Berchtesgaden: Bearded Vultures leave National Park – Bavaria

Toni Wegscheider originally expected that Wally and Bavaria would fly up and away in mid-September and find a new home somewhere in the Alps where they would spend the next two to three years. Because mid-September is usually the time when the young bearded vulture finally detach itself and become independent. But then it pulled and pulled. It is true that Wally and Bavaria’s excursions have continued to grow. But by the next day at the latest, the two female birds of prey were back in the neck pit in the Berchtesgaden National Park, where they were released into the wild in June as part of the large bearded vulture resettlement project of the State Association for Bird Protection (LBV). SZ has accompanied the project from the start.

“But now at least Bavaria has grabbed the Rappel,” says Wegscheider, who heads the project. “On Sunday she took off on a three-day direct flight eastwards without any warning. On Wednesday she was sitting in the Rax on the Schneeberg and first had to find her way around.” The Rax or Rax-Schneeberg-Gruppe, as it is officially called, is a mountain range about 80 kilometers south of Vienna and is one of Vienna’s local mountains. The Schneeberg, where Bavaria stayed on Wednesday, is the northernmost two-thousand-meter peak in the Alps at 2076 meters. The flight there was quite remarkable for Bavaria. “That’s around 380 kilometers as the crow flies,” says Wegscheider. “The actual route was much longer. Bavaria zigzagged its way from peak to peak.”

Wegscheider can trace the flights of the two female Bearded Vultures in minute detail. The two of them carry state-of-the-art GPS transmitters on their backs, which send a huge amount of flight data to the computer in Wegscheider’s study at least twice, usually four times a day. The parts, including the solar module from which they draw their energy, are as small as a pack of cigarettes and weigh only 50 grams – less than a hundredth of the body weight of Wally and Bavaria. The two female bearded vultures had their hip belts and transmitters put on shortly before they were released in the neck pit in June. “Now that Bavaria has flown out, your transmitter is the link between you and me,” says Wegscheider. “Chances are I won’t see her again, at least not so soon.”

“She seems a bit lost somehow”

Wally, on the other hand, is not really drawn into the distance yet. “On Monday, she flew over to the Tennengebirge in Salzburg, where she had never been before,” says Wegscheider. “Then I thought, now she’s gone too. But then she apparently left the guts.” Wally has turned back in the direction of the national park and has been in the area of ​​the Watzmann east face ever since. “It seems a bit lost,” says Wegscheider. “As if she missed Bavaria.” But that won’t last long. Wally will quickly get used to the fact that she is now alone. After all, young bearded vultures are loners. “And then she’ll go and look for her new home,” says Wegscheider. “It will certainly not take long, it might happen on the weekend.”

Wally, for whom the SZ has taken over the sponsorship, and Bavaria are now a good seven months old and “extremely fit”, as Wegscheider says. Their last big step towards independence was that they found the carcasses or bones of chamois, ptarmigan and other wild animals on their day trips around the Berchtesgaden National Park. Because one reason why they so consistently returned to the release niche at the neck pit was that they could be sure of finding food there. Wegscheider and his helpers laid out barrels, skulls, belly lobes and other remains of chamois that are obtained from hunting and cannot be marketed there. “In the end, the two were no longer dependent on it,” says Wegscheider. “Wally once brought a dead ptarmigan from an excursion, and another time it was a huge part of the spine of a chamois.”

Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) are among the most spectacular birds of prey in the world. This is mainly due to their size – their wingspan is up to 2.90 meters – but also to the hook-shaped beak and the black feathers that stick out from it like bristles. The bearded vulture got its name from them. The birds of prey are harmless. They only eat carrion and bones. Nevertheless, they have been exterminated in the Alps. This had to do with the centuries-old misconception that they stalk sheep and even small children. That is why bearded vultures were hunted mercilessly. In 1906 the last one in Austria was shot down.

There are currently around 300 bearded vultures living in the Alps

Resettlement in the Alps began in the 1980s – from the Hohe Tauern National Park. The projects were very successful. There are currently around 300 bearded vultures living in the Alps again. The LBV now wants to close the gap between the populations in the Eastern Alps and the Balkans. Wally and Bavaria are the first two young bearded vultures to be released in the context of this project. Three more young bearded vultures will follow in the next year. This is how it should continue for the next nine years. In total, the LBV wants to release up to 30 young bearded vultures into the mountains.

Incidentally, Bavaria did not last long on the Schneeberg. She turned back on Thursday and flew back west. At noon she was in the Gesäuse. The mountain group in the west of Styria is much more rocky and rugged than the Rax and in large parts a national park. “The Gesäuse goes much better with Bavaria than the Rax, behind which only the Pannonian lowlands come,” says Wegscheider. “She will first look for a quiet corner there.” It’s also pretty stormy in Austria these days. “Flying is no fun even for flight artists like the bearded vulture,” says Wegscheider. “But when the storm is over, it will be exciting again to see where Bavaria is going.”

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