You may recall in November we were lucky enough to spot a venue of Eurasian Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) whilst walking in the Baixo Guadiana; well it seems that we have discovered their Algarvian flight path. As last Tuesday we were in the area again and we spotted another venue. This time there were more than sixty of them, can you see them in the picture below?!
Grifo are a regular sight over the mountains and plains in Spain where more than 25,00 pairs breed, but here in Portugal sightings are far less common. I read somewhere that there are a few hundred breeding in north east Portugal and of course there is the wonderful annual Autumn migration when hundreds will be seen in the skies above Sagres. We have also seen kettles in Alentejo, and as this post proves you may occasionally see them above the Baixo Guadiana. However generally the Grifo in Portugal is considered a ‘threatened’ species.
One of the main reasons is lack of food. The Portuguese government does not allow dead livestock to be left on the hills, and there are simply not enough boars or deer to sustain the vulture populations. Which means these vultures have probably flown across from Spain, as this excellent link highlights in a brilliant map they don’t cross the border very often.
We were therefore incredibly fortunate to first see one, then a pair and then around 20 of them soaring on the thermals way way above us. At times they were just black dots in the sky even with our binoculars and cameras. (do click on the gallery to see better)
Grifo are big birds. They may not be quite as large as the Black Vulture we saw in February, but with a wingspan of between 2.4metres and 2.8metres and a body weight of around 11kg they are still what I consider large! So take another look at my photographs, this venue is flying high!
Having watched this group fly west, I turned around only to spot another 10 or so. And so they kept coming for another few minutes.
Again we thought that was it, but then I look east and there were a few stragglers heading our way. It took around 20minutes for the full venue of 60+ birds to soar past. It was a wonderful birding moment, especially as amazingly I managed to get a few photographs where you can properly see them!