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3 Rüppell’s Vultures at Jbel Bouhachem, northern Morocco

Three different Rüppell’s Vultures observed at Jbel Bouhachem, northern Morocco. This is a real unexpected bonus as the site is a bit inland from the Strait of Gibraltar where the vultures normally gather.

3 different Rüppell’s Vultures observed at Jbel Bouhachem, northern Morocco
3 different Rüppell’s Vultures observed at Jbel Bouhachem, northern Morocco

Just a few days ago, we talked about watching the spectacle of bird migration at Jbel Moussa on the Strait of Gibraltar. Yesterday, to celebrate the world migratory bird day, we went birding at the Jbel Bouhachem Natural Park situated some 40 Km south-west of Tétouan, northern Morocco.

At the entrance of the park, we witnessed the passage of some 950 Honey Buzzards (Pernis pivorus) in 30 minutes (from 9:17 am – 9:49 am). We also observed some local forest birds as well.

But the moment of the day started when we saw 8 vultures moving from the south but still far away. The first thing we did was finding a high rock outcrop in order to dominate the landscape and better see the birds. When the birds approached, we started to recognise the Griffon Vultures, but there were some unusual vultures among the griffons as well. After some minutes, we identified the first Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) in the group. Minutes later, one of us cried “there are 2, there are 2 of them!” (of course not in English, but you get the point). So, everyone get excited.

When we got home and started to process the photographs, to our surprise we found a third bird: there were 3 Rüppell’s Vultures. Three Rüppell’s out of 8 Gyps vultures, that’s a magical proportion for a vagrant bird travelling from sub-Saharan Africa.

All three birds are identifiable by plumage pattern and moult.

Observers: Mohamed Amezian, Mohammed Karim El Haoua & Rachid El Khamlichi (all bird photos)


Next day, 11 May 2014, we saw 4 more Rüppell’s Vultures at Jbel Moussa about to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to Europe. That is 7 different Rüppell’s Vultures in 2 days. All photographed.

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii), Jbel Bouhachem
Rüppell’s Vulture 1
Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii), Jbel Bouhachem
Rüppell’s Vulture 2
Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii), Jbel Bouhachem
Rüppell’s Vulture 3

Mohammed Karim El Haoua memorised the wonderful moments by the following pictures:

Rachid went to bring the telescope to the ‘natural mirador’.
  Excitement! Rachid left the telescope in its place and rushed to take the photographs.  The auto-focus and the image stabiliser were not working, so Mohamed can’t use the camera.
  Leaving the ‘natural mirador’.
  Some deserved rest and a snack. From left: Mohammed Karim El Haoua, Mohamed Amezian and Rachid El Khamlichi.

This species is seen for the first time (a lifer) by one of us (M.A). Rachid has seen one at Jbel Moussa in August 2010, but the vultures this time were much nearer and the observation is way much better. The bird is also new to Mohammed Karim who started recently to be interested in birds. Karim enjoyed both the birds above him as well as taking the photographs of the other two birders while crying, shouting, observing and photographing the birds. Thanks Karim for memorising these wonderful moments and for the good company.

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