|The first Black Vulture arrives (Patrick Kelsey)|
The sun had not yet started to illuminate the set when the first act started. Within minutes of us taking our seats, a flurry of Azure-winged Magpies dropped in from the wings to start taking tiny fragments of meat. More surprising was the arrival of Crested Larks, which, barely visible against the dry earth in the half light of dawn, also approached the sections of vertebrae to peck at morsels. As they did so a Black Kite circled over and settled on top of the tree to our left. It was a pioneer but remained lonesome until we had been there for about half an hour, when at ten minutes to eight other Black Kites started to pour in, all settling in the trees, some making low passes over the bait, but none settling to feed. It was ten minutes after that when Patrick exclaimed "My God" as a Black Vulture flew to land on the top of the nearest tree to us. It was an exciting moment: neither of us had ever been that close to the Old World's largest bird of prey. Like the kites, it too remained perched, leaving the carrion for the time being to the Azure-winged Magpies. Over the next few minutes, a Griffon Vulture arrived to perch nearby, whilst an Egyptian Vulture appeared on a further tree.
|Black and Griffon Vultures (Martin Kelsey)|
|A scrum of vultures (Martin Kelsey)|
As suddenly as this explosion of feeding has arisen, it subsided as the arena cleared and the big vultures either adjourned to the shade below the trees, or took off to the cliffs. In their place returned Black Kites and Egyptian Vultures, scurrying over the ground in search of scant remains, reminiscent of ragged-clothed hags scavenging across a deserted battlefield.
|Egyptian Vulture (Martin Kelsey)|
The morning was almost over and I lifted my binoculars to look through the party of vultures standing in the shade of the tree directly in front of us. Amongst the Griffon Vultures there was one which was slightly smaller and darker. Looking at it more closely, one could see that the tips of the feathers on the wing-coverts and underparts were pale, giving it quite a mottled appearance.
|Rüppell's Vulture amongst Griffon Vultures (Martin Kelsey)|
|Juvenile Rüppell's Vulture (Martin Kelsey)|
In recent years individuals have been recorded, often in the summer, probably birds that have joined non-breeding Griffon Vultures as they return across the Straits of Gibralter into the Iberian Peninsula. It is a species of sub-Saharan Africa and would somehow link-up with young Griffon Vultures during their period of nomadic existence in Africa. The morning's show had encompassed high drama and comic interludes, but had finished with the emotional image of birds without borders, shifting between continents, embracing terrain of superficial similarity, the Extremeñan dehesa with the Sahelian savannas.