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Rare bearded vulture sightings highlight potential of Sheffield moors

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are delighted by the news that a bearded vulture has been seen roosting in Sheffield’s moorland.

The sighting on Howden Moors is only the second time this bird of prey has ever been recorded in the UK, having previously been seen in Dartmoor in 2016. Although the precise origin of the bird is yet to be confirmed, it is thought to be a juvenile from a reintroduction programme in the Alps and was initially reported in the Netherlands and Belgium before being recorded in the UK. The species is protected and there are thought to be between 600 and 1000 pairs in Europe.

Keith Tomkins, Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Partnership Programme Manager at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust was one of the first people to see the bird locally, following a chance encounter while out walking in early July.

“Even from a distance you can tell it is out of the ordinary”, said Keith.

“Its flight behaviour is quite different from the raptors I normally see, and when it came closer, the size of the bird made it apparent it was the bearded vulture. At first I thought it was being mobbed by jackdaws, but then I realised they were ravens which appeared small in comparison”.

Bearded vultures are scavengers whose diet consists almost exclusively of animal bones, so they do not pose a threat to livestock or game birds. Despite this however, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are concerned for the safety of the vulture and other birds of prey due to the ongoing incidence of wildlife persecution in the area.

“I love the Peak District” said Keith. “I have been lucky enough to see merlin, hobbies, peregrines, harriers, buzzards and even goshawk while out and about. Although there is only one bearded vulture here there are lots of other raptors, but unfortunately there are nowhere near as many as there should be. We need highlights such as this visit from the bearded vulture to raise more awareness of our birds of prey and the potential for our moorlands to be home to so many more of these magnificent birds.”

Keith’s colleague Ian Cracknell, Advocacy Officer at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust said:

“Whilst it is fantastic that so many people have been to see the bearded vulture roosting on our moors, this species is also really susceptible to disturbance.  So we are asking people to please keep their distance and respect this wonderful bird.

“Our moorlands should provide a constant source of opportunities to see our fabulous birds of prey. Unfortunately sightings of many species are few and far between in this area, which is notorious for illegal wildlife persecution and the intensive land management practices of local grouse moors.

“And of course we ask if anyone out on Sheffield moors sees any suspicious activity to report it to us and South Yorkshire Police. More details about how to recognize, record and report wildlife crime is available here”.

 

Thank you to William Bowell / justwildimages.blogspot.com / Twitter @willbowell for these wonderful images.