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14 July 2020 16:35

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Image copyright Indy Kiemel Greene Image caption The bearded vulture is one of the largest birds ever seen in the UK Concerns have been raised over the safety of a rare bird of prey which has been spotted roosting in the Peak District National Park. Birdwatchers have flocked to the moors to see the bearded vulture, which has only been seen once before in the UK, the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said. But the trust's Tim Birch said it "couldn't have come to a worse spot in terms of bird of prey persecution". He said some shooting estates saw birds of prey as a threat to grouse stocks. Mr Birch said as it was coming up to grouse shooting season, there were fears the rare raptor could be intentionally poisoned or shot.

"I don't think people realise it's happening in the national park," he said. "The bearded vulture is of international importance, so if anything happened to that bird it would bring into sharp focus what is happening here." 'So uplifting' Mr Birch said the bearded vulture fed mainly on bones from carcasses, very rarely on live prey, and could swallow bones whole, which were dissolved in its stomach. Image copyright Indy Kiemel Greene Image caption It is thought the bearded vulture is about two years old and has come to the UK from the Alps He said it was thought the raptor had come from the French or Swiss Alps, where the endangered species is being reintroduced. About 500 birdwatchers have come to catch a glimpse of the bird from all over the UK, as well as France, Spain and the Netherlands. Birdwatcher Indy Kiemel Greene, 15, who photographed the bearded vulture on Sunday, shared the trust's fears for its safety. He said: "Unfortunately this bird is at great risk because the location that it's at in the Derbyshire Peaks is well-known for raptor persecution, so we are all keeping our fingers crossed and doing our best to protect this bird because what a wonder to have it in the UK." It is thought the bird could stay in the area for a couple of weeks if it has found food before eventually returning to the Alps. Mr Birch added: "We would urge everybody to look after this bird, enjoy it while it's here. "It gives you a glimpse of what a wilder future could be like across the UK, it's so uplifting, particularly in these times of Covid-19." He added the only other bearded vulture ever recorded in the UK was in 2016, around Dartmoor. Image copyright Tim Birch Image caption It is thought the bird could stay in the area for a couple of weeks if it has found food Follow BBC East Midlands on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Send your story ideas to [email protected] Bearded vulture: 'lammergeier' with 9 foot wingspan spotted in UK for only the second time - why it's so rare (Photo: MONIKA SKOLIMOWSKA/DPA/AFP via Getty Images) (Photo: Getty) A rare bird spotted swooping through the skies of the Peak District is one of the largest wild birds ever seen in the UK. Hundreds of birdwatchers descended upon Hope Valley, near Sheffield, after a bearded vulture was seen over Howden Moor. The bird is larger than the famous golden eagle, and has only been spotted in the UK once before, when another of the species - also known as a lammergeier - from the alpine population was seen over Dartmoor four years ago. Why is it so rare? The bird is native to continental Europe, although even there they had been hunted to near extinction by the early 20th century. The bearded vulture has been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as being near threatened. They remain common in Africa (the species is most common in Ethiopia) and the Indian subcontinent, and in the 1980s they were successfully reintroduced to the French Alps, with over 200 birds released there between 1987 to 2015. It is thought the bird seen in the Peak District originated from there, and experts believe the vulture may have been blown off course during bad weather. The birds are particularly at risk in underdeveloped areas where human populations are rising, as the increase of infrastructure and the building of houses, roads and power lines means more obstacles for the impressive vultures to collide with. That, coupled with reduced food availability, poisons left out for carnivores and direct persecution in the form of Trophy Hunting, means numbers continue to decline. Where was the bird spotted? Birdwatchers say the bird was tracked through the West Midlands and Derbyshire, but nobody had "pinned it down" until the weekend. The wild bird of prey was originally spotted swooping over the Peak District, with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust encouraging visitors to "keep their eyes on the sky" for a chance glimpse of the animal. However, it is thought the lammergeier may have then travelled towards Sheffield after residents reported sightings over the city, following sightings in the Edale, Castleton and Goyt Valley areas of Derbyshire. The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has established that it is two years old and has come from the Alps. Lammergeiers scavenge for carrion and are not a threat to people or wildlife. The birds - known as Homa birds in Iran and north west Asia - are distinguished by their feathered necks and lozenge-shaped tails, which are unusual among birds of prey. The bird's impressive wingspan is what birdwatchers really seek, and the lammergeyer can average 2.31 to 2.83 metres across. The vultures can be identified by their long, narrow wings, with a tail longer than the width of the wing. Don't go listening for any telltale calls, though - the bearded vulture is silent apart from shrill whistles in its breeding displays. The name 'lammergeier' comes from the German 'Lämmergeier', which means 'lamb-vulture'. The name stems from the belief that the birds attacked lambs.