories of a time when human communities too indulged in large-scale movement and relocation, driven by changes in climate and scarcity of food and water sources? Or could it just be that animals have in themselves such beauty, grace and intelligence that observing them engaging in natural behaviours and partaking in journeys fills us with joy and the reassurance that we are all part of something larger than ourselves?
It didn't always use to be this way. As I have previously mentioned in my 2008 Raptor Watch blogpost, raptor migration used to be a phenomenon that was of interest only to the scientific community. It only became an event of mainstream interest due to the efforts of the Malaysian Nature Society in educating the public, mobilising and capitalising on mass media and lobbying the legislators and elected representatives.
Raptor Watch 2011 saw a number of improvements compared to previous years. There was better media coverage and education and awareness initiatives. We had a higher turnout of visitors, especially from schools and the local community. We maintained and improved on ideas that worked -- water refilling stations and recycling bins, for instance -- and eliminated ideas that didn't work, such as having corporate sponsors hijack the event. We generated very little waste but a lot of positive attention and publicity. It was a memorable and enjoyable weekend for all.
I was again part of the organising committee for this year and my contributions including emceeing together with Lillian, conducting an admittedly tough Green Living Quiz together with Cindy and organising The Raptor Watch 2011 Amazing Race, where teams of 2 race to solve clues and complete a series of 5 challenges.
What did we get for all our hard work, besides the feeling of satisfaction that comes from a job well done? For me, it wasn't merely a weekend of hard work but also one of parties and camaraderie with my friends in the Nature Guides and of strengthening my commitment to and bond with Mother Nature.
Video from the official MNS Raptor Watch Website: Raptors (mostly Oriental Honey-Buzzards) in flight over Tanjung Tuan.
My Nature Guide buddies, Pasu, Rangamal and Karthik, at their booth on Saturday, getting ready to register participants for the Forest Walks. We saw a marked increase in visitors registering for all our guided walks this year, and this kept all our Guides on their toes until late on Sunday afternoon.
Visitors checking out the various attractions at our booths. Our
booths offered everything from merchandise, games and educational activities to opportunities to be involved in conservation issues in Malaysia.
Here I am, playing the Can Knockdown game at one of our funfair-type game booths before we packed up on Saturday. Most of our games used discarded materials for the games equipment and props, such as egg cartons for the ball toss game and the cardboard cores of adhesive tape for the ring toss game.
Visitors engaging in beach activities such as kayaking and banana boat rides at the cove outside our event grounds.
Visitors watching an uncharacteristically late flock of over 1,000 Oriental Honey-Buzzards flying in around 1700 hrs on Saturday. Raptors usually prefer to fly around noon, when there are more hot-air thermals.
A group photo of the volunteers for posterity.
Lili and John taking a breather at the deck chairs by the beach at Casa Rachardo, where we were staying, before dinner on Saturday night.
Ilham Resort looked like a fairyland at night.
We adjourned to Pasu's house for a party after the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at Ilham Resort on Saturday night.
The Raptor Watch Amazing Race was flagged off on Sunday morning. I am full of praise for the 10 volunteers who learned up their roles as Race Marshalls within 5 minutes. The Race went well and Christa, one of the participants, is seen here trying to complete the final challenge, which involved trying to identify birds. Christa and Raj came in second in the Open Category.
Rodhi and Mary try to solve the final challenge in the Amazing Race. They came in third in the Race.
My friends Ilyas and Tina beat everyone else to come in first in the Open Category of the Amazing Race. They won a camping bag containing 2 sets of holiday vouchers, Bros water bottles, jackets, recycled paper products and some other goodies.
Renowned bird artist Mr. Teh Yew Kiang offered a lesson in sketching birds and still life objects on Sunday afternoon. His 2-hour art workshop was very well received and highly appreciated. I hope he volunteers to give us an art lesson again next year.
Along with other participants of the art workshop, I learned the finer points of shading and highlighting still life objects. When Mr. Teh learned of my interest in cartooning, he gave me valuable pointers in illustrating cartoons as well. "Exaggerate the features", he advised. "Make the eyes bigger, the snout shorter, the nose upturned for a cuter look". I was thrilled with the results.
In the early evening after the close of the event, I took myself on a walk up to the Cape Rachardo lighthouse. The paved trail through the forest reserve was full of daytrippers, mostly young families and gaggles of college students. I was pleased to see people getting in touch with Nature.
The lighthouse greeted me like a faithful old friend.
A view of the sea from the lighthouse.
We repaired to Pasu's house in Port Dickson again on Sunday after Raptor Watch, and had a cookout in her lovely garden. What fun it is to eat smoky charred vegetables and corn-on-the-cob in the company of one's friends! Everything tastes better when you are tired but contented.
Karthik and John play a game of one-on-one football after the meal. What a high-energy ending to a high-energy weekend!