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Stories

Ibex & Birds Around Neuchâtel / Tour Report August 2017

This IBEX & BIRDS AROUND NEUCHÂTEL wildlife tour has been a blessing from the first minute to the last! Meeting with our lucky participant at Neuchâtel train station, we started with a nice lunch in Le Landeron.

Our first birding stop was the La Sauge BirdLife Nature Center in Cudrefin. The weather was cloudy, the light was very challenging, and it started to rain soon after we got to the hides. Nevertheless, we were lucky to spot 26 bird species in about 2 hours, including a beautiful flock of Eurasian Curlews as well as a group of Greylag Geese. Also, as the rain was pouring, a White Wagtail came to the edge of the hide window to find a shelter, giving us a fantastic opportunity to watch it closely.

Once the rain almost stopped, we headed back to the center. On our way out, we spotted a Common Kingfisher in flight. We took the chance to go back to one of the hides were we thought she was heading, and after 2 minutes only, she landed on a perch right in front of us! We were alone in the hide, watching the most beautiful bird ever posing for us for a few minutes. Magical!

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Once out of the La Sauge BirdLife Nature Center, we explored the Fanel Nature Reserve right next to it. We were mesmerized by the amazing colony of Great Cormorants. The light was superb and we could have stayed there for days! There were hundreds of them, either preening, resting, drying their wings, landing on the trees, flying above us, etc... the scene was so inspiring.

But as if it was not enough, we spotted a Red Fox hunting on the field about 100 meters ahead of us! We stopped walking and sat on the ground. We waited, and let the fox come closer and closer, to the point were it was hunting right in front of us, totally aware of our presence, but not feeling threatened by us at all.

Behaving in an ethical way towards wild animals always pays off. Wildlife photography is about respecting the welfare of the wild animals. This has to be the first priority. Always. Whether you get the shot or not.

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After spending almost an hour with this beautiful Red Fox, we decided not to try to follow him when it started to walk away. Back in the car, we drove to Creux du Van where we planned to look for Alpine Ibex and enjoy the sunset before having a fondue and spending the night at the Ferme Restaurant Le Soliat.

Only a few minutes after we arrived, we spotted a first Alpine Ibex, coming out of the forest, straight towards us. He clearly wanted to come to the field we were on and feed on grass before the day ends. So we let him do that. For more than 30 minutes. Only a few meters away from us.

With its summer fur and the power of its youth, all under the most beautiful soft light, this Alpine Ibex was one the most beautiful we have ever seen.

 
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After that we walked along the cliffs and spotted another Alpine Ibex. This time a very young one. We kept the same respectful behavior and again, the Alpine Ibex came towards us. At some point it was less than 5 meters away from us!

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That same evening we have seen several Common Kestrels, Alpine Swifts, Mistle Thrushes and Barn Swallows. Finally, we spotted a herd of 8 Alpine Ibex far away through our binoculars. It was already getting dark and we did not have time to approach them. But we definitely kept that in mind for later.

The next morning we woke up early in order to start walking before sunrise. Doing that in Creux du Van is always rewarding.

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We walked along the cliffs and had to stop every other minute to enjoy the incredible beauty of the landscape in front of us. A pair of Common Kestrels was already hunting nearby.

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On our way to the area where we saw the herd of Alpine Ibex the night before, we spotted a young one resting at the bottom of a tree. Even though it was pretty close to the path we were walking on, it was pretty hard to see. We quickly moved on to leave him undisturbed, and kept looking for the herd.

A bit further, we spotted 3 females looking down the cliffs. We sat on the ground and watched. At the same time, a Red Fox passed by on a field further. After a while, one of the females started to make her way up, and 3 young Alpine Ibex showed up from the vegetation further down. We were still watching them when we spotted a Stoat running incredibly fast at the edge of the cliffs!

The 3 females reached the top of the cliff and went away to feed on the field. The 3 young ones stayed down. We had a wonderful time photographing the females, but it was not over yet. We went back to the edge of the cliffs, and looking down, we saw the 3 young ones along with a fourth female. We decided to step back and go sit by a small brush, choosing this exact spot to maximize our discretion and the light conditions.

We could only hope they would come up ; and they did!

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Watching these 3 very young Alpine Ibex interact with each other, under the vigilance of an adult female, was a beautiful moment. Our presence did not disturb them at all, as they stayed for about 45 minutes before going back down the cliffs.

On our way back to the Ferme Restaurant Le Soliat, 6 more Alpine Ibex! We then had a nice and copious breakfast before heading to Pro Natura Center Champ-Pittet by Lake Neuchâtel. There, we walked on the boardwalk and sat down at the end of it where you get a nice view on the water. Literally 2 minutes later, a Bearded Reedling showed up from the reeds, only a couple of meters away from us!

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Right after that, a juvenile Bearded Reedling showed up a bit further. Once at the main hide, we took 2 hours to observe the birds, including a couple of Little Grebes, a Grey Heron, Great Crested Grebes, a Water Rail, Great Cormorants... and a Grass Snake!

After such a great morning with so many unbelievable sightings, we stopped at the restaurant of the Pro Natura Center Champ-Pittet for lunch, which is surrounded by small ponds full of frogs.

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The last stop of the tour was Yverdon-les-Bains. At the Promenade Robert Hainard, we observed 35 bird species in 2 hours! The sightings included a rare Caspian Tern, a Spotted Crake, a Common Little Bittern, etc...

So yes, to sum up, this tour was absolutely incredible. Here is our participant's review:

Having just taken up wildlife photography, I wanted an intense two day tuition on a variety of subject matter and in a variety of environments. The Salva Fauna experience was far above my expectations. Thoroughly professional from the outset and planning through to post workshop advice. Jonathan’s knowledge was stunning. His understanding on not only photography but subject matter was incredible. I learned more than I could ever of envisaged and came back with incredible photos thanks to Jonathan’s meticulous planning and field craft. Ibex, fox, kingfisher, bearded tit, stoat, grass snake, grebe, rail, tern, kestrel - and lots more. I will certainly use Salva Fauna again and if you are thinking of a tour or workshop, don’t hesitate to contact Salva Fauna.
— Nick

Wildlife photography brings you closer to Nature. If you are interested in doing this wildlife tour, please feel free to contact us any time.

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