Monday, 9 March 2009

Fun with Talon-ted Eagles!

By Gloria Seow, Education Group Chairperson

Brahminy Kite, a common raptor found in Singapore with its distinctive 'M' shaped wings, and one of the five raptors we saw at Telok Blangah Hill on 15 Feb 2009. Photo by KC Tsang.

An eagle is able to see a rabbit flicking its ears some 3 km away! Kids lapped up such fun factoids and more during the Fun with Eagles session held on 15 February 2009 at Telok Blangah Hill.

Auntie Gloria highlighted the difference between birds of prey (raptors) and normal birds; talked about their feeding, breeding, and migratory behaviours; and finished off with the exciting hunting techniques employed by various talon-ted raptors (talons=sharp claws). From the largest ones – the Andean Condor with its record-breaking wingspan of 3.2 m, to the fastest animal ever – the Peregrine Falcon when it does its lethal ‘dive’ at speeds of up to 390 km/h, the world of raptors came alive, enthralling both kids and parents alike.

Auntie Gloria highlighted the features that define a bird of prey, also called a raptor. Eagles are just one genus within the raptor family. There are also Kites, Falcons, Buzzards, Vultures, Owls and many other types of birds of prey. Photo by Goh Si Guim.

The majestic White-bellied Sea Eagle, one of Singapore's largest resident raptors, commonly seen circling over water bodies looking for fish. Photo by KC Tsang.

Auntie Amy then flashed out an impressive image array of the various raptors found in Singapore, as captured by her husband and bird photographer KC Tsang, from the teeny weeny Black-thighed Falconet (only slightly bigger than a sparrow), to the gigantic Himalayan Griffon (a splendid and rare vulture).

Auntie Amy presented the array of raptors found and photographed in Singapore by her husband and bird photographer KC Tsang. Photo by Goh Si Guim.

Oriental Honey Buzzard, one of the regularly-seen migrants that over-winter in Singapore in the months of October to March, subsequently flying back to breed in Siberia during the spring/summer months from April to September. Photo by KC Tsang.

The 30 plus kids present were wowed at the sheer number and splendour of raptor images that were passed around. Photo by Goh Si Guim.

Kids were eager to share their own knowledge of eagles and raptors. Photo by Lena Chow.

At the scenic summit of Telok Blangah Hill, the sunny skies delivered their full potential, giving us a good haul of five raptor species in the space of one hour (from 1030 to 1130 am). Kids enjoyed eye-popping views of Brahminy Kites, Black Bazas, White-bellied Sea Eagles, Oriental Honey Buzzards and Changeable Hawk Eagles as some soared barely 10 meters above their heads, propelled by thermals of rising hot air columns. Audible gasps and excited jabs were observed as the little ones studied through their own binoculars, the unique feather patterns identifying the various birds of prey. The combined eagle eyes of Uncle Tim, Uncle Hang Chong, Uncle Vina, Uncle Si Guim, Auntie Lena, Auntie Prithiba, Uncle KC and Auntie Amy helped spot raptors flying in from all directions.

Kids had fun peering into the scope, gazing at a Dollarbird that provided some amusement while waiting for the raptors to soar by. Photo by Goh Si Guim.

Kids either brought their own binoculars or were provided with new Opticron bins to track the flight of these awe-inspiring birds of prey as they thermalled above our heads. Photo by Lena Chow.

Even lizards took flight that day. Auntie Gloria caught sight of a pair of dracos, the Common Gliding Lizard (Draco sumatranus), in the surrounding trees. These dracos were a good distraction as we waited for more raptors to show up, delighting us with their cute ‘push ups’, gular flag flashing, and best of all their short ‘flights’, where they glided deftly from branch to branch by opening up their patagium to act as a ‘parachute’. Some lucky kids enjoyed close-up views through the Opticron and Swarovski scopes that were set up, or through their own binoculars.

Black Baza, a cute and pretty raptor that has an erect crest, and wears a striped jersey. In raptor watches conducted by the NSS Bird Group, the Black Baza always registers the highest count during migratory season, with some flocks as large as 50 birds. Photo by KC Tsang.

A typical view of the Brahminy Kite. Photo by KC Tsang.
A spectacular shot of the black morph Changeable Hawk Eagle clutching a Plantain Squirrel in its formidable talons. Photo by KC Tsang.

Would you come back to see me again? Photo by KC Tsang.


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Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures, I think we are destroying most of our nature, there are many species in danger of extinction, and we act like we dont care, we only think on money, sex, generic viagra, boats, cars, implants, etc.