As many of you might know, last week I was in Spain with Naturetrek Wildlife Holidays, accompanying the Spanish Pyrenees tour as a photographer. My aim was to try and take as many photos as possible for the brochure and for adverts too, one slight issue was the weather didn’t play ball and many of those target shots just didn’t materialise … it was a real shame.
Many of the plants weren’t on show due to the poor weather and the blue skies we hoped for in the mountains never materialised. In fact, it was only in the evenings when the sun seemed to shine but there was still a chill in the air and we were back at the comfortable hotel!
Anyway, I was fortunate enough to get close to some great Pyrenean wildlife and this post is to share a few of the mammalian highlights. So the appearance of a Marmot was great but to get as close as I did was a real treat and I had great fun with the individual below. It had absolutely no fear of me … that might have something to do with the fact it was at the bottom of a ski run! The second star of the show was the Pyrenean Chamois or the Izard, I spent around half an hour photographing this individual and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
The final mammal to feature here has not yet been confirmed but I am pretty sure it is in fact a Hybrid Wildcat! It saw our group and immediately ran away from us up into the cover of a rocky hillock. I immediately sprinted around this hillock and climbed its far side to find the cat walking straight towards me (well below where I stood). I am so happy with the images but I am sending them off for confirmation as to whether or not they are believed to be a Wildcat Hybrid. Having done quite a bit of research I am sure that it is!
For those that don't know, Marmots are actually a large rodent and are closely related to squirrels. They dig burrows on the high Alpine meadows of the mountains in Europe and spend the summer grazing this rich pasture. In the winter they retreat to the safety of the burrow and escape the worst of the weather before re-merging the following spring.
After taking the first sequence of images (above), of this Chamois, I thought that I might try and get a little closer. This meant climbing down the rocky crag I was perched on and making my way up the next crag. However the wind was swirling and as I got to the base of the crag the Chamois must of caught wind of me. He came to the edge and looked straight down at me as you can see below the results weren't what I wanted at all as I managed to spook it. I was rather angry with myself for startling the individual but at least my first shots really caught the animal in the environment.
Before the Marmot and the Chamois though, there was the 'Wildcat' moment ...
Our first view was through binoculars and in my case a long telephoto lens. I was using my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 IS II USM with the 2x extender and it was hard to get a decent shot. Then I made the decision to dart off round the hillock and climb up the other side.
I couldn't believe my luck when I walked round the other side ... I climbed up to the brow of the hill and there right below me was the cat, trotting along completely unaware of me. Then, as I leant around the rock to get a picture the cat caught sight of me and stopped dead in its tracks!
I still can't be entirely sure that this is a Wildcat Hybrid but many of the characteristics add up to give me that conclusion. It doesn't quite seem right, to me at least, to be a pure-bred Wildcat but who knows? I am still ever so happy with the images I managed to capture.
I will add my favourite botany and macro pictures in the coming days too so keep an eye out!