The vulture is a species that humans tend to view with suspicion, surely as a result of our socio-religious vision of death, and perhaps without fully understanding the importance it has in the food chain of ecosystems.
From this point of view its function is twofold. On the one hand, it starts a food chain, and therefore of survival, of different species, on the second hand actively collaborates in the disappearance of an organic matter that would end up becoming a focus of infection and diseases.
In the 1960s a period of great pressure towards wild fauna began in Spain, and the vulture in the Pyrenees was no exception, dramatically reducing the number of specimens. Currently, three of the four native species are threatened. Only the griffon vulture enjoys a reasonably healthy situation.
Not too long ago we have become aware of the importance of the natural space and the fauna that inhabits it, creating entities and conservation spaces such as the Espaï Natura Muntanya d’Alinyà, a center that depends on the Catalunya La Pedrera Foundation, and that works in the recovery of species such as the vulture, the chamois or the grouse.
In the Alinyà mountain area, you can see the four species of vulture on the Iberian peninsula. Griffon vulture, bearded vulture, Egyptian vulture when it has returned from its African winter retreat, and with much luck black vulture.
Among other actions, the center carries out its conservation work facilitating feeding the vulture in times of difficulties, thus favoring its survival while fixing its population to the territory.
One of the organized activities for visitors is to spend a full day in an observation hut, a day in which supplementation takes place. The goal for the center is to earn additional income from grants and donations. The objective for the visitor is to enjoy a unique experience, and also to be able to photograph it.
It all starts first thing in the visitor center, from where the caretakers take you to the hide in a pick-up truck also loaded with several drums full of butchery remains.
Visitors should enter the cabin at daybreak and remain quiet until sunset. With this it is intended that the animals are not aware of the human presence, developing freely and at the same time without compromising the cabin for future visits.
The keepers must wait until the sun has risen, at which time the conditions are in place for the vulture to start its flight. It is then when the pieces of meat begin to spread.
As soon as the preparations begin, the sky begins to be riddled with circle flights. It is evident that they recognize the situation and know what is going to happen, to the extent that they descend and fly over the area at an unusually low altitude, some of them even landing on nearby trees.
The moment the keepers approach the exit of the clearing in the mountain, the madness begins, and a whole colony of griffon vulture pounces on the scattered wreckage, witnessing landings that come from all directions.
Hidden behind spy glass, I witnessed a situation of absolute chaos. Surely like I have never witnessed in my life.
The first moments are crazy and you don’t know where to pay attention. They all look for remains, and if they don’t find any, they try to snatch it from another vulture. It’s a race not to miss out on your share of the feast.
But little by little the stomachs fill up and the calm begins to appear under the winter sun.
Right after eating it is not the best time to fly, and the neighborhood is still calm. Some individuals take the opportunity to finish satiation and others find time to fix their plumage after the heat of battle.
The entire show lasted no more than an hour and a half. The appearance of a fox precipitated the group’s flight despite having their stomachs too full to fly comfortably.
And from that moment the fox was the owner of the territory for the rest of the day, although that is something that I will leave for a new post.