Tuesday, 14 July 2020

What's that coming over the hill....is it a monster??!!

When news of a Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture if you follow new names, broke of a bird photographed over a garden near Coventry at the end of June, British birders hoped it would get relocated, and last weekend their hopes were realised, when after a series of sightings in the Peak District, the bird was found to favour a rocky outcrop on the moors above Ladybower Reservoir just to the west of Sheffield.

Although I don't twitch that often these days, stunning photographs and videos on Twitter over the weekend, and even on the BBC News website, meant that it was getting very hard to ignore, and on Monday morning the decision was made to go for it. The main drawback is the 8 mile round walk to view its favoured roost site, but in preparation, we drove up and stayed in a B&B at Dungworth Green, a few miles from the site ready to embark first thing in the morning, hopefully before it left its roost.

Arriving at the parking spot shortly after 6am where the road was already lined with 30+ cars, we set off on the walk, and straight into a headwind up a hill, which living in Norfolk, is not something our legs are used to. About an hour later, we reached the turnoff from the track from where we had to trudge across some boggy moorland and across a stream to the favoured area, to be greeted by the news it had already left its roost and flown off to the northeast, and so we sat down and waited...

After an hour sat on a grassy tussock, the cold brisk wind was getting to us (that's what happens when you trust and dress for the Met Office forecast of sunny and 18 degrees, as opposed to 11 degrees and cloudy that it actually was!), and so we decided to slowly head back toward the car and rethink the plan or hope it got relocated somewhere else. About half way back to the car, feeling dejected and discussing that after the failure at the Belgian Wallcreeper twitch earlier in the year that maybe I should give up twitching for good, we noticed a couple of young birders stood off the path just ahead of us intently watching something. As we took a few more steps, it soon became clear what, it was the Lammergeier, being mobbed by a couple of Ravens, that looked like flies in comparison! I frantically got my camera out of the bag and took a series of photos as the bird circled and drifted slightly closer and then carried on back toward where we had just come from, eventually dropping behind the hill and out of sight.

Even though our views were nothing like some of those by other birders, it was still an amazing sight, an absolute monster of a bird with its 2.5m wingspan, and well worth the walk, even if the powers that be do eventually decide it's not officially tickable on the British list due to it thought to be the offspring of a pair of reintroduced birds from the Alps. Whatever its origin, there won't be many more spectacular birds to occur in this country, and certainly none anywhere near as big!!