Bearded Vulture Conservation project in the Spanish Central Pyrenees
The Bearded Vulture (BV) is one of the most beautiful birds to be seen in the European mountains, with its bright orange colour, it’s up to 3 m wingspan and its eagle like movements you will never forget its sight against the amazing backdrop of the Pyrenees summits. A species with a unique biology, its diet based on bones of small ungulates links the BV with the high mountains of Eurasia and its traditional shepherding cultures, from the Iberian Peninsula to the Himalayas. There is also an African subspecies found in Ethiopia and South Africa.
Partly because of its beauty and the consequent trophy hunt, and partly because of the general use of poison in the second half of the XXth century the historical populations got reduced dramatically to find that 30 years ago there was only one viable population left in Europe, and this was the endangered population of the Pyrenees.
The FCQ started its work as the natural outcome of the naturalist passion of its founders that soon become the biggest experts in the specie and started working hand by hand with the local government to implement a conservation plan for the specie in the region of Aragon, home to the largest population of BV. Helped by the iconic image of the BV the FCQ developed a comprehensive conservation project that includes intense field work, technical studies in veterinary and genetics, incubation and hacking techniques…but also environmental education, poison awareness campaigns, rural development projects around traditional farming and scientific tourism.
After years of work and with the Pyrenean population recovering it became obvious that the conservation effort had to go towards the recuperation of other historical populations. The field observations showed a clear direction of BV moving west along the mountain ranges of Northern Spain towards the Picos de Europa, a unique mountain area where the specie had been present until the sixties.
This gave way to the present reintroduction project of the BV in the Picos de Europa National Park, developed by the FCQ in cooperation with the National Park authorities of Ordesa and Picos de Europa national parks and the regional governments involved, and financed with the help of the European Life projects.
The BV conservation project offers a great insight into the complexity and challenges of a raptor conservation project, and this trip wants to share it with you.
On arrival at Barcelona Airport we will meet our guide Diego Martín. We visit the Visitors Centre run by the Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos (FCQ) to do a presentation of the project and get to see a real Bearded Vulture at short distance in the Raptors Hospital they run. Make yourself comfortable at your superior apartments in Hotel Sánchez
Gryphon hide in Ainsa and Escuaín Valley, Revilla
Start the day early with a visit to the gryphon vulture hide in Ainsa, only a 10 min walk away from your hotel. After a couple of hours enjoying up to 200 vultures feeding just 15 meters away, we travel into the heart of the Ordesa National Park to the Escuaín Valley, where we will walk along the Miradores de Revilla path, a gentle walk (virtually flat, 5 km in total) that provides one of the best chances of spotting the Bearded Vulture on the wild, as well as other species such as Gryphon and Egyptian Vultures, Kites and more rarely Golden Eagle and Black Vulture.
Enjoy a lunch at a local restaurant run by a family of farmers that have also embraced the wildlife conservation as a way of living. After lunch raptors spotting at a feeding station, with high possibilities of BV presence. We will observe from 150 m with shared optical equipment. On return to Ainsa spend the afternoon learning all the details about the conservation project of the Bearded Vulture with the help of the naturalists and biologists that run the project
Travel back to the valley of Escuaín, this time to the opposite side of the valley to access to the area where the hacking of the Bearded Vultures being reintroduced in the Picos de Europa takes place. There is supplementary feeding area specific for Bearded Vultures and a hide. We will quietly access the hacking station to see the hand rearing of the chicks. This provides a unique opportunity to witness the hacking technique and gives the best chances to spot the Bearded Vultures at short distance.
To reach the hacking area we need to hike 4,5 km with a height gain of 350 m
Barcelona to Manchester
After breakfast we transfer to the airport for our flight to Manchester
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash.
Hair brush or comb, hair ties, barrettes/bobby pins.