We had the privilege of visiting the Waldrapp Team in Salzburg for the start of the 2014 human-led migration of the Northern Bald Ibis. The Northern Bald Ibis reintroduction in Europe aims at creating a stable population for this charismatic species in a region in which it has been extinct for over 300 years! With the help of an ultra-light powered para-glider, hand-raised juvenile birds were taken on a guided migration from their summer home in Austria to winter nesting grounds in Tuscany. Amazingly, a single guided migration is enough to teach the young ibises the way south. If everything goes according to plan, the young birds will return in spring as young adults to spend the summer in the wide valleys of Salzburg Land.
I was invited to fly the first leg of the journey in the second ultra-light paraglider in order to take photos. This was my first experience paragliding and certainly my first experience taking pictures from an aircraft! The weather was stunning and so were the views of the young ibises flying in formation with their foster parents. The views were especially dramatic considering the proximity of a helicopter which was filming a documentary about the reintroduction.
As a side note, flying at altitude in an ultralight for two hours in mid September was very cold. Also, looking through the viewfinder of a 400mm lens proved to be tricky considering the turbulence. My stomach did not thank me. All in all, however, it was an unforgettable experience. My sincere thanks to the Waldrapp Team! I very much hope that this project will succeed and that the Northern Bald Ibis will soon become a common fixture in Austria once again.
To the photos!