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Bulgaria’s cinereous vulture Ostrava heads off on winter migration

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Ostrava in flight (C) FWFF
Ostrava in flight (C) FWFF

Whilst the other two cinereous vultures released back in July as part of the historic reintroduction of the species in Bulgaria have been off exploring the Balkans and beyond, Ostrava has been staying close to the release site, that was until recently. 

When we last caught up with Bulgaria’s cinereous vulture at the beginning of November there was drama as we heard about  an exhausted Riga needing help as they visited the Greek islands and about the travels of the great wanderer Boyan as they headed east into Turkey. The biggest news from this trio is the departure of Ostrava from the release site. 

Ostrava – last to leave

Ostrava caught flying over south west Bulgaria (C)Hristo Peshev Photography

Ostrava was seen visiting the feeding stations, often dominating the Griffon vultures at the sites and testing different roosting sites close to the release site in the Kotel Mountains. A few weeks ago Ostrava decided to leave the site and spent the night roosting near an adaptation aviary in Bulgaria’s Sinite Kamani National Park. From there they headed 80km west roosting above the city of Kazanlak. Ostrava continued their journey west to Etropole spending another evening in a roost there before making a journey south heading to Dupnitsa. Their travels continued south as Ostrava left Bulgaria and headed into Greece and the Macedonia region. Ostrave spent quite some time in the Halkidiki Peninsula in Greece as a result of bad weather. Ostrava then bravely crossed 70km of open sea reaching mainland Greece and then through Evia and the mainland reached Corinth. Taking two days Ostrava directly moved to the southernmost part of Peloponnese. Quite an adventure for this young bird late to taking up travels. 

Ostrava’s GPS transmitter appears to be partly covered by their feathers and only occassionally recharges so it is unsure how often they are feeding, so our partners are keeping a close eye on them and ready to intervene should they need help. 

Riga – settling down for winter

Since making their way to Peloponnese Peninsula just like Ostrava has recently done, Riga has been roosting at various locations around the area. Riga moved from the island of Kithira through Peloponnese and is currently in the area of Messolonghi and Akarnanika Mountains in south western mainland Greece with some local and wintering Griffon vultures. There is a Griffon Vulture with a transmitter in this same area and we can see the two birds occasionally visit the same feeding station. It was hoped that Riga would make the 270km journey to Crete, but it would look like from Riga’s movements that they may be settling down for the winter, roosting around Peloponnese Peninsula and Western Greece. Hopefully Riga and Ostrava will meet up again as they both continue to explore the area. 

Boyan – continuing east

It was hoped when Boyan reached Ezrum in Turkey that they would settle down for the winter after spending several days in the area. However, Boyan, the great wanderer, continued their journeys heading south from Turkey and as of 3rd December is in currently in the mountains of Iraq.

It seems Boyan has reached its wintering area and flies short daily distances in search of food and foraging. 

We’ll bring you updates and news when we get them from these birds as they continue to explore their new surroundings

Map of the travels of Bulgaria's cinereous vultures over the last 60 days - click to enlarge
Map of the travels of Bulgaria’s cinereous vultures over the last 60 days – click to enlarge

Vultures Back to LIFE

Led by the wildlife conservation charity Green Balkans, with activities also implemented by the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, and bringing together partners from Bulgaria, Spain and Germany, Vultures Back to LIFE aims to reintroduce the cinereous or Eurasian black vulture to Bulgaria. The team will transfer and release around 60 birds, some from captive-breeding, but mostly coming from wildlife rehabilitation centers in Extremadura (Spain) into the wild in Bulgaria as well as creating supplementary feeding stations and improving populations of wild herbivores, improving the nesting conditions and creating artificial nest sites and tackling some of the major threats to vultures in the country such as insulating electricity pylons and illegal use of poison in the nature.

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