Or Bearded vulture (latin: Gypaetus barbatus, flemisch: lammergier) is an endangered bird species and is threatened is all his breeding grounds, which are very scattered. If you want to know more about it you can read it here: iucnredlist.org/22695174/154813652.
In Europe the Alps and the Pyrenees are its main habitat. Since 1990 Switserland started a reintroduction program in cooperation with Birdlife. With success!
This is a bird that is on my list to photograph for some time now. A few years ago a Swiss guy, I met in Svalbard, invited me to his place on the Thunersee where he was a mountain guide; he would bring me to an excellent spot where you could photograph them at eye level. But things did not turn out that way upto now.
Instead I joined a quick escape to Switserland organized by Starling Reizen (https://www.starlingreizen.be/home/) under guidance of P.J. D'Hondt. Up to Geneva on Friday evening and back home on Monday morning. 2 days up a mountain at 2400m altitude. First cable lift up on Saturday 09,00h and back down on Sunday 17,00h.
Risky business. If the weather is bad: no vultures. But we were lucky. Clear sky, bright sunshine, no wind, temperature only slightly below 0° and (very important) an adequate snow cover, which is no longer guaranteed these days! It is essential for the light reflection from beneath when the bird flies over and as you will see in the pictures the underwing lightens up.
So there we were; the waiting started. Waiting is one of the main occupations of a wildlife photographer, and I don't mind; in the meantime we could try to be creative with the alpine choughs (alpenkauw), snow finches (sneeuwvink) and alpine accentors (alpenheggemus) that were around.
After some time the waiting was rewarded....but it came from behind....at low altitude. We were all staring at the same cliff where the sun was shining and we all expected the bird to appear to gain height in the rising warm air. We noticed the beautiful adult bird from behind only at the last moment and we were too late to take sharp pictures. Thousands of curses filled the sky!! Frustrating, how could we be so stupid!
But life goes on and disappointments are also part of the life of a wildlife photographer; we can cope with it. Other opportunities came along and in total we estimate to have seen 4 different birds. Bearded vultures are not shy, they are very curious and sometimes a bird comes close to have a look at this crazy bunch of people standing at the edge of the cliffs with all these strange looking equipment.
But enough talking; let's get on to the pictures
Enjoy and up to the next.