In the late afternoon of Nov 8 we continued to the high Pyrenees and the Parque Nacional de Ordesa. Julian Gayarre had arranged accommodation in the city of Torla at an altitude of 1005 metres. After a very late (normal Spanish time) dinner, we met Manuel Graza, who is in charge of the Lammergeier program in Aragón. Manuel has been operating a feeding site on the slopes of Tozal del Rebollar (2.354 metres) since 2004. Manuel proudly announced I would be the first to take pictures in a snowy setting this year. What he didn’t mention was that the snow meant that we had to walk up on snow-shoes with all the equipment and loads of vulture meat and bones.
The following day we left the hotel early in the morning (long before breakfast appeared in the dining room). Half an hour in our 4WD on a narrow, winding track took us up to the snow line. With difficulty we turned the car on the slippery shelf carved out from the mountainside they called road. One hour and fifteen minutes walk with heavy burdens in deep snow and a lot of sweat later, we finally entered the hide. With binoculars we were now able to spot our hotel down in the valley, 1.000 metres below.
This wooden hide had much more elbow space than the previous one, by comparison. Both Stefan, the assistant, and I could sit in. But there was only room for one with a big lens. We put all our equipment in place, stored the meat under a canvas and headed down again. Manana, tomorrow, I would be prepared to start shooting.
Another early wake-up-call. Dirt track driving, walking with snowshoes. En route we spotted several chamoix in the uppermost forests. And suffered more sweat before finally entering the hide. Carcass meat and bones were spread out 25 metres away on a snowy rock. The background was the steep mountain slope on the other side of Valle de Tena and the magnificent entrance to Ordesa. Griffons came first. Some 15 birds. Together with Ravens and Black Crows. Then one Lammergeier. Then a few more. Both immatures and adults.
We spent five full days here. Walking up and down the mountain every day, except one day off to rest our legs. Manuel was assiduous. Every day with a heavy load of chopped carcasses. Weather was mostly sunny but the last two days came with very gusty hurricane winds and some spells of snow. And temperature dropped below zero. Besides the vultures we were every day accompanied by Alpine Accentors, a Red Kite, a Golden Eagle at the hide and Kinglets and Coal Tits in the fir trees below us.
Reluctantly we left the magnificent surroundings of Torla on Nov 15 and started to backtrack our way towards Girona. We had great days with many close encounters with Lammergeiers and Griffons. And best of all, in my bag I had a harddisc with dozens of Gigabytes of fresh pictures of our target birds. Mission completed!
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.