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Spatia Wildlife photo trip, winter - Posted February 16th, 2012
Griffon vultures, fighting Very difficult weather conditions for my first trip to Bulgaria with Spatia Wildlife / Voyages et Nature from 29th of January to the 4th of February, 2012. Eastern Europe was even more affected than France by extreme winter conditions, and Bulgaria, which enjoys generally a milder climate, has experienced temperatures of -20 ° C and below, and heavy snowfall. The Eagles hides in the Balkans have proved inaccessible and we had to provide an alternative trip in northern Greece (Kerkini Lake) and in southern Bulgaria (Rhodope Mountains). The Golden eagles, also possible in the Rhodopes, were not seen on the baits, but we were able to achieve quite spectacular images of Dalmatian Pelicans on lake Kerkini, as well as Griffon vultures in the snow in the Rhodopes.


Vultures fight

Vultures fighting in snow, Nikon D3, AFS 500 mm VR. More images on my blog (see above)

Unusually cold conditions and heavy snowfall in Eastern Europe in the late January 2012 changed completely our photo program in Bulgaria. We were a small group of french and foreign photographers and our first goal was pictures of Golden Eagles high in the Balkans, Bulgaria. This photo tour was organized by Spatia Wildlife, which I represent in France (see www. spatiawildlife.com and www.voyagesetnature.com).

But in fact we had to change our program, the hides being totally inaccessible (more than 1 m of snow at these altitudes). So we drove south, in Greece (Lake Kerkini) and to the Rhodope Mountains in the south of Bulgaria. However, the temperatures were still very cold, with less than -20 ° C in the mornings…

The hide sessions we made in the Rhodopes included still good chances for Golden Eagles and even Imperial Eagles, but the Eagles did not show up eventually. However we have had a quite exceptional session for Griffon Vultures, under a persistent snow and -20 ° C. The vultures came to the carcass only the third day, under snow. The first day was totally unproductive, the second produced three to four birds, two of which marked (wings), which was not very photogenic (vultures from reintroductions of other Bulgarian sites).

Vulture and magpie, snow fall

Vulture and magpie, under snowfall, Nikon D3, AFS 500 mm VR. More images on my blog (see above)

On the third day, no doubt encouraged by the worsened weather, vultures pounced on the carcasses, with more than twenty birds present, made aggressive by hunger and the little food available on a frozen carcass. Threatening postures, clashes and battles followed for more than two hours. The presence of ravens and magpies, and especially the snow falling heavily at times, was a plus for the images.

I let you enjoy the images that compensate somewhat for the absence of eagles. Thanks to Dobry Domuschiev, founder and owner of Spatia Wildlife, who has done everything possible to organize at once another program which has revealed enjoyable and productive, despite the difficulties in the field, and extreme temperature in the worst winter in Bulgaria for nearly 20 years.

All images: Nikon D3, iso 400 to 800, AFS VR 500 mm, 500 AFS VR + 1.4 and 1.7 x converters. Copyright 2012 Patrick Dieudonne, all rights reserved.

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