Niederhorn in autumn

At the beginning of the autumn vacations I was in the Bernese Oberland for 2 days looking for ibex. But the weather was not at its best and for once the ibexes were not very photogenic. Why I came home with more than 1500 photos anyway, you will find out in this article.

Arriving on the Niederhorn it didn't take long until I could see the first ibexes. A group of females grazed just above the mountain station with their young. But they were not necessarily in an attractive spot and I decided to walk along the mountain ridge in order to find some ibexes in a better spot.

On the way along the mountain ridge I was hoping to meet more ibexes or chamois. But I could not find any and so I searched for ptarmigans on one of the mountain tops. From both sides of the mountain ridge clouds came up again and again and covered the landscape in thick fog. When suddenly something moved in front of me, I stopped and looked through the camera. A medium sized bird, finely patterned with a short, pointed beak stood only a few meters in front of me and looked at me calmly. A golden plover! Somewhat surprised I slowly lay down on the ground and waited. The bird remained still for a while before it ran away with fast steps. But after a few meters the golden plover stopped and finally turned around again. It seemed as if it was systematically running down the flat hilltop. Again and again it stopped and pulled a worm out of the earth. The bird did not show any shyness at all and came really close to me from time to time.

1/800 | f/ 4 | ISO 160 | 500mm

1/800 | f/ 4 | ISO 125 | 500mm

1/800 | f/ 4 | ISO 180 | 500mm

After a few hours I left the golden plover behind and walked back to the mountain hotel where I at an early dinner. One portion of pasta later I walked again along the ridge in search of the ibexes. But I could not find them that evening. Besides a few lekking black grouse I was at least able to photograph a chamois relatively well. The clouds had cleared up for a short time and I could take a picture of the silhouette of the chamois in front of the golden sky. The sun set early and I started my way back to the mountain hotel.

1/8000 | f/ 6.3 | ISO 64 | 500mm

The following morning I went out again before dawn. The weather had worsened a bit again. But at least I could enjoy the sunrise for a few minutes before the view was swallowed up again by an approaching cloud. 

1/40 | f/ 4 | ISO 100 | 24mm

On my search to finally see an ibex, I suddenly stood only a few meters in front of a black grouse. It sat right on the path and I could only spot it at the last moment behind a bend. I was just able to take a few pictures before the black grouse flew onto a nearby tree. But in order not to disturb the black grouse even more, I decided to continue walking.

1/500 | f/ 4 | ISO 3600 | 500mm

When I reached the top of the hill, there was no trace of the golden plover left, except for a feather. He had probably used the mostly clear night and crossed the Alps. This was a good thing, because the weather forecast predicted heavy snowfall for the next few days. By then, crossing the Alps would probably have been impossible for the bird.

Nevertheless, I searched the mountain top once again very carefully. Maybe I could finally see a rock ptarmigan today... Soon after, a few meters in front of me, I could see a strongly patterned bird. But the bird seemed to be too small for a ptarmigan. The view through the camera confirmed my suspicion, it was not a ptarmigan but even better, a eurasian dotterel! The bird perched in the grass and slept. Every now and again he took a look at his surroundings. But he didn't seem to be bothered by me and so I was able to get a bit closer to the bird. After trying out different perspectives and compositions with my tele, I finally switched to my 50mm f/ 1.8 and then the 24mm f/ 1.4. The eurasian dotterel remained calm and I was able to approach the bird to within about one meter. Eventually a second bird joined me. The weather had improved a bit and even the sun came out for a short time.

1/1600 | f/ 1.8 | ISO 100 | 50mm

1/400 | f/ 4 | ISO 180 | 500mm

1/500 | f/ 4 | ISO 180 | 500mm

1/400 | f/ 8 | ISO 800 | 500mm

When out of nowhere suddenly an alpine chough landed next to me, the two eurasian dotterels  got scared and flew away shouting. I was able to follow them with my camera for a long time until I lost sight of them in a southwestern direction. I would have liked to take more pictures of the beautiful birds, but in view of the weather forecast it was more than good if the eurasian dotterels could still cross the Alps in reasonably good weather.

On the way back to the mountain station I met a larger group of ibex. Although they were relatively trusting, I was not able to take a really good photo. So in the early afternoon I took the gondola back down to the valley.

While I did get only very few images of the alpine ibex I was more than happy with my images of the golden plover and the eurasian dotterels. In the end I made over 1’500 images, which I organised and edited immediately after I came home.

0.4s | f/ 10 | ISO 64 | 500mm

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Nicolas Stettler

Weyernweg 27

2560 Nidau

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16.8.2022

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