Tim writes: I gave up chasing rare birds some years ago but when a juvenile Lammergeier (aka Bearded Vulture) appeared in the Peak District, I decided it was too good to ignore. It was just a 20 minute drive from my house, plus an hour’s walk to reach its favourite roosting crag. Apparently this is a wild-bred bird that was seen in Belgium, Normandy then the Channel Islands during the last half of May. It was first seen in Britain on June 26th in Staffordshire. It then appeared in the Peak District but sightings were fleeting and sporadic but on 10 July it was found going to roost on cliffs in a remote valley called Abbey Brook.
Also known as the Bearded Vulture, the Lammergeier is the only animal on the planet known to feed almost exclusively on bones. It has an extremely acidic stomach (with a pH of around 1) that can dissolve bones and the high fat content marrow inside. Even the young nestlings are fed on small bones. Larger bones too big to swallow are dropped from a height onto rocks so that they break and it was this habit that led to yet another name of Ossifrage (bone breaker). The world population is low and declining, which has led to their IUCN classification as near-threatened. They are also massive, with a wingspan up to 2.8 metres. The main world distribution is in the Himalayas and Caucasus with small populations in the mountains of Europe. Which makes it really surprising that this immature bird should wander to Britain and end up in Yorkshire.
Mark writes: it’s almost enough to make one want to take up twitching…
But I’d prefer to see this as a symbol of rewilding – or indeed self-wilding. It’s amazing how quickly nature can return to the most unlikely areas if given the chance.
A vulture over the grouse moors – it almost looks like an omen.
This bird is further up the valley where the 2014 #sodden570 Hen Harrier Day was held. The Abbey Brook drains into the northern end of the Derwent Reservoir.
There have been Lammergeiers seen in the UK before – but they don’t ‘count’! By which I mean that this species has not been accepted on the official British List and this individual, though clearly the identification is not in question, might not ‘count’ either – see previous decisions and British List. Down the road from me, at Lilford Hall, the fourth Baron Lilford had a pair of free-flying Lammergeiers wandering around east Northamptonshire in the nineteenth century. So, it’s hardly worth a trip to South Yorkshire/Derbyshire.