If you click on any images in the blog, it will be opened in a separate window, will be larger and it will be easier to see detail.

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

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.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Early December 2016

Since we began tracking this bird 11 months ago we have received almost 3900 locations.  In the last two weeks, it has moved from the area around Al Multaqa rubbish dump, and made its way south, with stopovers in Quriyat and near Tiwi.  It then crossed the mountains to the south, and is currently near the village of Tawa, and not far from the rubbish dump that serves Sur.  This is all fascinating stuff, and we hope to continue tracking this bird for some time.

Movements of Egyptian vulture during 26 Nov-9Dec 2016.
Also, recently very large numbers of Egyptian vultures were seen at Al Multaqa rubbish dump, as reported by Jens and Hanne Eriksen.  Scroll down to the 24 November entry on this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vultureconservationfoundation/?fref=ts

Finally, in November a conference was held in Budapest, Hungary about birds and power lines.  We know that some Egyptian vultures in Oman get electrocuted (See post 21 December 2015).  This is a problem in many countries.  In Hungary and other countries the electricity companies are working with conservationists to address the problems because solutions benefit everyone: electricity customers, electricity company, and birds.  You can download the presentations from that conference at this site:  http://www.mavir.hu/web/mavir-en/birds-and-powerlines.

Friday, November 18, 2016

At the rubbish dump...

Over the last week the radiotagged vulture has spent some time at the Al Amerat/Al Multaqa Landfill site.  In the map below you can see it spent time (on 12, 17 and 18 November) where the new rubbish was being dumped.

Al Multaqa is one of the most modern land fill sites in Oman.  Good waste management need not be incompatible with conserving scavenging birds.  In fact, good waste management that includes separation of hazardous material benefits scavenging because it lessens the risk of inadvertent poisoning. Scavengers can actually help in the safe disposal of biological waste, by removing food waste that might serve as a vector for diseases that might affect humans, domesticated animals and other wildlife.  Oman is upgrading its waste management on a national scale.  Due consideration of scavengers when implementing new waste management practices will be a win for humans and a win for wildlife.

Locations of radio tagged Egyptian vulture at the Al Multaqa Landfill in mid-November 2016.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Early November 2016

Over the past 2 weeks the Egyptian vulture that we have been tracking has been mostly in the area around Al Multaqa landfill site, south of Muscat.  Some nights it roosts in the steep cliffs of the Wadi Sareen Nature Reserve, but it seems to be roosting many nights on the pylons south of the landfill.  See map below.

Movements during 29 October-12 November.
The regular use of pylons by the vulture can be seen in the image below.  Locations of pylons are circled.

Location of an Egyptian vulture showing use of high voltage electricity pylons.  Pylon locations are circled.
As we know, electrocution of large birds happens in Oman, we just don't know at what scale.  In other countries, the power providers team with bird conservationists to reduce risks. This is a win-win for both because fewer birds are electrocuted, and the power company has to respond to fewer outages, thereby saving money.  Just last week, the Hungarian power company, Mavir, hosted a conference on the issue, which attracted people from all over Europe, Africa and North America. Click the logo below to access their web site.  Proceedings should be available in due course.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mid-October 2016

One feature of the movements of this vulture has been that from time to time it moves from one area of concentration to another.  This was seen in other birds we tracked, too (See earlier blog posts).  It is not clear why this happens because many of the locations from which they move have a super-abundance food in the form of large municipal landfills.  One possibility is that this scavenger also keeps tabs on the food resources within its range, and so visits different landfills to confirm that food is still there.  Knowledge of the distribution of food resources within the vulture's home range may be important to the vulture's survival when food availability declines.  It should be noted that in Oman and many other countries, increased urbanisation, changing waste management practices and increased amounts of food waste are probbly making food availability more reliable for vultures.  So, although this behaviour of checking on food resources may be the result of evolution within an environment of unreliable food, today in Oman it may not be so important to survival.  Much could be learned about this by tracking more vultures in Oman and working with MECA and Be'ah to understand how vultures move between and use rubbish dump sites.  Such information would be useful when trying to conserve Egyptian vultures, particularly in places where it is seriously declining (which means almost everywhere else).

The map below shows that on 16 October our vulture left Tahwa landfill (south of Sur) and flew almost directly at about 50 km/hr to the Al Amerat landfill (south of Muscat).

Movements of satellite tracked vulture during 16 October 2016.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Article in Oman Observer

There was a nice little article in the Oman Observer yesterday about Egyptian vultures.
http://omanobserver.om/egyptian-vultures-population-thrive-al-amerat-landfills/  As with many stories, space restrictions meant that important information was left out.  Here is more information that should give you a more complete picture.

Although the global population of Egyptian vultures is in severe decline, Oman appears to be a stronghold for this globally endangered species.  It is both a home to an apparently healthy resident population and a wintertime destination for migrating birds that breed farther north and their offspring.   The population density of breeding Egyptian vultures on Masirah is the second highest recorded in the world, and the Muscat municipal rubbish dump at Al Amerat is a real hotspot, especially in winter.  While adult Egyptian vultures are white and black and have a bright yellow face, the juveniles and subadults are brown or mottled in colour.

Image result for egyptian vulture
Image from http://what-when-how.com/birds/egyptian-vulture-birds/

Egyptian vultures are scavengers, and in Oman many feed at municipal and village rubbish dumps. Oman is in the process of upgrading its waste disposal system, including improving landfills like those at Al Amerat, Quriyat, Tahwa (near Sur) and Barka.  This may have effects on vultures and other scavengers, but the effects need not be entirely negative.   The upgrading will result in fewer rubbish dumps, and they will be distributed differently than they are now.  Also, separation of particularly toxic waste will improve and that should be beneficial to all.

We,  International Avian Research (IAR), have teamed with the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) and The Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) to do research and promote conservation of Egyptian vultures and other scavengers in Oman and worldwide.  The tracking the Oman Observer article mentions is the tracking reported on this blog, and we are working with our partners to extend that research, initiate public education activities and undertake direct conservation work.

Oman is trying to diversify its economy, and become less reliant on oil and gas for income.  Tourism is a big part of that diversification, and Oman is an extremely attractive destination.  Birdwatching tourism is an important sector of the overall tourism industry, and aims to tap into the many, many people who watch birds.  In the US alone it is estimated that there are 46.7 million bird observers that spend $32 billion on birdwatching related activities annually (that's about 45% of Oman's GDP!) Also, birdwatching is the fastest growing outdoor pursuit in the world, and attracts people of all ages, so there is a promise of sustainability.

Tagged vulture update:  Our tagged vulture is still at Tahwa.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Early October 2016

In the last couple of days the vulture we have been tracking has moved south and east and is back foraging around and at the Tahwa Landfill, which serves Sur.  Quite a bit of time is being spent roosting on the high voltage power lines that run by the landfill.  High voltage power lines are typically not as dangerous to soaring birds as medium-voltage power lines because the distance between the live wires and any grounded part of the pylon is much greater than the wingspan of a vulture.  Soaring birds are electrocuted when they simultaneously touch a live wire and a grounded element.

Over the last few weeks this bird has "disappeared" for a few days at a time suggesting it is spendings some time in areas where GSM coverage is poor.

Egyptian vulture movements during 4-9 October 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Early September 2016

During the last two weeks the vulture we have been tracking has spent most of its time in Wadi Sareen and near Ibra.  It has spent almost all of the summer moving in these areas.  We have had a few periods when it has "disappeared", when it is moving away from the GSM network coverage.  Pretty soon vultures from farther north will be migrating, and the numbers in Oman will increase.
Vulture movements during 1-18 September.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 2016

During August our tagged Egyptian vulture spent most of its time in Wadi Sareen Reserve, but made regular trips out of the reserve to known rubbish dumps, villages and to roost on power lines.  It gave us a bit of a scare around the middle of the month when we went four days without hearing anything, but gratefully it popped up again and uploaded the stored locations. Apparently it spent much of the time while missing in the steep valleys and wadis of the Wadi Sareen Reserve, where the gsm signal must be poor.

Movements of tagged Egyptian vulture during August 2016. (Click on image to enlarge)
In the last week of August the vulture has ventured south, spent time in Ibra (where it spent much of its time in late spring), and on 31 August was moving south and east of Ibra in the area between the Hajar Mountains and the Wahiba Sands.

Movements of tagged eagle during 24-31 August 2016. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Saturday, August 6, 2016


For the last 3 weeks the Egyptian vulture we are tracking has been in Wadi Sareen and the Al Multaqa area, and has not made any trips to Ibra.  This pattern is similar to what we have seen before.  Typically, this bird settles in an area for a period of time, then as time passes makes forays out to other areas.  More time passes and the visits to one of those areas increases until eventually all activity centres around the new area.  Thus, this bird has moved to Quriyat (February), then Tahwa (March-April), then Ibra (April-July) and now Wadi Sareen (June-?).
Movements of Egyptian vulture during 18 July-6 August 2016.
Movements of Egyptian vulture during 1-6 August2016.
 Of course we caught this bird at Al Multaqa, and in recent days it has spent time at the landfill there.
Visits to the landfill at Al Multaqa during 18 July-6 August 2016 by transmittered Egyptian vulture.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Early July 2016

The map below shows the movement of the transmittered bird during the first half of July.  Most of the time it has spent in the Wadi Sareen Nature Reserve.  At least one reason for doing this is that might be that it is cooler in the reserve and the many cliffs must offer good places to roost.  Although the bird made very short visits to known rubbish dumps at Al Amerat and Quriyat, it mainly stayed away from human habitation.  While we know that some vultures are electrocuted in Oman (see this blog December 21, 2015), in the past two weeks this bird has spent most of its time in areas where very few power lines exist.

Movements of sub-adult vulture during the first half of July 2016.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tracking since January

We have now received about 2000 locations for the Egyptian vulture we have been tracking since January.  In the last week it has been mostly moving around just north of Ibra, in Wadi Sareen, and in areas adjacent to Wadi Sareen.  In Wadi Sareen it seems to be roosting in the steep cliffs.

Movements of a subadult Egyptian vultures during Jan-June 2016.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Early June 2016

Well, for the last couple of weeks the tracked vulture has been spending more time in Wadi Sareen. Perhaps it is cooler there, but still within striking distance of villages and rubbish dumps.  The map below shows that the tracked vulture visited the Al Amerat area of Muscat, the Muscat municipal rubbish dump at Al Multaqa, locations around Ibra, Wadi Sareen and villages nearby.

Movements of an Egyptian vulture during 1-18 June 2016
Despite its globally endangered status, and Oman's position as an apparent stronghold for breeders, sadly, relatively little has been done on this species in the country, although opportunities exist.     ESO did a survey of the birds on Masirah (that showed the island held more than 4 times as many as was thought and is the second most densely populated area in the world), which was published in Sandgrouse, and a follow up study of scavenging bird use of rubbish dumps, Al Farsi & McGrady published (also in Sandgrouse) information on scavenging bird use of the Al Multaqa rubbish dump (which showed that globally important numbers of Egyptian vultures use the site), and then there are these tracking efforts over the past 1.5 years, which have revealed new information on movement and causes of mortality, including electrocution.

Although it has always been known that vultures use Wadi Sareen and it is a bit late for this year, it would be good to have a survey for breeding Egyptian vultures in Wadi Sareen.  It would also be good to have a routine of collecting data on vulture sightings by the rangers in the reserve, and try to assess the area's importance to non-breeders or the occurrence of communal roosts.  More generally, opportunities exist for important conservation activities for scavenging birds in Oman that build on what has been done by ESO and others so far.  

Saturday, June 4, 2016

That was quick

Yesterday I reported that the bird we have been tracking had moved from Wadi Sareen and was in Muscat. Well, he did not stay there long.

0400 it was in Wadi Sareen
0600-0900 at Muscat Landfill at Al Multaqa
1000-1100 in Al Amerat, S. Muscat
1300 in Wadi Sareen, south of Salifah

Movements of an Egyptian vulture during 3 June 2016.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Vulture back in Muscat

Just a quick note to say that the vulture we have been tracking since January, has finally made it back to Muscat.  Almost six months after we fitted this bird with a transmitter at the Muscat municipal landfill, it returned and spent about 3 hours around the landfill before heading farther north to a location in the Al Amerat section of Muscat.  During those months this bird has spent time around the rubbish dump at Quriyat, the landfill at Tahwa, areas around Ibra and the Wadi Sareen Reserve.

Movements of an Egyptian vulture during 3 June 2016.  Times are in GMT, so this bird visited the Al Multaqa landfill during about 0600-0800 in the moring.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Late May 2016

Since fitting this bird with a transmitter, we have received over 1600 high quality locations.  A feature of this bird's movements is that it seems to settle into areas for some time, then move on to others.  Soon after tagging this bird settled in near Quriyat, then moved south for some time near the Tahwa Landfill.  It then moved and spent some time ranging near Ibra.  Recently it seems to be spending most of its time in the Wadi Sareen Reserve.  Perhaps it has moved to this higher area to try to escape the worst of the summer heat.  In the reserve it seems to be spending most of its time in the high cliffs south of Salifah and Siya.

Movements of a two year old Egyptian vulture during 15-31 May 2016.  Click on image to open in a separate tab.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Early May 2016

The heat is on in Oman, with temperatures in Muscat moving into the lower 40's C.  The vulture we have been tracking has spent most of the past two weeks just north of Ibra, with a few journeys north to Wadi Sareen.  It has also ventured a bit south of Ibra to the edge of the Wahiba Sands.  It is interesting that this bird was caught near Muscat, spent a few weeks in Quriyat, then a few weeks in areas south of Sur, and now concentrates its movements mostly around Ibra.  I wonder what makes the birds move?  Or dwell, for that matter?

Movements of an Egyptian vulture during the first half of May 2016, in Oman.  The outlined area is the Wadi Sareen Reserve.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A day in the life of a vulture

This is an interesting snapshot of what our satellite tracked vulture does in this single day.  Early this morning (28 April) it moved from a location in the Wadi Sareen Reserve, by noon it was back in the area north of Ibra, and made a single excursion out to a storage dam to the north, and by evening appeared to be roosting in a location north of Ibra where it has spent much time over the past weeks (See earlier blog posts).  For much of the past month or so this bird has moved mostly within a 10 km x 10 km area just north of Ibra.

Movements of an Egyptian vulture during a single day, 28 April 2016. (Click on the image to enlarge it.  Time stamps are GMT.  Add 3 hrs for local time)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Early April 2016

At the beginning of the month our tracked vulture was in Quriyat, but it soon moved south over the mountains, and has been staying in a relatively confined area north of Ibra.  It seems the bird has been visiting the Ibra landfill site, but also areas around the ring road being constructed around Ibra.

Movements of Egyptian vulture during early April 2016.

Close up view of movements of Egyptian vulture in the area north of Ibra.
Also, there is a new paper available on vulture use of the Al Multaqua Landfill site.  The landfill is perhaps the best place to see vultures if you are near Muscat.  You can download the paper here https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzhIfKS1gn5cQjVOeF9TLUt4aFU

Saturday, April 2, 2016

End of March 2016

At the beginning of the past two weeks 80 was spending most of its time at the Tahwa Landfill site, and apparently roosting in the mountains (Jebel Qahwan) to the east.  On 23 March it flew west toward Ibra, then south near Sinaw.  It is remarkable how many of the sites this bird appears to be visiting were visited by the bird we tracked in 2015 (Look back at earlier blogs: November 2015).  On 25 March it flew north and spent a short period in the Wadi Sareen Protected Area.  During the past week it has been staying mostly very close to the rubbish dump at Quriyat, with some trips to, what appears from satellite images, a local dump site at Hayl al Ghaf.  Again, this is a site that was visited by other of our tracked vultures (See blog post from Mid May 2015).  Today it has made its way back over the mountains to a location north of Ibra, near where we last heard a signal from a bird we tracked in 2015 (See blog post for 19 February 2015).

Below is a map of the bird's movements in the last week and a map of the bird's movements since it was fitted with a transmitter in mid January 2016.

Movement of Egyptian vulture 24 March-1April
Movement of Egyptian vulture January through March 2016.
Although we have limited data, it is apparent that there are hotspots for Egyptian vultures in Oman, and these include small and large waste disposal sites, and roosting sites in the mountains.  The Egyptian vultures that we tracked have stuck to lower elevations, and that may be because that is where people are and their rubbish.  High voltage electricity pylons are also favoured as roost sites, especially during daylight hours.  Mapping such hotspots would be a useful step in understanding vulture ecology in Oman and promoting conservation.  We know that some vultures are electrocuted, some raptors are shot, and some die from ingesting poisons and contaminated food.  Also, development, such as windfarms and the associated transmission infrastructure, are a threat to migratory soaring birds.  A "sensitivity map" of locations likely important to vultures would enable government, private companies, and conservation organizations to target areas for caution and conservation effort.  Sensitivity mapping is being used by Birdlife to highlight areas potentially important to migrating soaring birds http://migratorysoaringbirds.undp.birdlife.org/en/sensitivity-map and has been used to identify areas where conflicts may exist between golden eagles and windfarms http://rwww.rspb.org.uk/Images/bright_langston_bullman_others_tcm9-192434.pdf

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Early March 2016

On 1 March, 80 was visiting a rubbish dump just east of Bidiyah, but soon flew back to area around the Tahwa Landfill, where it has spent much of the past month.

Movements of juvenile Egyptian vulture (80) during first half of March 2016.  Click on the image to open it up larger in a new tab.
The map below shows the movements of 80 during a single 24 hour period.  The time stamps are in GMT, so one can see that the vulture is spending the day at the Tahwa Landfill, and its nights roosting in the steep sided wadi to the east.

Movements of juvenile Egyptian vulture during a single 24-hour period.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

End of February 2016

Some good news and some not so good news... First the good news.

80 has spent the last two weeks south east of where it was caught. From 16-23 Feb it was mostly in the mountains near the village of Wadd.  During 23-29 February it mostly visited the Tahwa Landfill site, which is the main waste disposal site for Sur.  While there it spend a good deal of its time perched on the pylons of the high voltage power line nearby, but also spent time in the northern Jebel Qahwan (Does anyone have a map of the new MECA protected area in Jebel Qahwan?  If so, can you send it to me?   Its a great place to see resident Egyptian vultures and there are some unknown number of breeding pairs in the mountains there.).  On the 29th it made a leap to the west, moving between the mountains and the Wahiba Sands near the towns of Bidya and Al Qabil.  Its last locations in February were on some power lines just south of the main road, near the Bidya rubbish dump.

Movements of juvenile Egyptian vulture during 16-29 February 2016.
Movements of Egyptian vulture between pylons (linear array of points left of centre), Tahwa Landfill (cluster near the centre of the map, and Jebel Qahwan (duster to the right).
Movements of juvenile Egyptian vultures on 29 February 2016.
The bad news is that 93, the other bird we were tracking, has died.  It flew out from the pylon on which it roosted in Al Amerat on the 16th, and two hours later we were receiving the signal from a non-moving transmitter.  When we recovered the bird there was no evidence of what was the cause of death.  It was not very near to any powerlines, and there was no obvious evidence that it had been shot.   Sadly, we were unable to collect it as soon as it died, and in the warm air of Oman, the body decomposed quickly.  Thus, clues as to why it died may have been lost.  While it is tempting to speculate that some human-related factor was involved and we know there are many human related threats to vultures, it is true that juvenile birds of all species, including Egyptian vultures have high rates of natural mortality.  While we know of no studies on this species, similarly sized raptors can have natural first year mortality of 70% or more.  Still, we are very sorry to lose 93. Here is a link to information on tracking of vultures from Bulgaria, which sadly also shows that mortality seems to be very high for this species http://www.lifeneophron.eu/en/news-view/371.html 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Early February 2016

The birds we fitted with transmitters have been moving about a bit.  Like the birds we tracked last year, they have not visited the Al Multaqaa landfill consistently since we trapped them.  I have talked to Dick Forsman (author of a umber of books on raptor identification) and he tells me that based on the timing of the moult we observed in the birds we captured, he would think they are probably from southern parts of the species distribution... perhaps Oman.

Below are some maps of the movements of the two vultures we have been tracking (Click on the images and they should open up larger in a separate window.  Currently we identify them by their transmitter numbers (80 and 93), but perhaps we should find names for them. In the first two weeks of February, 80  has been mostly east of Sur (near the village of Wadd) and 93 was on 1 February about 6 km east of Sifa, and since then has been mostly in the Al Amerat area (roosting on power lines near the Oman Oil petrol station south of the road from Boushar).

For the last six months or so we have been collaborating with the Vulture Conservation Foundation. They have featured the work in Oman on their web site http://www.4vultures.org/news/.  Have a look at that and all the other things they are doing for vultures.

Movements of "80" during the first two weeks of February 2016.
Movements of "93" during the first two weeks of February 2016.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Have you seen a ringed bird? Let us know.

Before radio tracking of birds was possible, scientists marked birds with uniquely numbered rings to provide information on the movements of birds, how long they lived and to estimate likely population size and detect population trends.

While radio tracking has some advantages, it has not made marking birds by other means obsolete, and ringing remains a basic tool used by scientists, the data from which can be combined with information from radio tags to better understand bird ecology.  The data from both are similar:  the bird is "marked" with a radio tag or ring at some known location and time, and then "recaptured or recovered" at some later known location and time.  The main difference is that recapture of radio tagged birds is done remotely (and usually more frequently) via the radio signal, and the ringed bird is usually physically caught or found dead.
Egyptian vulture marked with uniquely numbered metal and Darvic rings (Photo: M. McGrady)
Some of the main advantages of ringing include its low cost and that it can harness the efforts of amateurs, citizen scientists and the public to collect useful information.  In recent years, the availability of high quality optics and affordable high resolution digital cameras has made the accurate identification of birds possible for anyone by examining closely pictures of birds with rings or wing tags and then getting in contact with those who fitted the rings/tags.

Wing-tagged eagle in Kuwait.
Because Oman is a winter destination for many birds from farther north, and a stronghold for many species of conservation interest, Oman is a good place to look for marked birds (or at least keep them in mind when you are viewing your photos after a day in the field.).There have been a number of cases of marked birds turning up in Oman, being spotted by birdwatchers or photographers, and identified from their marks, including the steppe eagle below, an eastern imperial eagle from Kazakhstan some years ago, and an eastern imperial eagle in 2015.

Colour-ringed Steppe eagle near Salalah (Photo: A.Kovac)

Close up of colour ring from digital photograph (Photo: A. Kovac)
So, if you do spot a bird (of any species) in the wild with a ring or find one dead (or you know someone who does), please report it to us (just make a comment on this blog).  If it is one we have marked we will give you information on it; if it is not, then we will work to find out who did ring the bird, and pass that information along.  Such information is highly valuable to us as we try to understand these birds and conserve them.

Colour-ringed Egyptian vulture on a carcass in France. (Photo: C. Ponchon)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tracking of Egyptian vultures, late January 2016

We fitted two young Egyptian vultures with tracking devices in January.  These are solar-powered GPS-GSM devices that record the GPS location of the tag and then sends that information, via SMS, over the mobile phone network.  These differ from the ones we used last year, which recorded the GPS location, then sent the data via the Argos system of satellites.  Below is a picture of one of the birds with its tag.

Egyptian vulture fitted with a solar-powered GPS-GSM tag. (photo: M. McGrady)
Since tagging the birds have been moving in areas frequented by the birds tagged in 2015, to the east and south east of the rubbish dump at Al Multaquaa.

Locations of two Egyptian vultures fitted with GPS-GSM transmitters.  One is currently in the mountains west of Sifa and the other is NW of Tiwi.  The shaded area is the Al Salil Protected Area.
Particular thanks for the January effort goes to people at Be'ah, MECA, ESO and Sita-Suez, Glyn Barrett and Faisal Al Lamki

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two Egyptian vultures fitted with transmitters in January 2016

As a follow-on to the tracking of two Egyptian vultures in Oman in 2015 (See earlier blog posts), two more Egyptian vultures have been fitted with transmitters (and colour and metal rings) in January 2016.  This is a joint effort by-like minded individuals and organizations that currently has no fixed funding, but is moving forward largely because of the in-kind support of those involved.  The work is being done under licence issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs in Oman.

To recap the reason why research on Egyptian vultures in Oman is so important... Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is a globally endangered species that is declining in most of its range, which extends from Spain to Central Asia in the north to India and much of Africa in the south.  Oman is a stronghold for the species, both as a breeder and as a migrant from areas farther north; Masirah Island hosts the second highest density of breeding Egyptian vultures in the world. A wide range of factors contribute to the decline, including active and inadvertent poisoning, electrocution, shooting, and killing for traditional medicine.

Currently, gaps in our understanding of vulture ecology and changing patterns of climate, food availability, persecution and other factors are undermining our ability to conserve this (and other) vulture species.  For that reason, it is critically important to undertake work to address the knowledge gap. While conserving species is important in that it helps maintain biological diversity, in the case of vultures, conserving them means we are also enabling them to perform important ecological services (disposal of waste) that benefit humans.

In the coming days, I will be posting information on the work, and the birds we are tracking, and then post updates every so often.  I do hope that these birds survive better than the ones marked in 2015.  Both birds we marked last year were young, and so more likely to die because of lack of experience, and as we posted earlier, one of those birds was known to have been electrocuted (See posts in December 2015).

Releasing an Egyptian vulture fitted with a GPS tracking device (Photo: ESO)