Andorra is steep mountains and narrow valleys. Highest peak is 3,000 metres.The principality is, however, just a small dot in the Pyrenées and the size equals a square 22 x 22 km. Wildlife is mostly upstairs and urban activities are way down on the ground floor, including our accommodation during the assignment.
First morning we were fortunate to get a quick chopper lift to place our heavy equipment in a hide that biologist Landry Riba kindly had erected in advance for us on El Ilempo, 2,230 metres a.s.l. But the pair of Lammergeiers we had planned to work with had unfortunately suffered a family disaster this spring. Their one and only chick had fallen out of the nest and died.
It was a sweating exercise hiking up to the hide every morning! Two road killed roe-deers were anyhow brought to the mountain slope in front of the hide and they immediately attracted Griffon Vultures and Ravens. The adult Lammergeiers, however, seemed to be more reluctant and never landed nearby or even showed up close, although we patiently waited several days for them.
Time were also spent in other corners of Andorra looking for rare and threatened salamanders. They are amazing cold-blooded creatures living in true alpine environment above the 2,000 metre line. We found a few Aurelio’s Rock Lizards near a skiing resort where the snow still prevailed and only the sun-exposed southern slopes were snow free.
The weather deteroriated suddenly and a furious thunderstorm hit us. The sky opened and rain was beyond our wildest imaginations. A lightning released a 100 ton rock that fell down and blocked the main road connecting Spain and France right in front of our lodge. All traffic were forced to detour in convoys on winding mountain roads for several days to get through.
We learnt that Andorra is not only tax-free shopping and downhill skiing. A brown bear had walked through the country just before we arrived, there are Chamois, there are big leks with Capercaillies, there are Rock Ptarmigans. There is wildlife, flowers and scenery. But it proved damn hard to get things in front of my camera the way I had hoped…
Magnus Elander / Wild Wonders of Europe
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.