Tour report - Snow fauna

We leave in the early morning on the ridges which border with Spain. Winter is hot, abnormally hot. Snow present in small quantities and exclusively at altitudes much higher than usual winters makes the task complex to honor the promises of this day announced as "white". The southern slope that we prefer is almost devoid of snow despite the altitude of more than 2,000 meters. Quickly we observe in the veiled sky griffon vultures which take advantage of the powerful ascending airs which are set up. Shortly after, a bearded vulture will come to spy on us for a few moments at high altitude before setting out again towards less animated areas.

Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)

In the distance below we already spot a few pyrenean chamois in the middle of feeding. Too low for us, we set off slaloming between the snowfields before very quickly observing a few individuals crossing the crest in front of us.

Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica)

We resume walking after their passage. After a good half hour crossing the ridges without observing anything exept a few passing birds, we decide to stop for a drink of water. This is the moment that a herd of deers chose to suddenly appear, running out of the forest exposed to the north and certainly well snowy. One of the young deer was particularly handsome in the large patches of textured snow.

Red deer (Cervus elaphus)

It is almost noon and we find a snow-cleared slope to settle there during the meal. We take advantage of these moments of rest to witness the sumptuous ballet of an immense flight of Red-billed Chough. They were more than fifty to twirl in the air. Behind them, in the distance, the splendid Montserrat massif protruded from the mist.

Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)

Walking resumes after a good revitalizing meal. We come face to face with a poor mangy vixen who luckily will not have spotted us. In the distance, the herd of deer and young deer graze quietly. Below, a huge herd of pyrenean chamois awaits us. Let's go for a little approach. Pyrenean chamois are more fearful during this period, so we take precautions so that they do not identify us as dangerous.

The light is powerful and the turbulence caused by the sun's rays does not make it easy to take pictures. However, in black and white, some images remain interesting, especially those of the pyrenean chamois cheerfully playing in the snowfield that we overlook. We stay here watching them for over an hour, impatiently waiting for the day to decline to take advantage of the evening lights. Suddenly, the herd shakes and watches down. The crest in front of us blocks our view, and it's impossible to know what it is. Then come out of the ridge all the deers that we encountered earlier today! The sky is cloudy, perfect for creating aesthetic silhouettes!

An unprecedented situation then occurs, the herd of deer passing alongside that of pyrenean chamois. Obviously, the two species tolerate each other well, but it is rare to see them together, at the same altitudes and even less in the open and in the middle of winter! We take a few pictures before starting the descent, the clock is ticking, the busy day passes very quickly!

Red deers and pyrenean chamois

The descent is again filled with encounters. The herds are numerous, supplied, and the individuals lively and in good health. We are lucky to observe all these magnificent animals at distances close enough to photograph them in good conditions, especially since the light gradually decreases and the clouds on the horizon gradually begin to tint with pastel colors.

On the way back, we also meet many birds. On a cairn, 4 alpine accentors rest, sheltered from the rising wind. Their characteristic and very mimetic plumage makes their identification quite easy.

Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris)
Northen Raven (Corvus corax)

We arrive a few minutes from the car, parked at a windy pass. On the southern flank, which we also used for the descent, we still have the chance to observe a very small herd of fairly close, on a promontory overlooking the valley. The cliffs in the background provide a perfect setting, and the setting sun light brings a perfect touch of warmth to end the day in style.

The last rays of the sun go out and it is time for us to leave. A successful day, filled with encounters and beautiful atmospheres that participants are not ready to forget!

© Arnaud Saguer 2020 - Tous droits réservés

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