Saturday 5 September 2009

Millennium Vulture

This is a brief post to celebrate International Vulture Appreciation Day 2009.

Back in March of this year, I spent 10 days in northern Spain as a driver for a UCL fieldtrip. The primary focus of the fieldwork was the brilliant sedimentology, structural geology and sequence stratigraphy of the area. I was also fascinated by the botany of the region, and some of the other drivers were keen birdwatchers. I deliberately hadn't brought my SLR camera with me, and rather regretted it, as I'd probably have been able to borrow the other guys' lenses and get some better shots than this one with my digicam:

I think these are griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus). But to be honest this was as close as we got to them! What I would have loved to see was a Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), known locally as a quebrantahuesos, but we never went high enough into the Pyrenees to see them. On a free morning, I visited the Eco Museum in Ainsa Castle, home to the Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos (the site was down when I visited just now - maybe it'll come back online later), where a skeleton was on display:

I bought a cuddly quebrantahuesos (I prefer the Spanish name - it rolls off the tongue), named it Billy, and stuck it in the front of my van so the students could spot our vehicle amid the other identical ones. And because I had a fair percentage of the UCL Sci-Fi Society in my van, by the end of the week the seven-seater Renault Espace had been renamed "The Millennium Vulture". Which beats "The Vomit Comet" and "Clutch Lady's Car", its previous incarnations...

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