At Ecosulis, the bearded vulture features frequently in our imagery. We believe this animal symbolises our rewilding ethos and ambition. Rewilding is a huge part of what we do and, to us, this striking creature symbolises the idea of novel ecosystems, exploring wilder ecologies, why rewilding matters and, the kind of possibilities a truly abundant landscape could bring.
In 2020, between June and October, a large vulture was seen gliding across numerous counties across England. The event attracted bird watchers from all corners of the UK, igniting awe from those who heard about it and even more so from those fortunate enough to spot it.
Prior to this, the only reported sighting of such an animal in Britain was in 2016. This rare bird found its way to the UK from the Pyrenees – a region where vultures have not long been reintroduced following a period of extinction in Europe.
Vigo the bearded vulture left a huge impression on bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike. This remarkable event sparked wide public interest and triggered a thoughtful reconsideration of natural landscapes and ecosystems entirely.
This appearance from Vigo supported a new narrative of extraordinary possibilities. Whilst a majestic sight to watch, events like this also help us redefine and rethink what our landscape and nature could be and what it could support.
Vigo encouraged a fresh perspective on the components of an ecosystem and what a more complete food web could offer. Not only did Vigo open the door to a redefining of landscapes, but our connection with wild nature in capturing public imagination. She was an exemplification of how wildlife can disperse across time and space in a way that we have not considered.
From mainland Europe to the UK, Vigo brought a sense of curiosity and possibility to the public consciousness.
Whilst organisations such as the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) have been working to conserve these endangered animals, these initiatives are not entirely about increasing populations, but are spurred on by the reason behind why these birds are scarce in our landscape in the first place.
Vigo the vulture re-established the notion of carcass ecologies. Despite a common – yet understandable – aversion to carrion, the importance of decay amongst landscapes is of critical importance.
The bearded vulture represents something much more significant than a rare sighting. A vulture signifies a functioning ecosystem and one with natural processes. A landscape containing carrion from large herbivores will attract a wide variety of scavengers whilst supporting insect, plant and fungi life to support other herbivores and birds. In a landscape that is rich with life and death, we could attract more of these vagrant species.
Carcasses have almost become a forgotten and lost link in the food chain. Without death, there is no life. When we think about Vigo, it raises questions such as ‘why don’t we have much carrion in our landscapes in the UK’? It pushes us to reconsider what we define as ‘natural’ and explore how we have modified our landscape to not only produce certain outputs, but also a desired aesthetic.
In the UK, most landscapes and habitats are highly managed, isolated and support a flattened version of webs-of-life.
“Death animates living systems at every level so that without death there is no community, no ecosystem, no biosphere as we know them.” – An Ecological Perspective on the Role of Death in Creation
Ecosystems require dynamism, flourishing with varied interactions between large herbivores, insects, woody vegetation, grassland and other natural disturbances. All of which our modern ecosystems are increasingly lacking.
Vigo showed us that there is an aspect of fluidity in nature, that it is not fixed and is constantly subject to, sometimes surprising, change.
Observing a vulture in a currently foreign habitat provoked consideration of the poignant relationship between life and death, tropic complexity, the value of carcass ecologies and an increase in public engagement.
The charismatic bearded vulture is a perfect symbol that underlines our vision at Ecosulis; remaining imaginative, embracing and working with the unpredictability of nature, creating an ecology that can attract all kinds of wildlife and reinforcing the importance of all kinds of ecologies.
References throughout this article can be found in more detail in Ecosulis’ Nature Recovery Lead, Paul Jepson’s blog, Eye of the Vulture, here.
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