Vultures up close

Today we were to meet Aleix to help him with the vulture food. We met at 10am in the café in Alinya and had a chat over tea and coffee. Aleix asked to see our blog and when he saw that we didn’t have any pictures of the vultures, told us that we should go to the hide today with the camera!

First we took the trailer full of meat scraps to a building that has a huge fridge. The local slaughter house is happy to give the leftovers to Muntanya d’Alinya because otherwise they have to pay to dispose of them. The trailer was full of plastic bags of organs, tubs of bones, fluffy sheep feet and – most gross of all – skinned sheep heads with the eyeballs still in! We had to empty everything into barrels, sorted by type. Aleix and his helper Gerard do this every week. And Aleix says that after doing it for a lot of years, he no longer eats any meat. I can’t blame him, it was pretty gross! But we were glad to finally actually be helping with something.

Unloading the meat

Unloading the meat

We loaded four barrels into the truck and headed up to the hide, asking Aleix questions on the way. Then we were ushered into the hide whilst Aleix and Gerard unloaded the barrels onto the feeding point before driving away.

Putting out the food in the mist

Putting out the food in the mist

Inside the hide

Inside the hide

It was very misty and we couldn’t even see 100m, let alone the mountains on the other side of the river! But somehow the vultures knew what was going on and came swooping down within minutes. Griffon vulture after griffon vulture came down, legs forward, wings spread, neck stretched out. They flocked and ate and fought over the scraps. The mist cleared occasionally to reveal the mountains opposite and an overcast sky.

Vultures arriving

Vultures arriving

Joining the melee

Joining the melee

We watched them for about an hour, loitering and picking at the bones. One vulture in particular was pretty aggressive. He’s a young male tagged 97N. He kept picking fights with bigger birds and losing!

Coming in to land

Coming in to land

97N being a bad-ass

97N being a bad-ass

Young birds waiting in the wings

Young birds waiting in the wings

Scuffle (of course involving 97N)

Scuffle (of course involving 97N)

Once most of the griffon vultures got bored of picking at the bones, they flew off and only a few hung around. We saw a fox sneak out of the trees to steal a bone and carry it off. Then a little later we spotted a bearded vulture in the sky! We’d been given strict instructions not to take pictures of it until it is on the ground feeding because the movement of the camera lens poking out of the hide scares them away.

Departure time

Departure time for this vulture

Sly Mr. Fox

Sly Mr. Fox

The bearded vulture came in for another fly-over, close enough to see his dangly beard! But he didn’t land. A few little finches and a jay came to visit, then our time was done and Aleix came to collect us.

We drove down, picked up Gerard and headed to Alinya for a coffee. Aleix looked at our pictures and was very nice about them, although I’m sure he sees a lot of professional photos here! We had a lovely chat about Muntanya d’Alinya and Boumort, and about our route plans for the coming weeks. Then we had to say goodbye, but had a nice group photo taken by Gerard first.

I almost forgot this is our last proper day here, I’ll be sad to leave. Everyone is so kind and the place is beautiful. I suspect we’ll be back in Catalonia at some point!

Bye Aleix, you've been amazing!

Bye Aleix, you’ve been amazing!

– Anna

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