Running since 2010 the annual Griffon Vulture Alpine summer survey returns on Saturday 17 August and the team needs your help to monitor the birds across the vast region.
Griffon Vultures in the Alps
With the exception of small colonies in Austria and Italy, Griffon Vultures have been absent from the Alps for decades. As part of the French national action plan for Griffon Vultures a programme began in the 1990s to reintroduce the species to pre-Alps and around the Baronnies Provençales, Vercors and Gorges du Verdon. Today the population is firmly restablished in the regions and is a part of the important corridor that connects the populations in the western Pyrenees and in Spain and Portugal with the eastern populations in the Balkans.
The Alps is also a regular summering destination for young Griffon Vultures from both the western and eastern populations. The Iberian Peninsula is home to the largest population of Griffon Vultures in Europe and during the first couple of years after fledging their nests their wanderings take them to the Alps. During the summer months the birds take advantage of the ideal foraging conditions there, when many livestock go up to the summer alpages, and there is plenty of food. In the last few years q regular pendulum movement between Iberia, southern France and the pre-Alps has appeared, leading to a summering seasonal population of non-breeding Griffon Vultures, particularly in the westernmost Alps (France-Italy).
The Alps Griffon Vulture Count
To understand better the behaviour and movements of Griffon Vultures in the Alps our colleagues at the Envergures Alpines Association based in the French Alps are coordinating the annual Griffon Vulture Count. The survey has been running since 2010 and is a simultaneous count on one day in the Alps from the Rhone in the west to Italy, and from the Mediterranean in the south to Lake Léman in the north, with nearly 100 observation stations. The birds are counted at their roosts at the end of each day in mid August when the birds are peaking in the mountains before they disperse from the area.
This year the Alpine Griffon Vulture Count is taking place on Saturday 17 August.
The Envergures Alpines Association are coordinating the count and are currently compiling local coordinators, if you are interested in participating the team would love to hear from you. Keep an eye out on social media #CountingGyps for more details and how to get involved. You can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alps Griffon Vulture Count 2018
The 2018 count was one of the biggest to date with 90 observation stations and over 300 volunteers and staff counting birds at their roosts at the end of the day, between 4pm and nightfall.
Around 1873 birds were counted as part of the survey which was lower than the 2400 birds counted in 2017 but the bad weather hampered the count last year. In 2018 there was fog and thunderstorms reported in many of the observation areas, this along with the poor air thermals also affected the birds’ abilities to return to their roosts. Despite these adverse condition nearly 1900 birds were spotted which is in line with the numbers observed in 2016 and 2015.