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Sunday, August 30, 2015

National Geographic's Great Nature Project helps vultures

A hooded vulture from the Gambia.
Image from National Geographic's Great Nature Project page.
In conjunction with the upcoming Vulture Awareness Day (5 Sept), National Geographic’s Great Nature Project will feature a collection of their photographic records on vultures. The Great Nature Project is a citizen science project that is documenting the Earth’s biodiversity through the sharing of photographs alongside some standard information about each photo. You can find out more about it here.http://greatnatureproject.org/faq The featured collection on vultures can be viewed here http://greatnatureproject.org/collections/37.
This support from National Geographic will help raise the global profile of vultures, and get the public excited about them. You can help support this initiative by registering, and submitting your vulture photos here. http://greatnatureproject.org/participate

Friday, August 21, 2015

Two satellite systems, more complete coverage

After spending some time last week around Bid Bid, the vulture we have been tracking has moved back east, and has been visiting the rubbish dump at Al Multaqua and the coast around Yiti.  These areas are where it has spent most of its time since being captured seven month ago.  Below are maps of the movement of the vulture over the last week.

In previous posts we explained that the technology we use to track the birds actually estimates locations in two ways, using two different satellite networks.  One is the GPS satellite network (green locations), in which the package attached to the bird listens for signals from geo-stationary satellites, then uses those signals to calculate the package's location on the earth.  That location is then uploaded via the Argos system of satellites and sent to us.  GPS locations are highly accurate, but can be expensive in terms of energy to acquire.  The second satellite network used to locate the package on the bird is the Argos system of satellites (red locations).  Argos system satellites are orbiting the earth, listening for signals from transmitters like the one on our vulture.  The transmitter is sending the GPS location via the Argos system, but also sends a stable signal, from which the orbiting Argos satellites can calculate the location of the package using the Doppler effect (the shift in frequency as a transmitter and receiver move relative to one another.).  Argos locations are generally less accurate than GPS, but require less energy.  The differences in the two maps arise not only from the different accuracies of the two systems, but also the different duty schedules of the two systems resulting from the need to manage power to acquire GPS locations.  So, while the Argos locations are generally less accurate than the GPS locations, they can be estimated more often and thereby fill in gaps in data collection time.
Locations of tracked vulture during 12-20 August 2015 as estimated by the GPS system of satellites. 

Locations of tracked vulture during 12-20 August 2015 as estimated by the Argos system of satellites. 
Generally speaking, vultures suffer from a poor public image.  Click on this link to view a page that discusses the truth about vultures and how they are important to human well-being.  http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150713-the-truth-about-vultures

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Move towards Bidbid

143580 has moved operations to the west.  In the last week it has been making daily visits to the rubbish dump at Bidbid, and roosting in the mountains just west of the Al Sareen Nature Reserve.
Map showing use of Bidbid rubbish dump (orange circle) during first week of August 2015.


Movements of third year Egyptian vulture during first week of August 2015.  Shaded area on right is the Wadi Sareen Nature Reserve.



Sunday, August 2, 2015

Late July 2015

The vulture we are tracking has been making some short journeys around northern Oman. The map below is of its movements during 19-31 July.  On 19-20 it was located in the mountains to the east of Samail, it then flew over and spent some days in the hills near the coast near Yiti.  On 31 July it had moved back and was likely feeding at the municipal rubbish dump at Al Amerat.  When one zooms the maps one can see that many of the locations are at electricity pylons.

We have been tracking this bird for almost 7 months now.  During that time, it has moved solely within northern Oman from Quriyat in the southeast to Barka in the northwest. Much of its time has been spent roosting on electricity pylons and communications towers.  It has foraged in villages, on the coast, and at large rubbish dumps, suggesting that the large rubbish dumps are not the only source of food.  It has spent a small amount of time in the protected area of Wadi Sareen, but has not shown any signs of establishing and holding a breeding territory. This is not surprising because this bird is not yet adult.  Also, this bird showed no signs of migrating.  We do not yet know if this bird was raised in Oman and will attempt to breed there or whether it is from somewhere else (farther north) and will migrate back to attempt to breed once it has become an adult.

Movements of subadult Egyptian vulture during 19-31 July 2015