Bearded Vulture in flight

Close-up of a bearded Vulture in flight (Gypaetus barbatus), as captured iat the Gemmi Pass

Bearded Vulture in flight
February 20, 2012 Johan Peijnenburg
In Photography
A bearded vulture, Gypaetus barbatus ("Bearded Vulture-Eagle"), in flight above the Swiss Alps at the end of the Gemmipass in Leukerbad. (Johan Peijnenburg)
70mm – f/8 – 1/500 – ISO200 – D3x with 24-70 f/2.8

Last Sunday I did very interesting snow-shoe hike traversing the Gemmipass, which connects Kandersteg (Bernese Oberland) with Leukerbad (Valais). The pass is located at an altitude of about 2200 meters and the hike was 10 kilometers (6.5 miles) long with an ascent of about 550 meters (1800 ft). Photography wise it was a very fruitful hike, as I got away with quite a few nice landscape images … and more …

At the end of the hike I spotted a group of bird photographers, shooting from a ridge towards the valley. Obviously they were all very-well equipped with cool exotic long lenses. My longest lens was my 24-70 f/2.8 … ouch … after doing some landscape shots from the ridge, I decided to join the fun and to put my camera in fast mode. Shortly after, this bearded vulture decided to do a few fly-by’s at close distance. So impressive! I fired away hand-held at the highest speed I had available (about 5 fps) and to my own surprise got away with a decent series of tack sharp images … lucky me!

Bearded vultures are huge. This bird is 94–125 cm (37–49 in) long with a wingspan of 2.31–2.83 m (7.6–9.3 ft). They were once extinct in the Alps but have been re-introduced in the 1970’s. They are still a threatened species within Europe though. Other names for this bird are: bearded vulture-eagle, lammergeier and lammergeyer. You can find more info about this majestic bird at: Wikipedia

I am afraid that this big fellow has triggered an urge to do more big bird photography … it was kind of like trout fishing … and quite exciting!