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17 December, 2014

Final Update - Autumn 2014 Raptor Migration Study in Thoolakharka Nepal

Photo: Golden Eagle (Juvenile bird) taken on 6th Dec 2014-- Thoolakharka Nepal
Thoolakharka (Kande) is one of the globally significant raptor migration corridors (Flyway) in Nepal  which is situated in Kaski District, Lumle VDC- 6 and this flyway is used by thousands of raptors that leave the Tibetan plateau and northern Asia, including Mongolia, China and Eastern part of Russia that heading to south in Middle-East or even Africa following the Himalayan Range of Nepal and India. This is the only site in the world where raptor migrates from east to west direction (but other places migration is north to south). Also this is the only place in the world where highest numbers of Steppe Eagles migration can be observed during autumn season.
 
To find out the total species and number of raptor that use this migration route, their status and migration pattern and age structure of Steppe Eagle, this study was started from 2012. In each year we conduct 85 days of study (Sept 15 to 8 Dec).  In 2014, 32 species of raptors were seen in migration with total number of 9565 birds with highest number of 6166 Steppe Eagles.  Among the migrant species 5 species were vultures, 8 species of Eagles, Harriers (3 species), Sparrowhawk (3 species), Falcons (6 species), Kites (2 species), Osprey, Buteos (3 species), and Oriental Honey Buzzard.  In our observation we found the number of 21 raptor species is declining within 3 years among them Common Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Saker Falcon, Amur Falcon, Cinereous Vulture, Griffon Vulture etc are most affected (more than 50% population decline). We do not know the exact cause of   declining however this should be the bad year for their breeding and they might have poor breeding success, there should have some effect of climate change and bad weather during migration count. Among the 33 species of migrating raptors one species (white-rumped vulture) is critically endangered, two species (Egyptian vulture and Saker falcon) are endangered, two species (Pallas’s fish eagle, Imperial eagle) are vulnerable and three species (Cinereous vulture, Himalayan Vulture and Pallid harrier) are near threatened in the IUCN list. Beside 33 migrating species 5 additional non migratory species (including 2 critically endangered and one near threatened species) were regularly seen in the area.  Total number of each species recorded with their peak timing and number if given below in the table. 



Species
Total Counted
Peak Time Frame
1.      Oriental Honey-buzzard
561
10 Oct – 25 Oct (45)
2.      Himalayan Buzzard        
66
8 Oct – 22 Oct (5)
3.      Long-legged Buzzard
3
26 Oct – 31 Oct (2)
4.    Upland Buzzard
7
17 Oct – 13 Nov (2)
Unidentified Buteo
2
----
5.      Northern Sparrowhawk
103
11 Oct – 10 Nov Oct (7)
6.    Northern Goshawk
15
21 Oct Nov – 31 Oct (3)
7.   Shikra
13
10 Oct to 25 Oct (2)
Unidentified Accipiter
3
----
8.      Steppe Eagle
6,166
3 Nov – 22 Nov (614)
9.      Booted Eagle
118
12Oct – 1Nov (13)
10. Crested Serpent-eagle
6
26 Sept – 8 Oct (2)
11. Pallas’s Fish Eagle
2
20 Oct – 21 Oct (1)
12. Imperial Eagle
3
7 Dec (2)
13. Bonelli’s Eagle
23
18 Oct – 27 Oct (3)
14. Mountain Hawk-eagle
9
3 Oct – 15 Oct (4)
15. Golden Eagle
3
26 Nov – 7 Dec (1)
Unidentified Eagle
1
----
16. Black Kite ssp. govinda
287
25 Sep – 1 Nov (16)
17. Black-eared Kite ssp. lineatus
110
2 Oct – 3 Nov (25)
18. Osprey
2
26 Sept – 11 Oct (1)
19. Hen Harrier
19
24 Oct – 9 Nov (2)
20. Western Marsh Harrier
1
2 Nov (1)
21. Pallid Harrier
2
12 Oct (2)
Unidentified Harrier
4
----
22. Peregrine Falcon ssp. calidis
16
6 Oct – 27 Oct (2)
23. Saker Falcon
1
22 Oct (1)
24. Northern Hobby
100
25 Sep – 16 Oct (11)
25. Amur Falcon
20
10 Oct – 28 Oct (5)
26. Lesser Kestrel
22
30 Sept – 15 Oct (8)
27. Common Kestrel
197
1 Oct – 25 Oct (12)
Unidentified Falcon
17
----
28. Egyptian Vulture
19
19 Sep – 25 Sep (3)
29. White-rumped Vulture
138
26 Sep – 12 Oct (17)
30. Himalayan Vulture
1,415
21 Nov – 7 Dec (209)
31. Cinereous Vulture
47
10 Nov – 7 Dec (6)
32. Griffon Vulture
25
22 Nov – 6 Dec (8)
Unidentified Raptor
19
----
TOTAL - TOTAL - TOTAL
9,565
25 Oct – 25 Nov


Table (above): Raptor species identified and number counted at Thoolakharka (Nepal), 15 September through 8 December 2014 including unidentified raptors. Number in parentheses in “Peak Time Frame” is the highest daily count within the peak migration period. 


Most awaiting final report is now available for free download for everybody. Please visit the link below to download and enjoy reading final report. 



https://www.dropbox.com/s/twqn0d7pmhln50j/Final%20report_Raptor%20Migration%20Study_Thoolakharka%20Nepal2014%20%20.pdf?dl=0

30 November, 2014

30 Nov (Day 77)- Raptor Migration Update (Thoolakharka Nepal)

Peregrine Falcon (ssp peregrinator)
Now we are towards the end of autumn migration season in Nepal. This year was certainly different than previous years because of the different weather and fluctuation on number of migrating birds. In the beginning of the season we had definitely better weather than last years because not much rain/cloud however in November we had mostly foggy days  because of moist air from the south, when it strikes with the cold mountain slopes and turns into fog. Therefore we had about 75% foggy days in November. In early season we had quite diverse species of raptors including falcons, eagles, vultures, OHB, sparrowhawk and buteos. Now the species diversity is going low and we are mostly getting eagles and vultures (Himalayan Vulture and Steppe Eagle). That means the falcon, OHB and Accipiter migration is over. If we compare the data of falcon migration from previous studies, this year seems to be a bad year for those species for example it seems the number of migrating Amur Falcon decline by around 500%. Not only falcons’ number of many raptors seen on migration is also declining. We are still waiting for some species like Short-toed Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagles, Indian Spotted Eagle, White-tailed Eagle etc. Frequency of sightings of local species like Mountain Hawk Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Besra, Peregrine Falcon, Slender-billed Vulture etc is also going down.
Last year we used to see many other passerine birds including several hundred Dark Throated thrush, martins etc. and we haven’t seen those species this year. The swallow migration is also going down. Now we have around 10 more days for the observation which will show us final result and I am hopeful to come with the final update very soon.
This year we had a great loss in the migration site in Nepal because we lost our great friend Henk Smit on 19th Nov- who was from Netherlands. Henk was inspiration for many hawk watchers and visitors to this place. I wish peaceful stay of his departed soul in the heaven and express my deep condolence to his family.


Details of the autumn 2014 migration is summarized below.      



Species
Total
Oriental Honey-buzzard
559
Common (Himalayan) Buzzard
65
Long-legged Buzzard
3
Upland Buzzard
7
Unidentified Buteo
2
Northern Sparrowhawk
103
Northern Goshawk
15
Shikra
13
Unidentified Sparrowhawk
3
Steppe Eagle
5514
Booted Eagle (Dark)
113
Short-toed Eagle
0
Crested Serpent-eagle
6
Pallas's Fish Eagle
2
Imperial Eagle
1
Indian Spotted Eagle
0
Greater Spotted Eagle
0
Bonelli's Eagle
20
Mountain Hawk-eagle
9
Golden Eagle
1
Unidentified Eagle
1
Black Kite
269
Black-Eared Kite
110
Osprey
2
Hen Harrier
17
Western Marsh Harrier
1
Pallid Harrier
2
Unidentified Harrier
4
Peregrine Falcon ssp. calidis
16
Saker Falcon
1
Eurasian Hobby
100
Amur Falcon
20
Lesser Kestrel
22
Common Kestrel
197
Unidentified Falcon
17
White-rumped Vulture
138
Egyptian Vulture
19
Himalayan Vulture
992
Cinereous (Black) Vulture
29
Eurasian Griffon
8
Unidentified Vulture
0
Unidentified Raptor
18
Total
8419