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 Post subject: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2008 9:58 pm 
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Listed as one of the 'things to seek' when visiting Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

Early afternoon, we were watching a group of Cape Vultures soaring above our cabin at Highlands Mountain Retreat, when I noticed a 'different' looking bird also soaring above us. The Cape Vultures moved off, but this bird stayed a while.

We were lucky to see it again on two occasions the following day but closer to the Vulture Restaurant. He did not come down to feed - but then nor did any of the other vultures in the area.

A solitary bird, that lives 2000m above sea level, this to me was just such an awesome sighting!

Proof of the sighting!

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 Post subject: Re: Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture)
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:19 am 
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Did you know… that the Bearded Vulture population in southern Africa has significantly decreased from the 1980s is even now continuing to decline at an alarming rate?

The entire southern African population is now estimated to be less than 300 birds and the population is continuing to decline by two percent per annum. The total number of active nest sites have declined from an estimated 240 in the early 1980’s to 92 at present.

South African researchers in collaboration with ornithologists in Spain, Switzerland and France in 2007 initiated a study using satellite transmitters fitted to three Bearded Vultures. This is the first time outside of Europe that this technology has been used on this species. The data collected is already revealing insights into the movement of individual birds, some of which range from the south-eastern Free State to the north-eastern Eastern Cape in the space of a week. A new nest site in the eastern Free State where Bearded Vultures were thought to have disappeared has also been discovered.

There is an ongoing saga around the transmitters as these are no longer active.

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Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Fri Oct 10, 2008 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture)
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 11:14 am 
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DinkyBird wrote:
Thank you for that most interesting info Johan.


Here's some more...

I referred earlier to vultures that were fitted with radio transmitters last year. Two of those were young Bearded Vultures. The elder, named Daniel, is a three year old male and a two-year-old female, Andalucia, both recently shed their transmitters.

The research team realised something was amiss when incoming data indicated that both transmitters had stopped moving. Initially it was feared that the birds were dead. A search in the Kamsberg area produced neither the device nor an injured nor any sign of Daniel. Since Andalucia’s data comes Spain, it took a while for the tracking team to realise that her transmitter was also no longer moving. It is located on the escarpment on the Lesotho/Eastern Cape border and is logistically more difficult to search for.

Daniel's transmitter was found quite quickly by searching for the device's UHF frequency with a receiver and antennae. The UHF frequency is one with which the device communicates with the satellite and is not meant to be used to "track" the device, but in this case it worked quite well. It seems the device fell off the bird and it is assumed that Daniel is still alive and well.

The second rescue mission has so far produced neither sign of Andalucia nor the transmitter. Nearby where the last data originated from is a little settlement of Basotho homesteads and animal kraals. It is thought that a herdsman or even a child may have picked up the transmitter. Andalucia’s fate is presently still unknown.

Bearded vultures don’t breed until they are five or six years old and then they pair up for life. The worrying thing is that it is the juveniles of one or two years old that are being wiped out and no one is quite sure why or how. The GPS transmitters that were fixed to Daniel and Andalucia are part of the project to find out.

Precious funding has been sourced so that next year about 20 juvenile vultures can be tagged and the slow work of investigating what causes their demise can continue.

The research team has since adapted the harness, as they have done in Europe, using a second, wider band of Teflon to ensure that it and the device stay on the birds. The transmitters cost between R25 000 and R30 000, not counting all the logistical arrangements to catch the birds. It took 4 weeks of field work to perfect a technique to catch 3 birds last year! Add to that the R1000 monthly fee for the downloading of the satellite data from a French satellite and you have an understanding of the expense involved in monitoring the bearded vultures.

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Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Fri Oct 10, 2008 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture)
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:13 pm 
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I wonder, Dalene, if you realise how special your sighting was? :hmz:

Consider the following:
In the 2000 Red Data Book, two species were classified as Regionally Extinct, five as Critically Endangered and 11 as Endangered. These three categories imply that the species in them could become extinct in the wild in 10, 20 and 100 years respectively and they are the species that need priority conservation action. These actions could take the form of legislation, the creation of protected areas, and education and awareness programmes.

The Regionally Extinct species are Egyptian Vulture and African Skimmer. Occasional sightings of both species as vagrants hold out some hope that they will recolonise South Africa.

The five species classified as Critically Endangered in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland are Great Bittern (350 birds), Wattled Crane (230), Whitewinged Flufftail (<250), Rudd's Lark (2500 - 5000) and Blue Swallow (81 - 120 breeding pairs).

Looking at the current numbers for the Bearded vulture (<300 birds, 92 breeding pairs), it could very well move from Endangered to Critically Endangered.

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 Post subject: Re: Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture)
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 2:50 pm 
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I guess all that remains for me to do is post a short species account.
:lol:

The Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus, is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses. It usually disdains rotting meat and lives on a diet that is 90% bone marrow. It will drop large bones from a height onto a favourite rock to crack them to get smaller pieces. Its old name of Ossifrage (meaning Bone Crusher) relates to this habit. Live tortoises are also dropped in similar fashion to crack them open. There is a legend that the Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed in 456BC by a tortoise dropped by a lammergeier who mistook his bald head for a stone.

It breeds on crags in high mountains, laying one or two eggs in mid-winter that hatch at the beginning of spring. The decline in the resident population in South Africa is attributed to the loss of carcass availability due to farming practices, superior animal husbandry and improved animal hygiene that has led to a reduction in the food supply. Other threats facing the species include direct persecution and disturbance at nesting sites and vulture restaurants. Based on the Bearded Vulture’s small and declining population size, restricted range, range contraction and susceptibility to several threats in Lesotho and South Africa, it is regionally classified as Endangered. A recently run extinction simulation model showed that the last lammergeyer could disappear from southern Africa within 100 years if nothing is done to reverse the current rate of decline in their numbers.

Image Photo by Chris van Rooyen
Large view

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 Post subject: Re: Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture)
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 3:17 pm 
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DinkyBird wrote:
Johan - I have also read somewhere, that it is an 'old vulture' which I took to mean, an old fashioned looking vulture ... making sense?


You actually mean old world vulture, Dalene... that discription refers to the two main groups of scavenging birds. The "New World" vultures are not closely related to the superficially similar "Old World" vultures of which the BV is one. Their similar appearance is due to convergent evolution - a term that describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages. Probably the most obvious difference is that the OWVs do not share the NWVs' good sense of smell, relying completely on sight to find food.

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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 2:48 pm 
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Hello Johan
I have just joined the forum today as a result of visiting Marakele after Christmas. My wife and I went up to the Kransberg viewsite (Cape Vulture Colony) and spent nearly an hour watching one bird in particular with our bino's. After looking at the video referred to, and the picture, as well as our reference book, I am quite sure we saw a Lammergeier . He was right above us. I don't have proof, as I never realised how special it was. But I thought I'll mention it as you seem to be very interested in the Lammergeier subject.
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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:36 pm 
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Defender Ou wrote:
Hello Johan
I have just joined the forum today as a result of visiting Marakele after Christmas. My wife and I went up to the Kransberg viewsite (Cape Vulture Colony) and spent nearly an hour watching one bird in particular with our bino's. After looking at the video referred to, and the picture, as well as our reference book, I am quite sure we saw a Lammergeier . He was right above us. I don't have proof, as I never realised how special it was. But I thought I'll mention it as you seem to be very interested in the Lammergeier subject.
Regards


The bearded vulture in flight is unmistakeable with the long diamond-shaped tail and as I gather that you have had a very good view, I am sure you must be right on ID. Marakele is well out of the normal distribution range, but wide-ranging beardies have been reported previously. I will pass on your sighting to the experts to get their opinion, though, Defender Ou. Thanks for the post and welcome to the forum.

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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:40 am 
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Defender Ou, on enquiring about your sighting I received the following communication from Sonja Krueger, the top BV expert in the country: "Marakele is VERY far out the range of the bearded vulture so it was most likely a misidentification. They only occur in the Maloti-Drakensberg mountains although their range was much larger in the past - but not quite as far as the Waterberg."

Have a good cameraman with you next time! :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 2:08 pm 
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BTW, the Bearded Vulture tracking program acquired two new birds late last year when two nestlings were fitted with satellite transmitters. They have recently fledged and initial indications are that they are remaining close to the parental nest site.

The transmitter lost from Andalucia has not been recovered yet due to the remoteness of the area where the last transmissions came from.

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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Sun May 24, 2009 8:03 pm 
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This pic was taken in the AlpineZoo of our town!
This zoo is very succesful in breeding Bearded Valtures.After a certain
time,the young get released in our Alps or in other Alpine regions.

They are very beautiful birds!

Image

I thought,posting this pic is quite interesting.You hardly get the chance to see them in the wild!

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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:15 am 
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WOW that is some great info JvR! I still need to see one in the Wild and I guess I had better make a plan. :big_eyes: Lovely bird and still a Lifer for me. It is sad though and the only way we can save them is by getting the Farmers in the area involved in helping the birds! I guess we first need to figure out why they are dying hey! Where is the best place to find them and what can we, the public, do to help?

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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:56 pm 
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Very nice pic there ingrid60 :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:35 pm 
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The saga of the bearded vultures continues... with BAD NEWS. Yesterday (29 June 2009) the demise of Lenong was confirmed. She was found dead in the Eastern Cape in the afternoon. The morning's email relaying the satellite tracking data alerted the working group to the fact that although Lenong's transmitter was working well, she had not moved for a few days. Tanya Smith from Endangered Wildlife Trust navigated to the location of the transmitter and found the bird on a farm in the Elliott area of the Eastern Cape, lying face down against the mountain side with her wings outstretched. The cause of death is not obvious. It is possible that she flew into the mountain in thick mist during the cold front of the previous week. To determine the actual cause of death, the bird will be X-rayed for broken bones and tested for the presence of poisons or lead pellets.

On the 22nd and 23rd of November 2008 two Bearded Vulture chicks were fitted with satellite transmitters in Lesotho. They were “named” #87 and #88. From the outset #87 seemed to be the more adventurous of the two birds. During an awareness campaign the two birds were named Lenong (the Sotho word for vulture) and Ikloba (Zulu word referring to heat, a great fire, possibly global warming) respectively. The campaign involved schools in the Drakensberg area. Although some members in the research team felt it to bring bad luck by naming study animals, the awareness benefits that the campaign promised prevailed.

Since fledging, results from the genetic tests done on a feather sample for #87, and blood samples for #88 have confirmed that both birds are female.

Ikloba seems to be favouring the Eastern Cape at the moment. We hope that she survives to be a grand old lady by continuing to be the more cautious of the two! Mortality rates of first-year bearded vultures are high because they have to learn the intricacies of survival in the Dakensberg mountains all on their own.

The working group have noticed adult birds active around the two nest sites where Ikloba and Lenong fledged from. It is possible that the adults are starting to prepare their nests for the next breeding season. It will be interesting to follow the movements of the young birds over the next few weeks to see if they are nudged further away from their nest areas.

Both nests were visited last week and at least one adult bird was seen at each nest. These nests will be monitored during this breeding season to determine whether the activities at the nests to attach radio transmitters last year will impact negatively on their breeding attempts this year.

It is amazing to see how quickly a young Bearded vulture expands its range. The two diagrams posted below were composed from the information gathered via the satelite link.

Image
Large view

Image
Large view

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 Post subject: Re: Vulture: Lammergeier (Bearded)
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:28 pm 
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Thanks JvR

Sad news indeed. Must have been devastating for the project team.

I hope you can keep us up to date on future progress.

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