Posted by: Dan | October 5, 2008

Passage of Raptors

This morning I went out with fellow birdwatcher Stavros, who is much more knowledgeable, and others from BirdLife Cyprus. We went to Akrotiri and the surrounding area, and what a treat we had.

We were there in a parking lot between a small but dense area of trees where hundreds of raptors had apparently been roosting overnight, and the salt flats (great for thermals) where they gained altitude for migrating across the rest of the Mediterranean. Our treat: maybe a couple hundred each of Red-footed Falcons (Falco vespertinus) and Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus) flew by. Very neat.

What was even more neat was the handful of less common raptors that passed over us, mixed in with the other birds in migration. Among them:

Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus)
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina)

As eagles, they were big, majestic birds. And lifers for me. It’s remarkable and exhilarating to see such birds. But I’m not sure why it is so remarkable however, except to note that we too often forget that we are a part of the natural world, having so effectively removed our species to a new habitat of our own creation.

… Which relates to the byline I’ve chosen for this blog, “The world moves and, deep inside, we long to move with it.” In some corner of our psyches, we are effected by such rarely-glimpsed views of the natural world, and are emotionally “moved” by it. That is, I think that the natural ebb and flow of the world resonates with us [or myself, at least].

Many people will say that this is a spiritual kind of experience – finding the natural world to be moving. I don’t think so. And it’s certainly not a religious experience; you won’t find me worshiping any rain gods or bird gods or anything of the sort. And no spirits or gods caused these birds to migrate. The never-ending quest to find food and raise young necessitates that some bird species migrate yearly. The alternative is a failure to reproduce. That’s nature for you.

And I just think it’s neat to see.

The rest of the list of birds we saw:

Grey Herons
Little Grebes
Green-winged Teal
Black Kite
Common Buzzard
Honey Buzzards
Marsh Harrier
Bonelli’s Eagle
Booted Eagle
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Red-footed Falcons
Little Stint
Kentish Plover
European Bee-eaters
Crested Lark
Barn Swallows
Red-rumped Swallows
House Martins
Sand Martins
Tawny Pipit
White Wagtail
Red-backed Shrike
Hooded Crow
Spanish Sparrow
European Goldfinch


  1. Dan: A friend recently sent me a note saying that he had seen an immature red-tail hawk in his back yard. I was impressed that he could recognize it. I don’t have much training in such things. But what was even more interesting is that he described having a sense of awe at seeing the hawk.

    I don’t think that such a sensation is a religious experience, either. It does strike me, though, that we are really lucky to be able to recognize the awe and wonder of the natural world around us.

    I always feel energized by people like my friend, and you, who remind me to take a look around and admire that beauty.

  2. I’m glad you liked it!

    As an update, I found out mid-week that one of the Sparrowhawks that we saw last Sunday was in fact not a Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), which is a rather common raptor. A photo that a fellow birdwatcher took showed it to be a Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), which is reportedly extremely rare to see in Cyprus.

    An extra treat!


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