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Lammergeier

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MIDNIGHT LAMMERGEIER

LAMMERGEIER IMAGES CAN BE STRIKING AS TINY SUBJECTS AGAINST A VAST LANDSCAPE. I was hide testing for our partners in Catalonia, La Sabina, and even though I was not lucky to have a bird land at their new feeding station (as they had been doing regularly the previous week) I still managed a nice composition. A wonderful partly snowy Pyrennean background dominates the scene in front of their hide but the only Lammergeier(s) I saw were in the valley below and bored with no sign of any other worthwhile opportunities I tracked a distant bird as it passed across the mountainside, firing when it crossed a dark pine forest. I always shoot fully manual and was happily correctly exposed for the bird, therefore darkening the forest below it and giving an almost night-time effect. Just a lucky outcome but now one of my favourite Lammer images and another lesson that birds do not need to be big in the frame and tightly-cropped like a postage stamp. See how the Lammergeier's massive tail make it look like it has a third wing!

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BAD TO THE BONE

HIGH IN CATALONIA'S SERRA DE BOUMORT (= 'mountain of the dead cow' on account of the cows that got their legs stuck in or were fatally injured in the rocky landscape) we enjoyed probably our best photo session so far for Lammergeiers. They are notoriously shy creatures and take some time to come down for a free meal, circling for ages and thoroughly checking the surrounding area for danger before risking a landing. The local population of these truly amazing birds continues to flourish, thanks to the regular supply of carrion put out for the last 30 years at several feeding stations in this part of the Pre-Pyrenees range. Here they are 'bone-swallowers' rather than 'bone-breakers', thanks to the ideally-sized sheep's limbs provided for them. As usual we saw all four regular Spanish vultures from the hide including an insane frenzy of griffons but the Lammers stole the show, also as usual. They have the look of a missing link about them and would not be out of place in such as Avatar with their striking plumage, beard (or rather moustache) and just under three meters wingspan! PH1 stomach acid allows the vultures to digest bone inside 24 hours - I have seen them swallow two sheep legs at one sitting previously.

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