This Saturday hundreds of observers spent a great day in the field high up in the Alps or in the Massif Central in France, searching with binoculars and telescopes for bearded vultures, in the International bearded vulture observation day – a one day simultaneous survey across the alpine chain, to count and identify as many bearded vultures as possible – a citizen science exercise that helps with the regional monitoring efforts, and ultimately will contribute to accurate population demography figures.
The weather was mostly good – there was some fog in the valleys, but higher the conditions were good. The weather this year was much better than in thelast two last years!
Many birds could be observed, e.g. in the Stelvio N.P. (Italy) more than 100 observations were made (most will refer to the same birds). In the nearby region of the Engadin in Switzerland about 25 different birds were observed. In central Switzerland, at the release site operating from 2010-2014 only 1 imperfect adult could be observed and at the new reintroduction site in Melchsee-Frutt two birds (Ewolina and Sempach II, released this year) were seen. In the Vercors (France) 4 different birds were observed, including Kirsie (released 2013 in Vercors) and Adonis (released 2014 in Grands Causses). In the Ubaye region, close to the Mercantour National Parc, around 9 birds were observed, while in South Tyrol at least 5-7 birds were present.
All the local coordinators are now collecting the details from each observation post and observer and will determine how many different individuals were observed in each region.
The bearded vulture reintroduction project in the Alps is one of the most successful and celebrated wildlife comeback stories in Europe. Following extinction in the beginning of the 20th century, the species started to be reintroduced in 1986, and today there are 34 established territorial pairs that this year fledged 20 young. The population is slowly increasing in France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria, and there are an estimated 200-250 birds across the mountain chain – let´s see how many have we counted this weekend!
The VCF would like to thank all the volunteers and coordinators for spending their time counting bearded vultures – well done to you all!