Sunday, November 21, 2010

In Search of the Ibex

The Spanish Ibex is one of those gems of Nature that have somehow managed to survive, by a combination of luck and dedicated individuals prepared to come to their rescue, amidst the increasing human pressure on the fauna of Europe. Now confined to inaccessible high mountains, these animals once roamed rocky terrain down to sea level where they were hunted 40 thousand years ago by Neanderthals on the rocks by the sea at Gibraltar. But intense human pressure has driven these animals from any ancient favoured haunts.

To find and photograph these animals, my son Stewart and I climbed up the rocky terrain of the Sierra de Gredos in Western Spain. Winter is a good time as the snows push these animals down to where they can graze but this does not mean they are easy to find. To get to them requires hard work, not made any easier by altitude (we were between 1800 and 2000 metres) and snow showers...

Finally, a chance as a group of young and females allow approach during a heavy snow shower...

Stealth, while keeping downwind, allows a window of opportunity to get the shots we were after!

...not winking - left eye closed as the driving snow hit this ibex's face on its left side!

baby ibex

then a spectacular male, casually shows itself as it forages among the rocks, allowing an opportunity for good close-ups!

Exhausted but exhilarated we start the long trek back. A clearing in the the weather allows Stewart a chance to take some stunning photographs of Ibex Country...

father and son after a hard day's work!

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