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

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

News from Ethiopia

This from Stoyan Nikolov from Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds:

In January 2019, a joint expedition of BSPB, RSPB, BirdLife Africa, EWNHS, SCF, NCF and APLORI, under the support of the local experts and authorities, went to Ethiopia with three main objectives:

(1) monitor the numbers of Egyptian vultures in the wintering congregation site in Afar and small part of Oromia region;

(2) collect evidence on the major threats (poisoning, electrocution/collision, and direct persecution) which to inform adequate conservation measures;

(3) deploy transmitters on Egyptian vultures in their wintering grounds.


(1) 1,644 Egyptian vultures were counted to roost in the studied area (1,019 adults/subadults, 644 immatures/juveniles, and 44 birds with unidentified age). This is the highest number recorded so far, compared to previous surveys (2009, 2010 and 2013);

(2) Electrocution and collision with power lines was evidenced to cause significant mortality. We inspected over 180 km of dangerous power lines (medium and low voltage) for electrocution and
collision victims. We found a total of 42 carcasses of birds, including 6 Egyptian Vultures and 9 other vultures. Of these carcasses, 22 were victims of electrocution and 15 were victims of collisions with the power line. Most of the victims were concentrated along killer power lines in the areas of Metehara (grassland with high abundance and easily accessible food for scavengers) and Logia (along two rubbish dumps with high abundance of scavengers). Further steps for mitigation of this problem will be done in synergy with MSB II project.

Based on the information collected from the authorities and local stakeholders, non-intentional or intentional poisoning (including with veterinary medical products toxic for vultures) does not seem to be a systematic serious threat for the Egyptian and other vultures in the studied area, neither is direct persecution. However, further investigation will be needed especially re poisoning as an adult individual was found at a rubbish dump and the autopsy of the bird suggests intoxication with heavy metals (final analyses yet to be completed).

(3) Seven Egyptian vultures (2 adults + 5 immatures) were trapped and tagged with GPS-GSM transmitters in the rubbish dumps in Metehara and Logya. You can follow their daily movements via our website. http://www.lifeneophron.eu/#transmitters

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Detailed flight to foraging at a rubbish dump.

by Ivaylo Angelov, Bernd Meyburg and Mike McGrady

The transmitters we have used on some of the Egyptian vultures that we have been tracking since January 2018 can, when light conditions allow, collect location data every second.  This means that very detailed tracks of the birds' movements can be mapped.  When analysed closely along with information on weather, terrain and habitat, we can start to understand more about vulture flight.  This can be important, for example, in understanding the likely risk of vultures colliding with wind turbines, and making decisions about turbine placement and size.

Ivaylo has been taking an initial look at those data.  Below is a short story about a 53 km flight by an Egyptian vulture (171328) between its territory near Quriyat and the rubbish dump at Ibra.

On 9.03.2018 at 6:59:35, 171328 took off on a long foraging flight to the rubbish dump near Ibra – 47 km straight-line distance to the southwest. This bird regularly forages at the dump; this was one of 90 such flights that were made in 2018, and one of the 9 this bird made in March. During 2018 this bird also made 49 flights to the main landfill of Muscat at Al Multaquaa, 47 km to the west.

The 53 km track of an Egyptian vulture from its territory near Quriyat to the rubbish dump at Ibra. Yellow pins indicate thermal soaring (Viewed from the NE).
Thanks to the south-facing slopes, the initial third of the route (25 min) was transited in almost level gliding flight, with only two quite brief instances of thermal soaring.

At 7:25 the bird flew over the village of Tool (270 m asl), and started ascending in order to cross the mountain ridge south of it (1070 m asl).  To transverse the next 5.5 km and the rising terrain (from 426 to 1662 m asl), the vulture used, during a period of 19:39 minutes, seven consecutive uplifting thermals.  During the time spent in gliding flight between the thermals, the vulture lost only 58 m in elevation.
View of flight from the west, showing the use of seven thermals to gain altitude and cross the rising mountains (viewed from the east).
Upon reaching the peak of the central ridge, the vulture flew into and utilised the highest thermal of the flight, which it used for 4:12 min to gain an additional 589 m in elevation, reaching 1662 m asl. While using the thermal the vulture also encountered a strong headwind, which pushed it back in the direction of Quriyat. 
Use of a thermal at the ridge of the Eastern Hajar Mountains (viewed from the east).
After covering another 11 km, the vulture entered two, spatially close, consecutive thermals, in which it spent 5:08 min and gained 507 m of altitude (Map below).

The last (15) thermal soaring occurred 6 km north of the Ibra dump site, over flat terrain above a wadi.  The vulture spent 2:08 min in that thermal, and gained 314 m of elevation.  From the top of the thermal it descended to the dump site, arriving at 08:30.
The final (15th) thermal flight by the Egyptian vulture before descending to the rubbish dump at Ibra (viewed from the east).