Friday, 10 October 2008

Rüppell’s Griffon

The long drive west is starting to become a habit! At least today we didn’t go all the way to Cape St Vincent. Our target this morning was a vulture roost site in the Serra do Espinhaç o de Cã o. There had been reports of a possible Rüppell’s Griffon in the area for a few days but last night the identification had been confirmed and the bird was reported to have gone to roost with about 100 Eurasian Griffons. Raptor passage and in particular the movements of vultures are being monitored in connection with a major wind farm development. The survey team are using radar to track the birds and so the directions to the lookout point were quite precise. We arrived there at about 8.30am.

We were quickly able to locate about 30 Eurasian Griffons sitting in the trees and we were expecting to wait until all the birds took to the air before we could look for the Rüppell’s. Although a few Eurasians did get up for a brief fly around, remarkably we found the Rüppell’s while it was still perched in a tree. It stood out amongst the Eurasians as being a very much darker individual and we believe it is probably a second year bird. Although the reference books tell us that Rüppell’s Griffon is a non-migratory species that is a resident of sub-Saharan Africa, there have been quite a number of records in Iberia in recent years and we know that one was seen at Tarifa in Andalucí a last month.

Eventually, after an hour or so, most of the vultures got up and began soaring around the wind turbines. At this point it was easy to pick out two Egyptian Vultures by their much smaller size and distinctive shape but the light was awful and once it was airborne we didn’t see the Rü ppell’s again. The turbines are not yet operational but it was easy to see the potential here for the vultures to have some serious problems. Two of them were seen yesterday to collide with the turbine blades and there is little doubt that birds would have been killed if the blades had been rotating. There is a suggestion that in future the turbines will be switched off at raptor migration times but we have our doubts (to say the least!).

On the way back to Tavira we diverted to Lagoa dos Salgados for another look at the Spotted Crake (the Pectoral Sandpiper seems to have gone) and this time, although the light was still poor, we managed to get a photograph.

Spotted Crake

Another ’grey egret’ here looked to us to possibly be a melanistic E. garzetta rather than a hybrid E. garzetta x E. gularis like the one seen earlier in the week. We photographed it alongside a Little Egret. It looks like one of those washing powder adverts - whose mother doesn’t know about Persil?

Two Little Egrets?

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