Wild Wonders of Valais / Tour Report September 2017
The first day of this wonderful wildlife tour was dedicated to birds, exploring an area at the border between Wallis and Vaud where Bearded Vultures can be seen.
During our 6 hours walk, we spotted a rare Short-toed Snake-eagle, 2 Golden Eagles, Northern Wheatears, Mistle Thrushes, a Common Kestrel, Black Redstarts, aaaaand 2 Bearded Vultures!
It was the very end of the day, with a stunning sunset light. We were walking towards our refuge when one of our guests started to scream : "Here! Here!". A Bearded Vulture was flying low right in front of us, coming our way. It passed above us, and when we looked back, we noticed a second one coming from the left! It literally circled above us for a minute and left. Absolutely incredible!
It was the first time our guests saw a Bearded Vulture in the wild, so we were even more pleased of this amazing encounter. Sharing knowledge and experience with our guests so that they can enjoy experiences like that is what drives us to be better every day.
Once at our refuge, we sat on the terrace and watched a few Chamois on the hill in front of us. The perfect sighting to wrap up a memorable first day.
The second day, we focused our attention on Alpine Ibex and Chamois. Leaving our refuge before dawn, we started to walk in the dark with our headlamps on. The idea was to arrive before sunrise in an area where we know by experience we can see some Alpine Ibex. Thus, we could potentially enjoy their company with a great sunrise light, which is always nice for photography.
Once we reached the spot, we took our binoculars and looked for the Alpine Ibex. Depending on the light and the surrounding colors, they can be very well camouflaged in their environment. After a few minutes only, we spotted a first adult male. Our guests could not believe it. A moment later, a second one, oh and a Chamois too!
This was more than enough for us, no need to look further. We started a very slow approach, making sure we would not scare them away. That is why we like to start early :)
On our way up, we spotted a whole herd on the other side. A herd with females and young Alpine Ibex. Because the photo opportunities were better in terms of light, background, distance, composition, we focused on this herd and continued our approach.
Alpine Ibex are real sentinels in the mountains. They see you a loooong time before you see them. So they knew we were approaching. At some point, a couple of females started to get a little bit agitated. They are always more nervous with the young. So we stopped moving and waited. After a while, they calmed down and tolerated our presence.
Later, a young male started to come our way, followed by a female. He walked slowly towards us, stopped, and stared at us.
He started to walk again, still towards us, until he disappeared behind some rocks. It is only then, after making two more steps, that we notice more horns! A group of 11 adult male Alpine Ibex was right there! Totally relaxed, they were all lying on the ground, enjoying some rest in the sun.
Sitting in the ground, we enjoyed their company for a few hours, simply watching them live their life. It was a magical first experience with Alpine Ibex for our guests, who went back home with some beautiful wildlife images.
This wildlife photo tour ended up being a great combination of birds sightings and mammals encounters. All of that in some of the most beautiful landscapes of Switzerland.