Archive for Aug 9th, 2020


Second time lucky

When I see repeated messages on social media about a bird that is hanging around that I haven’t seen, the thought ‘I wish it would just go!” crosses my mind.

A Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture as it is sometimes known, has been frequenting the Derbyshire Peak District for quite a few weeks. Having moved North from Central France via the Channel Islands.

There was no ‘numbers based twitching’ reason to go for it. It will never be admitted to the main ‘category A’ British list as it is part of reintroduction scheme and although this bird is second generation offspring the population is not as yet said to be self supporting. So why go to see it? Well, I haven’t seen a Lammergeier since I was in the Pyrenees during the 1980’s. I just felt like I wanted to see one again. It was an itch I had to scratch. They are after all Europe’s largest raptor and a formidable bird with a fascinating ecology flying around the areas I frequented as a boy was just too much of a draw.

Anyway, we went to see it in July. It had taken temporary residence around Ladybower Reservoir. You would think something the size of a small horse would be easy to find. It wasn’t. The absence of a phone signal to receive and give updates of its whereabouts was a thorn in our side, Consequently we ended up not knowing we could have watched it feeding on a dead sheep in a roadside field less than a mile from where we were standing. We had missed out on exceptional views. We left without seeing it.

Last Friday we escaped the excruciating East Anglian heat and went to try again. Some excellent directions given by friend Lee to view its roost site held promise of crippling views. The bird had moved from its previous haunts a little, to the Woodhead area. The roost site at Black Tor was a walk ascending a steep fellside that at one time I would have romped up.  We got there only to find the bird had roosted a couple of miles away on the other side of the valley the previous night.

We waited a while. “It may come back” we thought. It was a beautiful place. The red of the Rowan berries contrasted with billowing purple heather that was punctuated with craggy rocks. It was cool and fresh up there a contrast to the sultry valley bottom. Ring Ousels sang from the crags and Meadow pipits were frantically bringing in food for their young. Ravens were cronking overhead and our Kestrel count easily entered double figures. These were the moors of my childhood.

The need for food eventually took us back to the valley where we took refuge on the roadside in the hope it would fly past. Eventually … it did … albeit at some distance. The bird showed us just how massive it was in relation to the associating Buzzards it dwarfed. We had I suppose a good thirty minutes with the bird before she flew north and out of view.

Was it worth the journeys. Yes. The people we met, the scenery we were among and the tranquility of the moors was worth it alone … the icing on the cake was the bird.

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Aug 2020


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