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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Egyptian vulture in February

In this month the Egyptian vulture we have been tracking has spent most of its time at or near the rubbish dump at Tahwa (and was joined there by the Steppe eagle we are tracking (see previous post).  I t has made some excursions away from Tahwa, mostly north to areas around Fins, but also made one 2 day excursion all the way to Yiti and back.  It also made its farthest move east so far by being located near Jalan Bani Buali on the 25th.
Movements of a subadult Egyptian vulture during February 2017.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Steppe eagles in February

People in Oman are reminded everyday about steppe eagles because it appears on the back of the 100 baisa note along with the Arabian oryx, gazelle and bee eater.  I wonder who chose the steppe eagle as part of the design and why?

Image result for 100 baisa
The maps below shows what our radiotagged eagles are doing.  Since beginning of February, one eagle (105) has been moving around south of the mountains.  Until 13 February it was mostly near Al Mudaybi and Sinaw, often visiting the landfill there.  By the 15th it had moved west to near Al Ghafat, and during 19-24 February has been near Tawi Ajuz.

Movements of a steppe eagle (105) during 1-24 February 2017.
The other eagle (162312) also spent time near Al Mudaybi up until 1 February, then it made a big two day loop that took it south to a location abut 100 km SW of Qarn Alam, then up to a location about 40 km west of Adam.  On 4-5 February it was just west of Al Saleel Park, and since then it has been mostly at the Tahwa landfill that services Sur (although at times making excursions of up to 50 km or so).

Movement of a steppe eagle (162312) during 1-22 February 2017.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Issues for large soaring birds

This blog post will not talk much about what the tagged birds are doing.  The vulture is mostly around the Tahwa Landfill site, one eagle is near Al Kamil and one is near Al Mudaybi.  You can look back at earlier posts to see some detail, and we'll post new information soon.  However, there are two items we wanted to bring to your attention:  soaring birds' collisions with aircraft and large birds' collision and electrocution at power lines in Sudan.

Many people are aware of the hazard that birds, especially large ones, pose to civilian and military aircraft, especially since that Tom Hanks movie:  "Sully".  Hollywood aside, birds strike is a huge problem that costs lots of money annually.  This is from Wikipedia:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US estimates bird strikes cost US aviation 400 million dollars annually and have resulted in over 200 worldwide deaths since 1988. In the United Kingdom, the Central Science Laboratory estimates that worldwide, the cost of birdstrikes to airlines is around US$1.2 billion annually.

Even if you quibble with the numbers, they are very large, and that does not even consider the worst part of "bird strike", which is the potential for humans to die or be injured in large numbers.

The point we are trying to make is that apart from the conservation value, better understanding of how soaring birds  (like the eagles and vulture we are tracking) move in the environment has huge benefits for human health (maybe outweighing the conservation benefit)!  If you want to read more then here is a link: http://wildlife.org/tagging-vultures-for-safetys-sake/

Results of a collision with a turkey vulture in USA. (photo from site mentioned above)
The second topic we want to remind you of is that large birds like vultures and eagles are at risk of electrocution and collision along power lines.  Even in Oman we know that some birds get electrocuted (though we don't know how many). Look back at the post for 21 December 2015. http://egyptianvultureoman.blogspot.co.at/2015_12_01_archive.html 

Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world, and particularly dangerous power lines occur there, right in the area where many migratory and resident large birds live.  Have a look at this link:
http://www.birdlife.org/africa/news/how-many-more-killer-powerlines-are-there-sudan .  However... good for the Sudanese government!  Despite being poor and needing to supply electricity to many parts of a huge country, the Sudan has taken steps to address the problem.  Click on this link to see how they are trying to make the most dangerous power lines safe again.   http://lifeneophron.eu/en/news-view/187.html
Bird carcasses found along a stretch of power line in Sudan (photo from the site mentioned above)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Steppe Eagles - late January 2017

In mid January 2017 we caught two steppe eagles at Al Multaqaa landfill site, south of Muscat.  You can read more about that in an earlier post.  Since then, both birds have left Al Multaqaa and headed south.

The first bird we caught, "105" (an eagle hatched last year named after the ID number of its tag), stayed near Al Multaqaa and in the Wadi Sareen Nature Reserve for a couple of days, then headed south over the eastern Hajar Mountains.  Since then it has been mostly moving within about 20 km of Al Mudaybi, and making use of the rubbish dump there.

The second bird, "162312" (hatched in 2015) also stayed near Multaqaa for a couple of days then headed south to Al Qabil, then a location on the edge of the Wahiba Sands, then quickly on to the Tahwa landfill site south of Sur.  On 31 January it made a move back to the west and is currently about 20 km E of Al Mudaybi.

In the coming days I'll be providing more information on these birds and updating the information on the vulture we are tracking, so visit the blog again or follow us.  Remember, if you click on the image, it should open up larger in a new window.

Movements of two Steppe eagles fitted with satellite tags in mid January 2017  at Al Multaqaa Landfill

Monday, January 30, 2017

Vultures and Eagles

We have been working on vultures in Oman for a few years now, tracking them (as documented in this blog), but also working with the Environment Society of Oman and other volunteers to survey breeding vultures on Masirah, and wintering vultures at the rubbish dumps, mostly in northern Oman.  In January we aimed to fit two more satellite transmitters to vultures in Oman, but we ended up catching two Steppe eagles (Aquila nipalensis) and fitting them with transmitters.  This was somewhat unexpected because relatively few (in relation to the Egyptian vultures) steppe eagles use the Al Multaqaa landfill where we were working.
A 3rd calendar year steppe eagle with a friend from the Environment Society of Oman.
Steppe eagles are migratory.  They breed across the steppes of central Asia and winter in India, Arabia and Africa.  Last year their conservation status was downgraded to globally endangered because of recent rapid declines across the range. Our tracking of these eagles will provide information on their movements that could help in their conservation, and is entirely consistent with our work on Egyptian vultures in Oman (also an endangered species, some of which migrate to Oman).

Like the Egyptian vulture, steppe eagles come to Oman in large numbers in the winter (Nov-Feb, or so).  It is not unusual to have more than 1000 eagles at the rubbish dump at Raysut, and many photographers in Oman have taken great pictures of these eagles.  In Oman they face the same potential risks as the vultures, including electrocution, but also like the vultures we have little data on those risks.  Unlike the young Egyptian vultures, the eagles should migrate this year, so, if these birds survive, we can look forward to an exciting journey back north.
A second calendar year eagle fitted with a transmitter being released
In the coming days I will start posting maps and information about the steppe eagles we are tracking, along with more information on the vulture that we have tracked for over a year, and I will update those maps every so often.  So, come back to visit to see what is going on.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Happy New Year

It's been a while since I have updated the blog on the Egyptian vulture we have been tracking.  We passed a milestone since the last blog post in that the tagged bird has now been followed for more over a year, in which time we have collected almost 4000 locations.  Below is a map of what it has been doing over that time.  This bird was often at rubbish dumps and landfills at Al Multaqaa, Tahwa and Ibra, and often roosted at night in the Wadi Sareen Nature Reserve.  During the days it often perched on the high voltage power pylons.

Movements of a sub-adult Egyptian vulture during 2016.
Since New Year, the vulture has been hanging out near the Tahwa Landfill that serves Sur. See the two images below.  The second image shows that the vulture has been a regular visitor to the landfill.

Movements of subadult Egyptian vulture during 1-24 Jan 2017.

Use of the Tahwa Engineered Landfill by a tagged Egyptian vulture during 1-24 Jan 2017.

Monday, December 26, 2016

December 2016

In early December the tagged vulture headed south.  It had spent about 45 days just south of Muscat, making visits to the Al Multaqa rubbish dump and often roosting in the steep canyons of Wadi Sareen Nature Reserve.  While heading south it seemed to check on the old rubbish dump at Quriyat.  That rubbish dump has been closed for some time.  Perhaps vultures remember places where they have found food before, and check them every so often to keep informed.  Vultures are scavengers and the distribution of their food is often not predictable, so it is good for them to keep tabs on food in the areas over which they forage.  After leaving Quriyat, it travelled south to Ibra, another place where it has foraged extensively.  It then moved on to Tahwa, the rubbish dump that serves Sur, and it has been there for the last 10 days.

Egyptian vulture movements 1-26 December 2016.

In January, under permission from MECA, we will be working with ESO to fit more transmitters to vultures.  I'll try to keep the blog current, but January looks busy.