by 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.