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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vultures and power lines

In Oman and elsewhere around the world Egyptian vultures perch on powerline and pylons.  Below are a couple of Google Earth images showing that the vultures we are tracking are no different. Globally, electrocution of large soaring birds that perch on power lines is a problem, although not with the pylons in these images because the physical dimensions of the pylons make electrocution very unlikely.  The power lines that pose the biggest risk are medium voltage lines in which the hot elements are not well insulated and are close to a grounded element.  Such power lines exist in parts of Oman.  In some countries, power lines are being retro-fitted with devices to make them safe and power companies are adopting new power pole designs to reduce the risk of bird electrocution. Here is some good news about power companies taking an active interest in modifying power transmission lines to cause less impact on soaring birds http://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/news/saving-birds-electrocution-birdlife-bulgarian-partner-rewarded-its-work .  Generally speaking, the species that are at greatest risk are large soaring birds, including eagles and vultures, and these species are sometimes rare.

Shadow of power pylon on which an Egyptian vulture fitted with a satellite tag regularly perches. 


The regular, linear spacing of locations corresponds to the location of power pylons on which Egyptian vultures perch.

Monday, January 26, 2015

9-26 January

On 9 and 10 January 2015 we trapped two Egyptian vultures at the main Muscat municipal rubbish dump.  The birds were both fitted with 40g solar powered satellite transmitters,  The transmitters operate on a duty schedule uploading GPS locations via satellite, and using the Argos system of satellites to calculate (with lower accuracy than GPS) bird locations. The transmitters run on a duty schedule as a way of managing power.  Weight and power constraints mean that the tags can not transmit continuously.  Below are maps of the two birds we are tracking.

143580 (the bird's ID number) was captured on the 9th, spent some time around the Al Amerat part of Muscat, then on the 12th moved south and has been mostly near the village of Hefaz north of Quriyat.

Locations of Egyptian vulture 143580 during 9-26 January 2015.
143581 was captured on the 10th, also spent some time in the Al Amrat area of Muscat.  On about 17 January, it moved west to an area near Al Khoud, then on around the 20th it moved west again toward Al Rustaq.  The latest location is near Nakhal and the Ghubrah Bowl.

Movements of Egyptian vulture 143581 during 10-26 January 2015.
We will be posting more information about these birds, this project and vultures in general in the coming days.  Please visit the site from time to time, and tell your friends about it.

Early January 2015

In early January 2015 we captured two 1.5 year old Egyptian vultures at the Muscat municipal rubbish dump at Al Amerat, and fitted them with gps satellite transmitters.  Below is a picture of one of them.  We will use this blog to post information about the tracking of those vultures, and about Egyptian vultures in general.  Postings will be made every so often; probably every week or so.  So, you should visit every so often to keep with the news.

Waheed Al Fazari with an Egyptian vulture fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter.  (Photo: M. McGrady)