It was happenstance we saw the venue as we hadn’t intended to do this walk, but the first quarter went so well and the water levels looked low that we decided to take the longer path which involves crossing the Riberia do Foupana twice. It is quite a hike from the peak to the upper crossing and so it is probably not one to attempt in February or March after heavy rains as you may need to turn back, but at this time of year it is perfect. And we are so glad we did as it meant we saw a venue of Eurasian Griffon Vultures. Can you see the dots in the sky in the header shot or if you are after a real challenge there are at least five in the photograph below?!
A ‘venue’ by the way is the collection noun for vultures, unless they are circling in which case they are a ‘kettle’! And these were definitely not circling, instead they were demonstrating their incredible ability to use the currents to travel. Not easy to keep our eyes on them especially with the rapidly moving cloud cover too. However as you can see I did manage to capture a few other shots which were not dots.
Eurasian Griffon Vultures are an old world vulture, and use sight rather than smell to find their food. They can spot a carcass from 4km away! Despite this ability the biggest risk to them in Portugal, apart from collisions with power lines and other large infrastructure, is lack of food. Apparently the Portuguese government still requires farmers to remove dead cattle rather than leaving them to decay or eaten by vultures, which has had a huge impact on vulture populations. Twelve rehabilitated Grifos were released in this area in January having been found the previous year malnourished. Maybe it is time for the Portuguese government to follow the Spanish example and leave carcasses. As you can see from these maps most of the 26,000 (approx) breeding pairs in the Iberian peninsula are in Spain.
However numbers are increasing throughout the peninsula which is probably why we were so fortunate to see a venue this week in the east Algarve. We think there were around 20 so quite a small group compared to the group we saw in Alentejo last year, but I didn’t care. If you follow my other blog then you will know vultures are a passion of mine, and so I was on a high on Tuesday when we spotted them. So much so I even took a video of one!
Amongst the vultures we also spotted what we think were Hen Harriers however they could have been Booted Eagles. Too high for us to properly identify, and I only managed to take the one photograph. What do you think it is?
And these birds of prey were not the only excitement on Tuesday, as there was an abundance of other bird life in the hills above Foz de Odeleite. However I’ll keep those photographs for another day as this was meant to be a Six Word Saturday!