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Blog posts after 1 Feb 2018 about Steppe eagles tracked from Oman can be found at the Steppe eagle blog

Friday, October 12, 2018

Summer 2018 to October

by Mike McGrady and Bernd Meyburg

As you may remember, we fitted 12 adult Egyptian vultures with GPS telemetry back in January 2018, thinking that at least some of them would be from migratory populations farther north.  It turned out that we were wrong.  All the birds stayed in Oman, except one, which just hopped across to Iran.  Below is a map of locations over the summer of 11 of the birds we have tracked, each bird has a different colour.  You won't be able to make out the locations of some of the birds because their locations will be buried under the others... we have tens of thousands of locations all together.  Despite that, the map tells the main story - Oman, especially the eastern Hajars, appears to be a real stronghold for resident vultures.  This is real news because in almost all other locations in their huge global range (Iberia to Central Asia, south to India, Arabia and sub-Saharan Africa right across to West Africa) Egyptian vultures are declining and under severe pressure.

We, along with co-authors from the Environment Society of Oman and be'ah, the national waste management company, will be presenting these and other results at international conferences in the coming months.

In the coming days we will be updating you on the movements of the bird that went to Iran, so revisit this site.

Locations of 11 adult Egyptian vultures tracked between January and October 2018.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

171318 Still in Iran

By Mike McGrady & Bernd Meyburg

Of all the Egyptian vultures we fitted with transmitters in January 2018, only one left northeastern Oman.  Until mid April, 171318 moved back and forth between Sur and Musandam, then finally crossed to Qeshm Island.  Since then, (and as of today) it has remained on Qeshm Island, and the nearby mainland.  The first map below shows the movements of 171318 during June-September 2018.  The second map shows what it did during 27 September, and the third map zooms in on that showing that the bird spent much of its time perched on pylons (one can see the shadows of the pylons on which the bird is perched located at about 11 o'clock from the cluster of locations).
Movements of Egyptian vulture 171318 during June-September 2018

Movements of Egyptian vulture 171318 on 27 September 2018

Clusters of locations for Egyptian vulture 171318 on 27 September 2018.  The shadows of pylons on which the bird is perching can be seen at about 11 o'clock to the clusters (click on image to enlarge).

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Catching up... Djibouti

Sorry not to have posted anything on the Egyptian vultures over the summer.  Over the next few blogs, I will try to get us back up to speed with what the vultures are doing.  So as to make a soft start, I have the pleasure of reporting that the Egyptian vulture that we tagged back in 2013 in Djibouti has been transmitting, albeit intermittently.  Below is a map of its movements during the time it has been tracked.  It has turned out that this bird is a resident (not migratory).  The most recent locations are from June 2018, and were from near Obock.  The reason this tag is not transmitting regularly is not known, but may be because the long feathers on the neck are partially covering the solar panels at times.  No matter... it is good that some data are coming in, and that the bird appears to be alive.  You can learn more about this bird (Assamo) by visiting this blog https://egyptianvulturedjibouti.blogspot.com/ 

Movements of a Egyptian vulture tracked in Djibouti during 2013-2018.  Green lines are roads and dark grey lines are high voltage powerlines.  Many locations are along roads and powerlines, where birds perch.

Locations from June 2018 near the town of Obock, Djibouti.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Update June-July 2018

It has been quite a while since I last posted information about Egyptian vulture movements.  I'll try to catch up. 

Below is a map of the adult vulture with the GPS transmitter number 139.  During the past two months it has been ranging in much the same manner as it did during the previous five months.  It has moved mostly around the Al Multaqaa Landfill site that serves Muscat and Wadi Sareen, but has also made journeys to Al Hamar rubbish dump at Ibra and travelled for a short time toward Ras al Hadd.  I think that despite being an adult, this bird is not holding a territory and did not breed this spring.  It is what is known as a "floater".  It might in the coming years try to acquire a territory.  We'll have to wait and see.  As it happens this bird has not been heard of since 9 July.  It was last located in the most rugged parts of Wadi Sareen.
Movements of adult Egyptian vulture 139 during 28 May-15 July 2018.
In contrast, the map below is from an adult Egyptian vulture with transmitter number 16095 during the same time period as the one above.  This bird appears to be a territory holder, with most of its movements near Jaslut (between Muscat and Quriyat) and making regular use of the Al Multaqaa Landfill.

Movements of adult Egyptian vulture 16095 during 28 May-15 July 2018.

Monday, May 28, 2018

4 month summary

Its been about 4 months since we fitted satellite transmitters to 13 (12 adults, 1 immature), fully expecting that some, if not most of the vultures would migrate.  This assumption was based on observations of increased numbers of vultures at rubbish dumps in Oman during winter (See Al Fazari & McGrady 2016).  To our surprise, only one of the birds even moved out of the country, and the rest stayed in NE Oman, mostly in the eastern Hajar Mountains.  Even the bird that left Oman, has not moved far away, just across the Straits of Hormuz into southern Iran (top map). Of all the others, most seem to be settled on territories (bottom map).  Two are still wandering a bit, and may not hold territories or may not be breeding this year, and are free-er to move around.  I wish we could get into the field to confirm breeding for these pairs, but that is not possible at the moment.

What this does imply is that the eastern Hajar Mountains are an important area for breeding Egyptian vultures (perhaps an IBA?), and that the published estimate of 100 breeding pairs in Oman is far too low.  Beside getting into the field to confirm breeding of these birds, important information could be gathered by: 1) comprehensive surveys of rubbish dumps in northern Oman (ESO has started this, but that was some years ago and was when we thought many of the birds would be migrants), 2) surveys for breeding vultures in northern Oman, and 3) perhaps capturing vultures in the western Hajar Mountains and fitting them with transmitters to see if they too appear to be almost entirely resident.

Movements of an adult Egyptian vulture during Jan-May 2018
Movements of 12 Egyptian vultures (11 adults and one immature) during January-May 2018.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Electrocution of vultures

Back in 2015 one of the Egyptian vultures we were tracking in Oman was electrocuted.  You can look back at blog posts for 21 and 23 December 2015 to read more.  Now this news from Iran (photo below) about an electrocuted Egyptian vulture.  Although this bird was not being tracked by us, one of the birds fitted with a tag in Oman this past January is in the area (See map below).

Electrocution is a global problem for many large soaring birds, including eagles and vultures.  Some of those species, like the Egyptian vulture and Steppe eagle, are globally endangered.  One of our analyses of tracking data from vultures in Oman will be to identify areas in which there is a particularly high risk of electrocution, and then plan conservation actions to reduce that risk.  This can be achieved by ensuring that new power lines are designed to be safe and that existing lines are fitted with devices that reduce electrocution risk.  Happily, this effort would benefit both large birds by reducing electrocutions, but also reduce expensive repairs and down-time related to power outages caused by electrocution of birds.

An adult Egyptian vulture electrocuted on Qeshm Island, Iran on 18 May 2018.

Tracking of an adult Egyptian vulture during May 2018.  Qeshm Island is where the electrocution of the bird in the photo above occurred.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A little migration

Finally, after what appeared to be much indecision, 171318 has hopped across the Straits of Hormuz and is in Iran just west of the city of Bandar Abbas.  You can look back at posts from 15 March and 16 February to see descriptions of this bird's behaviour since being fitted with a transmitter.  Basically, since that time it has been moving up and down the north Oman coast from Musandam to Sur (I have yet to calculate how many km it travelled, but it will be thousands!)  So far this is the only one of the 13 vultures we caught that has made a migratory move, and all the others are behaving quite differently than this one.  We'll have to wait to see what happens.

On another front... the Steppe eagle we are tracking seems to be settling in central Kazakhstan.  I'll post something on that in the coming days.  Stay tuned... https://steppeeaglesoman.blogspot.co.at/

Movements of  Egyptian vulture 171318 during 19-23 April 2018.
Crossing of the Straits of Hormuz by 171318