Just back from two weeks in central Portugal. One of the birding highlights was a trip to the Faia Brava Nature Reserve close to the Spanish border, north of the town of Figeuria de Castilo Rodrigo. This is a private nature reserve set up to preserve the landscape, archaeology and wildlife of part of the Coa Valley and is part of the European re-wilding project. The valley is an important breeding site for two species of vultures - Egyptian, a migrant species and Griffon. Both species are threatened by changing farming practices and habitat loss and with fewer carcasses to feed on, the reserve features an important feeding station. 

     With a special hide set up nearby its possible to watch an amazing spectacle as the vultures gather overhead almost as soon as food is laid out for them on a high flat rocky area. We could see them appear from far away and form great "kettles" in the sky above us. At one point they were joined for a short while by a Golden Eagle. But in spite of their size and appearance the vultures are nervous birds and will only touch down when they are sure they are safe

  It took nearly two hours (a long hot wait) before they gathered enough courage to actually land and feed but when they did about a hundred of these enormous birds descended within barely a couple of minutes with a loud woosh.

 For the next few minutes the scene in front was of an extraordinary scramble, with the birds, all Griffon vultures, fighting to get at the meat and bones. Within ten minutes the spectacle was over as one by one they left the rock and disappeared into the blue sky, leaving a pair of Ravens to pick over the scraps. It had been an amazing experience watching these great birds at such close quarters and good to know that at least here their numbers are secure and growing. 


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