Several vulture researchers have been alerting to the impact drones may have on nesting raptors – but a recent article in a popular science blog praises them as valuable tool for vulture monitoring.
Tuguldur Enkhtsetseg, a conservation biologist with The Nature Conservancy’s Mongolia program, has been using them to monitor black vultures in Mongolia’s Kherlen Toono Uul Nature Reserve, a vast (+4,000 Ha) and remote spot in Mongolia´s Eastern Steppe.
Enkhtsetseg located 33 black vulture nests amid Kherlen Toono’s granite outcroppings, of which 7 were active, in only one week of fieldwork. Enkhtsetseg found that using drones was a very effective way of monitoring the raptor nests, as to check on foot all 33 nests would take him about a week, while with a drone he can survey them all in just two days, saving considerable time and dangerous climbs.
This year Enkhtsetseg plans to fly the drone twice: around this time, when the vultures are laying their eggs, and again in July. The two data points will allow him to estimate breeding success of the Kherlen Toono population.