Spring vulture migration at Jbel Moussa, May 2016

By | 9 May 2016

A summary of raptor migration observations during three days in May 2016 at Jbel Moussa (with emphasis on vultures):

2 May:

A Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) was photographed with a flock of 32 Griffon Vultures (G. fulvus) by Rachid El Khamlichi (photo 1). This is the second bird for spring 2016, the first one observed on 30 April by Rachid and a group of birders from Ceuta and the Netherlands.

The vultures were forced to stay at Jbel Moussa and delayed crossing the Strait of Gibraltar by easterly winds (which delayed also crossing of the ferries between Spain and Morocco).

As usual, when bad weather conditions are prevalent, the vultures staying at Jbel Moussa can be found at few places: drinking and bathing at water points in the reserve, roosting on the limestone cliffs (photos 2 & 3) or feeding (see: Rüppell’s and Griffon vultures captured by camera trap at Jbel Moussa in May 2015).

5 May:

A ‘big day’ for raptor migration and the observation of rare vulture species at Jbel Moussa. More than 6000 raptors were observed during that day by Rachid and Spanish birders Salva Solis and Joaquín Mazón. Here is the list of the observed raptor species:

  • European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus): 3730
  • Black Kite (Milvus migrans): 2159
  • Red Kite (Milvus milvus): 1
  • Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus): 1
  • Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): 383
  • Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli): 4 (see 2 of them in photo 4)
  • Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus): 2
  • Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): 21
  • Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus): 8
  • Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata): 28
  • Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti): 1. This is the second bird for the season after the first one photographed on 27 April.
  • Osprey (Pandion haliaetus): 1
  • Merlin (Falco columbarius): 1
  • Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo): 2

7 May:

The bad weather condition that dominates the Strait of Gibraltar in these days has forced (again) migrating vultures to extend their stopover in the area of Jbel Moussa white awaiting the conditions to improve. In this context, a large concentration of vultures (belonging to 4 species) at the roosting sites on the mountain’s cliffs and at the carcasses around the nature reserve was observed during that day (see the vulture in ketlle in the video just after the photos). Here is the list of the observed raptor species:

  • European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus): 280
  • Black Kite (Milvus migrans): 133
  • Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus): 58 birds observed at different roosts (photo 5).
  • Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): more than 800 birds.
  • Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli): 6 birds. Four of them most likely were already at Jbel Moussa in the previous days (see above). This is the largest group ever recorded in Northwest Africa.
  • Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus): 3 birds (photo 6). Since the extinction of the species as a breeder in Morocco, it has only been recorded as solitary birds (except the case of 2 birds recorded at Jbel Moussa in March 1971). There is also a very interesting recent record from the European shore of the Strait of Gibraltar: on 17 March 2016, Juan Ramirez Roman and Blas López observed 3 Cinereous Vultures arriving from the sea above them at Punta Carnero, Algeciras. This is the first time such a number observed crossing the Strait in the same day.
  • Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus): 2
  • Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): 1
  • Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata): 6
Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli), Jbel Moussa, northern Morocco, 2 May 2016

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli), Jbel Moussa, 2 May 2016.

Rüppell’s and Griffon vultures at their roosting site, Jbel Moussa, northern Morocco, 2 May 2016

1 Rüppell’s Vulture and 2 Griffons at their roosting site, Jbel Moussa, 2 May 2016.

The same Rüppell’s Vulture with about 8 Griffons at their roosting site, Jbel Moussa, northern Morocco, 2 May 2016

The same Rüppell’s Vulture with about 8 Griffons at their roosting site, Jbel Moussa, northern Morocco, 2 May 2016.

2 Rüppell’s Vultures (Gyps rueppellii) with Griffons, Jbel Moussa, northern Morocco, 5 May 2016.

2 Rüppell’s Vultures (Gyps rueppelli) with Griffons, Jbel Moussa, 5 May 2016.

Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus) at Jbel Moussa, northern Morocco, 7 May 2016. Two present near a carrion and one perching in a tree.

Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus), Jbel Moussa, 7 May 2016. Two near a carrion and one perching in a tree.

Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) roosting at Jbel Moussa, northern Morocco, 7 May 2016

Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) roosting at Jbel Moussa, 7 May 2016.

Update:

A Rüppell’s Vulture seen with a group of Griffons at a landfill south of Jbel Moussa on 28 July 2016 by Rachid El Khamlichi and Fabrice Cuzin. In the small video below, see the 19th and 33rd second when the Rüppell’s was attacked by a Griffon Vulture.

All photographs by Rachid El Khamlichi

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