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Blog posts related to Steppe eagles trapped and tracked from Oman in 2017 can be found on the Egyptian vulture blog

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Steppe eagle migration has started

by M. McGrady, A. Spalton, F. AlLamki, B. Meyburg

Steppe eagle migration has started, at least for some of the individuals that we are tracking.  In fact, it started some time ago, with the first tracked bird (186) making its move away from its wintering area in Dhofar, Oman on 21 February.  186 is now almost to the border between Iran and Turkmenistan. (See map).  

Migration of Steppe eagle 186 during 1 Feb - 3 March 2020.
Other birds have not moved from their wintering areas (183, See map below), and still others (182, map below) have moved away from areas used for most of the winter, but settled into new sites, and not started migrating in earnest. 

Movement of Steppe eagle 183 during 1 Dec - 5 March 2020.
Movementss of Steppe eagle 182 during  1 Jan - 5 March 2020.
Reports from Kuwait are that many Steppe eagles are being seen in the desert west and north of the city, and that the numbers at the dumpsites in central Saudi Arabia and Dhofar, Oman are declining. You may recall that the dumpsite in central Saudi Arabia was used by more than 6000 Steppe eagles over the winter (see Nov 22 2019 blog post), including 182 and 183. Recently about 700-900 eagles were there. Those birds that have yet to leave seem to be mostly non-adults (P. Roberts pers. comm.).  Numbers in Dhofar have also gone down.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

End of Year Update

by M. McGrady, A. Spalton, B-U Meyburg, F. Al Lamki

Office for Conservation of the Environment ranger with tagged Steppe Eagle at Raysut, January 2019.
We have learned a lot about Steppe eagles that winter in Oman in 2019.  Here is a recap:

In 2017 we caught two Steppe eagles at Al Multaqaa, the Muscat municipal dump.  This summer one of those eagles dropped its tag in Kazakhstan.  The tag was recovered by Kazakh colleauges, and is being refurbished for future use.  The other has also disappeared, but on its northward migration in spring.  In that case, it seems like the tag was performing less and less efficiently, so we hope that bird is still alive.  In the winters that followed the capture of those birds, they did not return to Oman; one wintered in SW Saudi, and the other at a site in central Saudi.  The central Saudi site has become somewhat famous.  The tracking data led us to ask Saudi collegues to visit the site.  When they went, they found around 5000! Steppe eagles.  Click here to see a short report on the OSME website.

In January 2019, with funding from the Anglo-Omani Society, and in-country support from the Office for Conservation of the Environment (OCE), Diwan of Royal Court, we captured 13 Steppe eagles at the Raysut, near Salalah, and fitted them with transmitters.  The transmitters on two of those birds failed almost immediately.  One bird made it to the summering grounds before contact was lost.  All other birds survived the summer and then migrated back to Arabia.  However, in spring Raysut was closed and the new landfill at Hakbeet (about 50 km N of Salalah) became fully operational.

About 1/2 of the birds arriving back in Arabia, went back to Raysut, only to find that it had been closed and there was no food.  Those birds then dispersed to other areas where they could get food.  Here is what has happened:  1 bird seemed to drop its tag at Raysut, but we have been unable to recover it.  Two birds are in southern Oman, making regular use of the Hakbeet landfill, one is in eastern Yemen, one in central Yemen and one in NW Yemen. Two are in SW Saudi Arabia, and two are at the large aggregation of Steppe eagles in central Saudi mentioned above.

During the wintering times, OCE biologists have been monitoring the use of Raysut by the eagles.  They noted that eagles were not aggregating at the site once it had closed down.  The information gathered from them was presented to be'ah, which reacted quickly and made food available to the eagles at the landfill at Hakbeet.  The result has been that over 500 eagles are now using the landfill, a great example of Omani biologists and government collecting data and using it to conserve eagles, and rapid action by a company that values the environment.

You can troll back through earlier posts to see more detail.

Throughout this work we have operated under permissions granted by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), and in cooperation with be'ah and its contractors.

So, there we are for 2019.  Our plans for 2020 include continuing the monitoring and tracking of eagles, and working with the OCE, be'ah, MECA and others to promote eagle conservation in Oman and internationally.  Our  Anglo-Omani funding runs out, but we will continue to track the birds, at least, and report on their movements every so often in this blog.  We are hoping other conservation and research initiatives can be started, but as one might expect for a project like this:  "That's up in the air."

What is not up in the air is that we wish you all (and the eagles) a healthy New Year.

Don't forget to visit the other blog about our work on Egyptian vultures in Oman: http://egyptianvultureoman.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 22, 2019

Wanderings of 186

by F. Al Lamki, B. Meyburg, M. McGrady & A. Spalton.

The "winter" has arrived for the Steppe eagles.  Most have now ceased concerted migration.  Some have settled into fairly small home ranges, especially where there is a reliable source of plentiful food, like a landfill or rubbish dump.  Those birds are moving almost exclusively between where they spend the night and those food sources.  Other birds, like the one whose movements are shown below, apparently don't find a single source of abundant, reliably available food. 

The bird mapped below, 186, migrated into Arabia on 28 September, and flew to Salalah, where it spent last winter.  Finding the rubbish dump there closed, it moved back to Yemen, then to SW Saudi, and is now back in NW Yemen.  One can see clusters of locations along this route, where the eagle probably found enough food for it to dwell there for some time.

The map also shows that his bird passed through the area of Central Saudi, where the large aggregation of Steppe Eagles was located with the help of our transmitter data. Click here to read ore about that.

Movements of a Steppe Eagle during 28 Sept - 21 Nov 2019,  (To view the map better, try double-clicking on it)

6700 eagles found in Central Saudi

by B. Meyburg, M. McGrady, A. Spalton & F. Al Lamki

The big news of the week is that our tracking data have pointed field biologists in Saudi Arabia to  the largest known aggregation of endangered Steppe eagles in the world, 6700 birds, about 8% of the  estimated world population.

Read more here:

Steppe eagles of various ages at a site in Central Saudi Arabia in November 2019, where 6700 eagles were counted. Copyright  2019 P. Roberts

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Important wintering locations in central Saudi?

by M. McGrady, A. Spalton, F. Al Lamki & B.-U. Meyburg

Just to build on what was said in the last post...  Many Steppe eagles that we have been tracking, and presumably many others, seem to pass through or winter in a location between Riyadh and Burayda, Saudi Arabia, near the town of Shaqrah.  It would be great if anyone in the area could confirm the presence of a large number of eagles.  Dump sites used by our tracked birds are at 25.162 N, 45.195 E and 25.303 N, 45.125 E.  Jem Babbington reports that about 100 eagles of all ages were seen at a site just SE of Riyadh, at 24.618 N, 46.895.

Of course we also know that eagles are concentrating at dump sites west of the Asir Mountains, which are along the flyway that some eagles use to migrate into Africa.  Some of our tagged birds also visited that part of Saudi Arabia, and one spent a complete winter there.  Again, any observations of eagles and other scavenging birds from these areas would be very interesting.

Locations during last days of  October of three Steppe Eagles fitted with satellite transmitters.  These birds were fitted with transmitters in Salalah, Oman, in January 2019.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A northwest passage of sorts

by A. Spalton, F. Al Lamki, M. McGrady & B.-U. Meyburg

We have now been tracking Steppe eagles captured in Oman since 2017.  Most were fitted with transmitters in Salalah in January 2019.  Looking at the routes they have taken between their wintering and summering grounds (and vice versa), it is noticeable that many pass through or winter in a rather restricted area about 150 km the northwest of Riyadh, near the town of Shaqra.  However, we could find no reference to this area being important to migrating raptors.  Is there anyone in Saudi Arabia that knows about this area or might go visit it?

Steppe eagles, Abdim storks and crows at a dumpsite near Salalah, Oman
It seems that the apparent importance of this area is a consequence both of its location (along a rather direct route between wintering areas, the Bab el Mandeb and the head of the Arabian Gulf at Kuwait) and that two dumpsites are located near Shaqra.  Those dumpsites are likely a source of food for scavenging birds like Steppe eagles, but also Egyptian vultures, Eastern imperial eagles and other migrating raptors. Indeed, the importance of this area may be a relatively recent phenomenon linked to the rapid development in Saudi Arabia, and the resulting increase in waste.  See https://www.natureasia.com/en/nmiddleeast/article/10.1038/nmiddleeast.2019.80

While dumpsites can be important sources of food for scavenging birds, they can also pose threats if toxic material is also available to the birds or if dangerous power infrastructure is located nearby upon which eagles might perch and possibly be electrocuted.  Because of this, it would be good to make direct observations and collect data from this area.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Lots of News - part 1

by M. McGrady, B.-U. Meyburg, F. Al Lamki & A. Spalton

We've been a bit quiet recently, but that is not because nothing has been happening.  We'll try to catch up in the coming days...

The BIG news is that two of the Steppe eagles that we tagged last January in Salalah have returned, and one is about 100 km away at the moment (See map below).  This was somewhat of a surprise because the two Steppe eagles we captured near Muscat in January 2017 spent the subsequent two winters near rubbish dumps in Saudi Arabia.  The behaviour of those birds suggested to us that perhaps the birds that winter in Oman settle there because they are a bit "lost".  However, fidelity to wintering areas (i.e. returning to the same place) is not uncommon for many bird of prey species, so that these birds eventually returned to Salalah is not completely surprising.  Maybe eagles near Muscat are "off course", but Salalah is a more regular wintering site.  Maybe we'll see in the coming years.  At Salalah Steppe eagles are, by far, the most common wintering raptor; near Muscat, Egyptian vultures (apparently mostly resident birds) are the most common raptor species using the landfill there.

Movements of three Steppe eagles (186, 187, 182711) during 1 September - 12 October 2019.