"She brought a lot of joy": Vulture seen in Peak District in lockdown spotted back in Alps for first time

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A bearded vulture which made headlines on an unexpected flying visit to Derbyshire during the 2020 lockdown has reappeared to the delight of bird-spotters and conservationists on the continent, three years since it was last sighted.

Nicknamed 'Vigo' at the time, but previously named Flysch, the female vulture’s arrival in the Peak District was only the second-ever confirmed sighting of the species in the UK – far from its usual habitat in the Alps and the Pyrenees. 

Following her long four-month stay in the UK, Flysch-Vigo went 'missing' after she was last spotted in October 2020, flying south over the sea from the British coast – but conservationists working in Switzerland have now reported that she was spotted in the Alps in 2023.

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Matt Buckler, director of natural solutions at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said: “We are absolutely thrilled to hear that Vigo has been rediscovered again. When this magnificent bird decided to spend the summer of 2020 in the Peak District, it was fascinating to monitor her, and she brought a lot of joy to tens of thousands of people.

Flysch Vigo captured hearts across Derbyshire on her lockdown visit to the Peak District. (Photo: Ashley James)Flysch Vigo captured hearts across Derbyshire on her lockdown visit to the Peak District. (Photo: Ashley James)
Flysch Vigo captured hearts across Derbyshire on her lockdown visit to the Peak District. (Photo: Ashley James)

“The fact that she’s appeared on the other side of the continent shows how connected the natural world is. Only by creating more bigger, better and connected habitats for wildlife will we be able to halt the alarming decline in species loss and encourage more species to return here. We look forward to continuing to follow Vigo’s journey and seeing more species return to our landscape in the future.”

‘Vigo’ was identified as Flysch after feathers collected in the Peak District were sent to Switzerland for DNA analysis, which revealed that she had been hatched in 2019 in a wild nest in Haute-Savoie, high up in the French Alps.

She is the offspring of a wild-hatched father and a zoo-reared mother named Zufall, who was released into the wild in 2006. 

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Flysch-Vigo was spotted in 2023, during a period when a long-running captive breeding programme was releasing its latest cohort of vultures into the wild at Pro Bartgeier, close to Melchsee-Frutt in the Swiss Alps. Pro Bartgeier is regarded as a crucial staging point for expanding the population of the species eastwards.

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Once thought to be extinct in the Alps, there are now at least 85 breeding pairs of bearded vulture and they are one of Europe’s most monitored species, thanks to an international network which records hundreds of observations annually through field sightings, GPS data, and genetic analyses.

According to conservationists who encountered her, Flysch-Vigo displayed a social side, engaging with two newly reintroduced young vultures, Obwaldera and Marco.

Days later, Fredueli, a five-year-old bearded vulture, arrived. They are said to have sat peacefully together for about half an hour before Fredueli suddenly attacked, chasing Flysch-Vigo away.

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The next morning, a lone feather marked the site of their encounter, which once again led to her identification following a genetic analysis.  

Questions remain about Flysch-Vigo's current whereabouts and her future, but conservationists remain hopeful that ongoing monitoring will identify her once again, ideally with offspring. 

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