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From the Massif Central to the Alps – bearded vultures on the move in France

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The two bearded vultures released this summer in the Grands Causses (Massif Central- Cevennes) as part of the reintroduction project there, led by LPO, and with VCF collaboration, have now left the release site of the gorges of Trévezel.

From mid-September, almost three months after fledging, Larzac and Cazals settled in the gorges of La Jonte. There they were quickly joined by Layrou (who has not left the Great Causses since its release). The three bearded vultures have been observed frequently together, flying above that area.

Although mainly confined to the same sector since September, Larzac and Cazals also did some escapes to other areas: from early August Cazals did some short trips outside of the release site (to Verrières, Sauclières, gorges du Tarn, and the northern part of l’Hérault). On August 26 he has further extended  its exploration area with a round trip to the Massif Central (reaching the Puy-en-Velay, Aubenas or Langogne). Also, on October 10 and 11 he did a great displacement to the Minervois.

Larzac essentially followed the same trend, but has explored less. The most distant areas he visited were located in the South West of Aveyron (Roquefourt-sur-Soulzon), Aubrac (Aumont-Aubrac), the Mende sector and the Cévennes (Pont-de -Montvert).

Like bearded vultures released in previous years, the two young birds released this year will probably spend the winter in the Grands Causses.

Another bearded vulture released in the Causses in the past has flown a lot in recent months. Adonis (released in 2014) flew from the Grands Causses to the Alps last June. Its GPS tag stopped working for several weeks (probably because of a faulty charger), but he was observed once in Switzerland, identified through his markings. Finally, the tag restarted transmitting data in late September, and this showed that Adonis was back to the French Alps, after spending at least two months in the Swiss mountains. On September 29 it reached the Pre-Alps, flying over the Baronnies (Drôme) before settling for a few days in the Vercors. He eventually returned to the Baronnies, where he is still present today. From 8 October, his tag stopped sending signals again, but he is frequently seen there by the colleagues from Vautours en Baronnies.

The VCF, LPO, Vautours en Baronnies and other partners are going to invest a lot in the next few years in the reintroduction on vultures in the French pre-Alps (Vercors & Baronnies) and in the Grands Causses, through a new project now starting called LIFE GYPCONNECT. The objective is to promote the establishment of birds in between the Alps and the Pyrenees, and this facilitate movements of birds between these two major mountain chains, thus securing gene flow and exchange, which will help diversify the genetic diversity of the Alpine population.

Photo – Bruno Berthemy. Maps LPO/Swild

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