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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

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/