Their Creator Gave Them The “V”
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Cinereous/Eurasian Vulture ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 10-28-14
This is 2 of 3 in a series on Eurasian vultures photographed during my recent spell in a bird hide at a vulture feeding station in Boumort National Reserve in the Pyrenees in Catalonia not far southwest of Andorra. The first of the series was on the Griffon Vulture (see http://www.birdway.com.au/accipitridae/griffon_vulture/index.htm where I’ve put a dozen photos), this one is on the second species in the feeding order, the Cinereous or Eurasian Black Vulture. Here, incidentally, is the view taken from the hide – with my phone! – shortly after the rangers had left and the first one hundred or so Griffons, and a few Common Ravens, were in the process of arriving.
Because of the wide-angled nature of phone cameras, the vultures appeared in real-life to be much closer, close enough for one bird to almost fill the frame of a full-size (35mm sensor) DSLR with a 500mm lens. The second photo shows the luxurious and well-appointed hide (I mentioned the toilet last week) with my camera and 500mm lens set up on my tripod and my binoculars and smaller 100-400mm lens at the ready. I was on my own for the whole day, so I could move freely between the three viewing openings. The one in the middle overlooked the feeding site (above), the one on the left was good for photographing landing vultures using the 100-400mm lens, while the one on the right overlooked a pond, used by the vultures on a hot day. It was cool and overcast when I was there and rained a bit, so the only vulture I saw at the pond was a Griffon having a drink.
It’s impossible to travel lightly with good gear for wildlife photography – the tripod along required taking a larger suitcase than both I and airlines prefer – but on that day in the hide and on an earlier occasion when I was photographing Crab Plovers in Dubai, I was really glad to have to have brought the necessary stuff with me. Anyway, back to the Cinereous Vulture. In the days when birders weren’t inter-continental travellers, it was called the Black Vulture until it was realised that this risked confusion with the completely unrelated Black Vulture of Central and South America and the ‘Eurasian’ label was applied. Now BirdLIfe International call it the Cinereous Vulture, ‘cinereous’ meaning ‘ashy’, like the adult in the third photo, which certainly looks as it has been rummaging around in the remains of a camp fire.
This bird shows the typical vulture ruff, with the cowl-like adornment characteristic of this species. The specific name monachus means ‘hooded’ but the common name Hooded Vulture is already used for another somewhat similar, sub-Saharan species, Necrosyrtes monachus. Juvenile birds are much darker, dark chocolate really, like the slightly scruffy one in the fourth photo. Some field guides say that juvenile birds have pink facial skin – like this one – but I couldn’t find a clear correlation between age and skin colour: some adults had mainly blue, others more pink skin, which made me wonder whether it was influenced by gender. All the Cinereous Vultures here had metallic identifying rings/bands and some, particularly juveniles had coloured bands as well. This is because the species has recently been re-introduced to this area from central Spain, is now breeding and the population is being studied thoroughly.
The Cinereous Vultures took their time and started arrived at the feeding site about an hour after the Griffons. As you can guess from the relative amounts of plumage on the heads and necks of the two species, they have quite different feeding habits. Griffons clearly don’t mind getting up to their elbows in it, so to speak, but the Cinereous Vultures prefer to wait until the dirty work has been done and then pick up their favourite morsels. Their reluctance to get involved in the initial scrum has nothing to do with size or dominance, the Cinereous Vultures are as large or larger than the Griffons and are quite dominant. The bird in the fifth photo has a feeding juvenile Griffon it its sights and is advancing threateningly in a manner that was wonderful to watch, head down, wings spread and ruff and cowl feathers erect with a bouncing walk. The result was something like the witches from Macbeth combined with the loping gait of a kangaroo.
It might look funny to us, but it was very effective and the Griffons, unamused, backed off, like the frustrated-looking one in the sixth photo. Cinereous Vultures have strong bills and can tackle, tendons, muscles and, by the look of the one in this photo, skulls. Maybe cervelles are on the menu. (I once understood cervelles d’agneau on a Parisian menu to be something to do with lamb and was slightly taken aback when brains, rather than a chop, appeared in front of me.)
The Cinereous Vultures were the least volatile of the three species and once having landed, hung around for hours. I didn’t get photos of any in flight, but I didn’t find them easy to separate from the Griffons in flight as they’re silhouettes are rather similar. The Griffons kept landing and talking off and were better targets and more numerous. In total, there may have been 10-20 Cinereous Vultures. Their reintroduction here is part of a more general EU conservation and anti-poisoning program that has seen the population in Spain recover from 290 pairs in 1984 to perhaps 2500 now and they have been reintroduced into southern France. The conservation news isn’t all good, though to say the least, and I’ll return to this topic in the third in this series.
Part of the research effort at Boumort is the study of the movements of these vultures. Adults are thought to be mainly sedentary in Europe, though partially migratory in Asia, where it also occurs. Some banded Spanish birds have turned up in sub-Saharan Africa. Some birds have been fitted with GPS units, and you can see one, complete with solar cell on the back of the juvenile in the last photo.
I mentioned the unrelated Black Vulture of the Americas, one of the New World Vultures. These include the Turkey Vulture, familiar in North America, the Condors and a couple of other species places in a separate family, the Cathartidae http://www.birdway.com.au/cathartidae/index.htm. In fact Birdlife International put them in their own order, the Cathartiformes, indicating that they arose completely independently. The Old World Vultures, on the other hand, are close related to hawks, eagles, etc. and are placed in the same family Acciptridae in the order Acciptriformes. I must admit I was struck by the eagle-like facial appearance of these birds and it appears that the Old World Vultures have developed twice within the Acciptridae. Most belong to a group of typical Old World vultures that includes the Griffon and the Cinereous. Three, however, form a separate group placed taxonomically near the Serpent Eagles. One of these is the subject of the next edition. The vultures kept me waiting in suspense for crowning moment, and I’m trying to make you share the anticipation: I have something really special for the next bird of the week!
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunes; Google Play
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au
But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, (Deuteronomy 14:12 ESV)
And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. (Genesis 15:11 ESV)
What a blind! When Ian go out photographing, he goes all the way. I always enjoy his adventures. Vultures are a favorite of mine, but the Lord created them and gave them a job to do. What would the world look like if they didn’t come down and clear up carcasses.
Again, these Vultures are members of the Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles Family. I like that fifth photo with that pose of his. Especially with Halloween just around the corner.
“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. (Psalms 18:19 ESV)
“I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. (Psalms 31:7-8 ESV)
Broadbills are one of my favorite birds. To me, they are adorable. So far, we have only seen the Green Broadbill and the Long-tailed Broadbill. Both have been at zoos.
Notice their eyes. They always look so alert and expressive.
“Jesus Loves Me” by Bonnie Standifer
This piece was written and played by Bonnie Standifer. Played at our Orchestra Concert in March of 2013 at Faith Baptist Church. You have never heard it played this way before. Bonnie is a very gifted arranger and pianist. (I’ve used her song before, but it is so fantastic.)
Broadbill - Wikipedia
The first photo shows part of Boumort National Reserve in the foothills of the Pyrenees in Catalonia about 40km southwest of Andorra. A reserve since 1991, It has an area of 13,000 hectares and is of special importance as one of the only places in Europe where all four European species of vultures breed. Three occur naturally, while the fourth, the Eurasian Black or Cinereous Vulture has been reintroduced, after becoming extinct in the Pyrenees in recent decades. I made arrangements to visit it through Steve West of Birding in Spain, including getting the necessary permit to photograph these birds, accommodation and transport.
As part of the conservation effort, the vultures are fed three times a week and I was taken to the feeding site by two rangers who had collected carcasses and meat off-cuts from farmers in the vicinity. The site is equipped with a spacious and comfortable hide, complete with toilet, and I was left there alone for the day after they had spread out the meat and carcasses in front of the hide. When we arrived there were already between one and two hundred vultures, almost all Griffons, soaring high above. I had been briefed beforehand that the first arrivals would be Griffons, with Eurasian Blacks arriving later in the morning when the crowds thinned, while the iconic Lammergeier could be expected, probably, in small numbers in the middle of the afternoon. The fourth species, the Egyptian Vulture is a summer visitor and had already departed for Africa.
Sure enough, as soon as the rangers left, large numbers of Griffons glided in and squabbled noisily over the food. Griffons feed mainly on muscles and viscera and attacked the carcasses and pieces of meat with great gusto. The bird in the second photo showing its skill at balancing on a rock on one foot and waving the other is an adult, recognisable by its white ruff, horn-coloured bill and pale wing coverts. The one in the third photo is a juvenile, with grey bill, coffee-coloured ruff and darker wings. Juveniles generally had a covering of short plumage on the head and neck, while the adults often had relatively bare necks.
The breeding range of the Griffon Vulture extends from Portugal in the west to northeastern India and southwestern Kazakhstan in the east. Spain is its main stronghold in the west with about 8,000 pairs and the species is not considered under threat.
These birds are huge and it was wonderful to observe them up close. The black bird in the fourth photo sneaking a mouthful from under the watchful eye of a Griffon is a Common Raven. This is the largest passerine in the world, with a length of up to 67cm/26in and wingspan of up to 130cm/51in, larger than a Common Buzzard, but completely dwarfed by the vulture. Griffons are up to 110cm/43in in length, with a wingspan of up to 280cm/110in and weighting up to 11kg/24lbs.
In the air, they glide effortlessly and powerfully and the enormous wings make the body appear quite small by comparison. They come into land looking like parachutists under square canopies but with the ponderous, unwavering stability of a large aircraft like a B747 or an A380. Look how elegantly and precisely the toes are arranged with all the poise of an Olympic diver, fifth photo.
It really was an extraordinary experience watching the spectacle of these amazing birds, even if their table manners left much to be desired. The large amount of food disappeared at a great rate and the crowds started to disperse, leaving the scene, one hoped, for the later, rarer and more picky species. To be continued…
Another neat adventure for Ian. Not sure I would want to be left all day by myself. Then again, Ian, is quite an adventurous birdwatcher and photographer. Patience is something he definitely has.
Thanks again, Ian, for sharing your adventure. I have a feeling you will soon tell us about some of those other Vultures that came to feed.
“There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: (Job 28:7 KJV)
The Griffon Vulture is a Bird of the Bible as Vultures are mentioned. One version of the Bible lists a Griffon.
“Of birds these are they which you must not eat, and which are to be avoided by you: The eagle, and the griffon, and the osprey.” (Leviticus 11:13 DRB)
“And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,” (Leviticus 11:18 KJV)
“The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,” (Deuteronomy 14:16 KJV)
Swans are mentioned in these two verses in the KJV Bible. Some other versions list it as another bird. For now, let us learn about the beautiful Swans that the Lord created.
Both of the Swan verses above are found in the “do not eat” list that the Lord gave to the “children of the LORD your God.” Who would want to eat such great looking birds?
Swans are in the Anatidae Family which includes Ducks, Geese and Swans. There are seven species which include these:
Coscoroba Swan (Coscoroba coscoroba) ©AGrosset – Zoo Miami’s by Lee
Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) by Dan – Video by Nick – Article
Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus) by Bob-Nan
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) by Dan
Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) by DavesBP
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) by DavesBP
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) by Ian
Some Interesting Facts:
A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath Day. It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night, (Psalms 92:1-2 NKJV)
Even though our vacation didn’t go according to “our” schedule, the Lord gave us some great blessings. He, the Lord, had a way of placing the right people in our path to help us. Only He could orchestrate those encounters. May we never forget to give the Lord credit for his blessings to us.
We were able to still see Patriots Point and Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, Merritt Island NWR, Brevard Zoo and the Viera Wetlands and the nearby Click Ponds. The slide show has some photos from those places.
** Some how I forgot to finish this Sunday Inspiration. We took our vacation several months ago. The song Sean is playing, “It Is Well With My Soul” seems to be even more appropriate today. I have been dealing with a walking and now pain issue. I start two days a week of physical therapy next week for almost two months. As I told the therapist Friday, “even though I am dealing with all this, I am trying to maintain a good attitude.” How can I do that? Because, It Is Well With My Soul.” I know the forgiveness for my sins because of the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for my sins and yours. Have you asked for His forgiveness? Please keep me in your prayers and Sean, also. He needs it more as he is dealing with Lymphoma.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 KJV)
“It Is Well With My Soul” by Sean Fielder
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count. (Psalms 40:5 NASB)
We finally took some time to go see what birds were at Lake Howard. I was a little disappointed that the winter birds haven’t started arriving yet. It is either that, or the fact that they have been re-working the shoreline at the park. They are making it more “people-friendly,” but seem to be making it less “bird-friendly.” Trust that is not going to keep our Wood Ducks, Ring-neck Ducks and Ruddies away. None of them were present.
I really didn’t check the whole lake though. I have been having some leg issues and haven’t been birdwatching lately. In fact, I only crossed the street and birded right there by the shore. You might keep me in your prayers. Had a Doctor appointment today with encouraging word, especially that surgery most like can be avoided on my feet. Friday, another appointment to start some physical therapy for my left leg. It has been weak and causing me to “waddle” like the ducks. Never heard of a “Lee Duck” have you? Hope not.
Here are some of the photos taken Saturday by the shore of Lake Morton. There are still some swans in the pens after the recent yearly round-up of the swans. They gave them all vaccinations. Rounded up well over a hundred of them.
And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, (Leviticus 11:18 KJV)
I found this very interesting video from YouTube when they did the round-up in 2010.
This link is to this year’s story about the Swan Round-up. (It has some neat photos)
Enjoy a slide show of some of what we saw.
And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. (Luke 23:33 NKJV)
Today’s birds were chosen because of the words of the Hymn, “At Calvary.” Because of Jesus’ Love at Calvary, through His Grace, Mercy, and Love, “Now my raptured soul can only sing Of Calvary.”
(Some of the birds have “merci or merce” in their scientific name.)
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. (2 John 1:3 NKJV)
“At Calvary” – (Trio – Margaret H, Sue W, Pastor Jerry) and Faith Baptist Choir 9-28-14
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty,
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my King,
Now my raptured soul can only sing
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
Newsletter ~ 10-9-14
Here’s another species from Dubai, the Greater Flamingo. It’s well-known there, occurs in the Ra’s al-Khor wildlife sanctuary near the centre of town and is suitably iconic for a place where flamboyance is preferred to subtlety :-). We didn’t go to this sanctuary but found about 50 Flamingos feeding in the shallows near one of the Crab Plover sites that we checked at Khor al-Beida north of the city.
This spot was right beside a Sheik’s well guarded palace. Tommy warned that using a large telephoto lens there could attract unwelcome attention from the guards, so these photos were taken through the window of his 4WD. The birds in the first and second photos are adults with the pink colour of the legs and bill and the red plumage in the wings well-developed.
The bird in the third photo is an older juvenile. The bill is still grey, the legs are just beginning to show a pink flush and there is little red showing in the wings. The full adult plumage is acquired after about three years.
Flamingos are a taxonomically isolated group with 6 species in a single family – Phoneicopteridae – in their own order the Phoenicopteriformes. Four of the species occur in South and Central America, with 2 Old World Species The Greater and Lesser Flamingos. The Greater Flamingo occurs in Africa, the Middle East, southern Europe and in Asia as far east as India. There is one Australian record from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in 1988, so it has the honour of being on the Australian list.
Greetings from Strasbourg where we are having a pleasant few days in this lovely city staying with Gillian daughter Jeannine and her husband Carlos. Tomorrow we go to Barcelona by TGV en route to a couple of birding spots in the foothills of the Pyrenees where I hope to get some raptor photos to share with you. THE target species is the Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier, so I need your spiritual support and enthusiasm!
Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19 ESV)
Love those Flamingo, no matter what kind. There is just something about that beak and the pose they portray. Thanks again, Ian, for sharing your latest find among the avian in Dubai.
Flamingos – Phoenicopteridae Family
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. (Psalms 13:5-6 KJV)
The birds trust the Lord because they know He provides for them. We can have Jesus as a Friend that is even closer and provides our needs, especially Salvation.
“I’ll Be A Friend To Jesus” – Faith Baptist Quartet 2011
May you enjoy your day, rejoicing in the Lord’s Great Salvation, and His beautiful birds He has created for His pleasure and our enjoyment.
If you haven’t received his salvation, remember:
John 3:14-19 KJV
(14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
(15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
(16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
(18) He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(19) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
What an interesting video. Just had to share it.
I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. (Psalms 102:6 NKJV)
They are mentioned 3 times in Scripture. Isaiah 34:11 and Zephaniah 2:14 and the previous verse.
“Abandoned by his flock, Bigbird the pelican stumbled ashore after a storm and was taken in by the staff of Greystoke Mahale in Tanzania. Watch as Bigbird learns to fly for the first time.”
(Found on Kid’s blog)
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