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After an incredible voyage through middle Europe, Bernd the bearded vulture decides to go alone…

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In the last few weeks bearded vulture researchers and enthusiasts have followed with lots of interest the incredible trip done by Bernd, a female bearded vulture reintroduced into the nature one year ago in the Calfeisental valley in the Swiss Alps (St. Gallen) with a satellite tag.

After a 3,000 km tour around Europe, taking in the Czech Republic, all the way up to the Baltic Sea, and then half-way across Germany, Bernd decided to go alone, and managed to get rid of the transmitter in central Germany. Here is her story…

Bernd was born in February 2012 in Vallcallent, the breeding station run by the Generalitat de Catalunya, and part of the bearded vulture captive breeding network managed by the VCF. It was raised by adoptive parents, and when it was three months old, it was sent to Switzerland, to be released there as part of the Alpine reintroduction project. In St. Gallen the bird was named after Bernd Strasser, a local WWF activist, but it turned out later than Bernd was a female.

Bernd´s first flight in June 2012 saw her lounge deep into the pristine alpine valleys, now again alive with the return of the species. Last summer Bernd explored the Swiss Alps, and in autumn she went on to neighboring Italy.

Then this Spring, on the 18th May, Bernd turned north, and started an epic 3,000 km journey. First Stuttgart, then Nuremberg, Prague and Rostock, all the way up to the Baltic Sea (Lübeck). Bernd then turned west, towards Bremen, Osnabrück and Fulda, back south, and then spent a week in the region around Nuremberg. Throughout the route, Bernd was seen several times by local birdwatchers who were alerted to the presence of the bird.

In the past other young alpine bearded vultures also went north – but then return at some point to the Alpine chain. Unfortunately we will never know if this happens, because a couple of weeks ago, when Bernd was near Bayreuth, managed to cut the harness and get rid of the satellite tag. After a few days of a stationary signal coming from a dense young forest with some rock walls north of Bayreuth, teams were dispatched, and they found the transmitter – but not Bernd.

The Alps are not very far away, so probably Bernd made it into his ancestral habitat. Let´s hope so!

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