Unusually cold conditions and heavy snowfall in Eastern Europe in the late January 2012 have changed my photo program in Bulgaria. We were a small group of french and foreign photographers and our first goal was taking pictures of Golden Eagles high in the Balkans, Bulgaria. The photo tour was organized by Spatia Wildlife, of which I am representative in France (see www. spatiawildlife.com and www.voyagesetnature.com). But in fact we had to change our program, the hides being totally inaccessible (over 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, between -5 and -20 ° C...
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) with Magpie, under snow, Bulgaria

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) with Magpie, under snow, Bulgaria

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). 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.

One Response to Vultures in winter in the Rhodopes, Bulgaria.

  • Dear Mr. Dieudonné,
    I came across your website by chance and I got fascinated with your great wildlife photoes.
    I see you have been in the Eastern Rhodopes with our colleague Dobri Domuschiev in January 2012 and you have managed to take excellent pictures of fighting Griffons: http://www.patrickdieudonne.com/blog_en/vultures-in-winter-in-the-rhodopes-bulgaria/

    I am particularly interested in two of your pictures, which show Griffons with yellow PVC rings and tags (maybe K0M?).
    I am managing a five-year vulture restoration project for reintroducing Griffons in the Balkan Mountains (http://www.greenbalkans.org/birdsofprey/life/) and this is one of the birds we have tagged and released (probably as early as October 2010, if I am reading the tag right).

    We knew this bird is regularly present in the area of the Eastern Rhodopes but we are collecting information about all the observations. Could you please tell me the exact dates and location and maybe the number of the tag?

    I can send you additional information on that bird if you would be interested.
    Thanks a lot in advance,

    Wishing you happy holidays and many successful trips and adventures!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *