At just one year old, a griffon vulture named “M68” has embarked on an incredible journey filled with perilous twists and turns, ultimately leading it back to its homeland in Spain. This remarkable bird’s odyssey includes being plucked from the high seas by Moroccan fishermen, a pit stop at the Jbel Moussa vulture recovery center, and a recent sighting near Colmenar Viejo in Madrid, thanks to the distinct wing tag “M68” that tell the tale of its epic adventures.
Photographed by a camera trap near Colmenar Viejo in Madrid
The saga of M68 began on July 24 when a photo-trapping camera, situated on a Madrid livestock farm collaborating with GREFA (Group for the Rehabilitation of Native Fauna and its Habitat), captured images of a vulture with distinct black wing bands adorned with the inscription “M68.” Initial inquiries ruled out the possibility that this bird was registered in Spain, prompting investigators to cast their net wider, exploring neighboring countries such as Portugal and France. However, the mystery remained unsolved until they turned their gaze southward to Morocco.
Mystery of Vulture M68 solved
Their Moroccan counterparts not only demystified the enigmatic wing markings but also unearthed an article on the website of the Moroccan conservation association AMPOVIS, featuring the adventurous young griffon vulture M68. According to the news article, this fledgling had been spotted near the coast of Ceuta on November 9, 2022, after a daring flight across the Strait of Gibraltar, presumably from the Iberian Peninsula. However, strong winds and relentless seagull attacks disrupted its journey, diverting it into the Mediterranean. Just hours later, the AMPOVIS association received a distress call from Moroccan fishermen in the port of Fnideq, who had plucked a stranded griffon vulture from the sea.
Vulture being mobbed by gulls
A remarkable aspect of this species is its trans-Saharan migration pattern, primarily undertaken by young vultures in their first year of life. In the fall, they embark on a journey across the Strait of Gibraltar to winter in countries like Senegal and Gambia. Most return to the Iberian Peninsula come spring, although some opt to wander the African continent for several years, even establishing breeding colonies, as witnessed in northern Morocco recently.
Rehabilitated and released
M68, the vulture “castaway,” was subsequently transferred to the Vulture Rehabilitation Center (CRV) of Jbel Moussa, located near the Moroccan side of the Strait of Gibraltar. This center, in collaboration with GREFA, has played a pivotal role in the monitoring and marking of various species of scavenging raptors, including the Rüppell’s vulture and the African white-backed vulture. At Jbel Moussa’s CRV, experts confirmed that M68 was indeed the same vulture spotted approaching the coast, thanks to video footage captured by specialist Cristián Marfil, which allowed for a detailed comparison of plumage.
After undergoing a thorough examination and receiving the necessary care to recover from its harrowing ordeal, the griffon vulture was returned to its natural habitat. But not before a set of distinctive wing markings was affixed, which would later enable its identification when it reappeared, months later, near Colmenar Viejo close to Madrid.
See the original article (In French) here: https://www.ampovis-maroc.com/2022/11/09/un-vautour-fauve-attaque-par-des-goelands-a-sebta-sauve-en-pleine-mer-par-des-pecheurs-marocains/
See the article at GREFA (In Spanish) here: https://www.grefa.org/noticias/29-otros-articulos/proyectos/vulturnet/buitre-leonado/4342-buitre-leonado-m68-cruzo-el-estrecho-fue-rescatado-en-alta-mar-y-acaba-visitandonos.html
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