Stalking Chamois in the Jura mountains

Had it not been for the obstructed views, we would have neither found the chamois nor met Ian.


Current situation

The fishing season has started this Monday, but there was not much to report on. I went fishing in the nearby creek while most of Switzerland is being shut down due to Coronavirus. Procuring food should hopefully still be allowed even during a total lockdown. Nonetheless, I decided to dedicate this post to happier and healthier times back in 2019.

Chamois meeting grounds

On a late autumn weekend, Mike and I decided to head towards the Jura mountains. We left in the dark to witness the sunrise. Yet, it was not until we arrived at the top of the mountain that we realised the eastward views were obstructed by haze. Hence, we turned our attention towards our second objective: finding wildlife.

Finding Chamois

Chamois are quite abundant in the Jura mountains and they gather at specific foraging places during different times of the year. Apart from food, which consists of grasses, herbs, barks and needles, they also need refuge from predators such as the lynx. The Jura mountains offer a variety of landscapes from forest patches and open grassland changing to steep drop-offs and limestone cliffs.

The Jura mountains

Outlook

Arriving at the wildlife outlook, we immediately recognized a herd of chamois at the far end of the meadow. They usually gather around there because they can flee over the edge at the first sight of danger. We counted approximately 30 individuals, who were happily grazing and did not mind our presence. It was a wonderful sight.

Wild herd of chamois in the Jura mountains
Wild herd of chamois in the Jura mountain
Morning light meets Chamois in the Jura mountains
Morning light meets Chamois in the Jura mountains
Wild chamois in the Jura mountains
Wild chamois in the Jura mountains: front male, behind female (look at the horn)

The gender of a chamois can be distinguished by the form of theirs horns which are hooked backwards near the tip. The males’ horn is usually thicker, and the tips point more backwards.

Wild chamois in the Jura mountains (1.4 Teleconverter used)
Wild chamois in the Jura mountains (1.4 Teleconverter used)

We were not alone

While we were observing the chamois grazing in the morning sunlight, another photographer sneaked up on us. We did not even recognize him until he stood in the very same outlook. With an English accent, he introduced himself as Ian and he held a Sony camera as well. Whereas I photographed with the A6500 and the 200-600mm, Ian used his A7III with the 100-400m GM lens including 1.4 tele-converter. Ian, Mike and I got along very well, and we talked about wildlife, gear and travels. Ian had travelled far and wide and showed us some spectacular pictures of mountain lions in Patagonia.

Gear

Moreover, he allowed me to try his 1.4 tele-converter which enhanced the focal length of the 600mm to 840mm. Additionally the crop factor resulted in a 1260mm full-frame equivalent. However, I must admit the image quality was not the best especially due to poor lighting at f/9. Furthermore, I was also able to use Ian’s 85mm f1.8 which is an incredible portraiture lens. See for yourself:

Ian - picture taken with the Sony 85mm f1.8 lens
Ian – picture taken with the Sony 85mm f1.8 lens

Chasing Chamois

Eventually, we decided to get closer to the herd. The wind direction was in our favour, yet as soon as we left the lookout and headed towards them, they instantly disappeared over the edge into the forest. Given the terrain was extremely steep, we could not follow them. Therefore, Mike and I wished Ian farewell and returned to our starting point.

Had it not been for the obstructed views in the morning, we would not have met Ian. It was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours with Mike and Ian and listen to his stories, while observing wild chamois.

For more pictures, head to my photography portfolio!

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