What Portuguese birdwatchers have been waiting for so long finally happened – someone saw a bearded vulture in Portugal, the first observation in the country since the end of the 19th century! A German birdwatcher sent recently the VCF a picture of a subadult bearded vulture she took in the Algarve, southern Portugal!
In one of the pictures you can see a silver ring on the bird, and hence we immediately suspected that the bird is one of the birds released in the reintroduction project in Cazorla, Andalusia, Spain, 500 km further east.
We have quickly contacted the Spanish colleagues who have confirmed indeed that a bird named Rayo was in Southern Portugal on the 6th and 7th May.
Rayo was released in 2014 as part of the reintroduction project in Andalusia, led by the Junta de Andalucia. The bird was bred in the specialized captive breeding center in Vallcalent (Catalonia), and is one of the 49 birds released so far in Andalusia. There are now two pairs successfully breeding in the wild in Cazorla, and two more pairs defending a territory.
At least 3 bearded vultures from the Andalusia reintroduction project have passed quickly through Portugal before, but to our knowledge they had not been observed or photographed there – until now.
Update - Wednesday 27 June
We received news last week that after the historic first spot of a bearded vulture back in May, the first in 100 years, a colleague from Portugal's Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests has spotted a second bird flying the skies near the town of Mértola.
We are still waiting for confirmation but strongly suspect that the bird is again from the Andalusian reintroduction project in Cazorla.
This is exciting news, with our Portuguese colleagues keeping an eye on the skies for more birds we here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation are sure there will be more bearded vulture spottings soon.