Nature Experiences

The Hunt for the Ocellated Lizard

Editor Annette J Beveridge

By Annette J Beveridge

My brother and I spent a great deal of time searching for the elusive ocellated lizard while living in Spain. He had practically stumbled across an impressive male in the rough scrubland nearby and had rushed over to my house excited about his latest discovery. Both keen conservationists, I was eager to find one too and knowing these beautiful lizards were ‘almost’ on the doorstep was tantalising.

Near to the house, an area of desert-like scrub stretched for miles all the way to a small beach town on the far distant horizon. The terrain was hot, arid and in places, difficult to navigate. Having done a little research, I knew that the habitat – made up of dry, bushy shrubs, sparsely dotted trees, scrubby woodland in places and rocky, sandy areas, were perfect for this lizard.

We started searching in earnest trying to glimpse any movement. I searched for abandoned rabbit burrows too knowing that these lizards would make use of them. The heat sapped our energy. There was little shade and the sun was torturous at times. Spending hours in 40+ degree heat is really not easy. At times, I had to give in.

Birds of Prey Nature Experiences

Griffon Vultures – Up Close and Personal

by Annette J Beveridge

Editor Annette J Beveridge

Gliding across an expansive sky, wings outstretched, Griffon vultures are a sight to behold. Their flight appears effortless as they counter any changing winds, adapting, and using air thermals to gain height. Vultures may not be the most charismatic of birds – considered more as the undertakers of the bird world. Griffon vultures are no different feasting on the soft tissue of animals – the muscles and viscera where they have to plunge their heads deep into the bloodied carcasses. Their highly acidic digestive systems are able to manage rotting meat. It may not be pretty but these birds are vital for the health of the environment, for other animals and for us.  

Griffon vultures are so impressive. They are large – growing up to 38 inches in height and with a wingspan reaching up to 9ft, they soar effortlessly for miles reaching altitudes of up to 3,500 metres above sea level.

Where it began

My affinity for these impressive birds began about 9 years ago while living in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Living in a purpose-built eco home perched on the lower slopes of the Pyrenees, my daily views were of a green landscape, the valley below, and distant snow-capped mountain peaks. Every day, it felt as if the scene refreshed. At times, I could see the snow-capped peaks. At other times, those same mountain peaks were obscured, wrapped within shrouds of low clouds. Sunsets were a spectacular mix of vibrant hues spreading low over the horizon and the thunderstorms, which were magnificent, seeming to zone in on the mountains.