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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

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.