The alpine ibex, symbol of the nearby Gran Paradiso National Park, lives in high altitude grasslands and on rocky walls. It is a strong and powerful animal, capable of covering considerable distances with a few leaps and of climbing extremely steep walls. Famous, from this point of view, a photo of Stanislao Basileo awarded a few years ago in the 'Urban Wildlife ' category of the 'Wildlife photographer of the year ', the most important nature photography contest in the world. The image admirably portrays an ibex while climbs the steep surface of the dam of Lake Serrù to lick the salt. An incredible test of agility!
The ibex is also famous for having risked total extinction towards the end of the 19th century. There was only a small group of less than 100 specimens but, thanks to conservation and reintroduction programs, the population of these ungulates has had a great recovery.
Today ibex are fortunately widespread throughout the Alps and are also present in Val Grande di Lanzo and this prompted me to try to photograph them on Easter day, also to burn some calories in view of the abundant Easter banquet.
The destination of my photo session is the valley of Sea, which I consider a bit the Serengeti of the Val Grande di Lanzo for its wild aspect and the good presence of wild animals.
Arrived at the first plateau I see two rather suspicious young males, approaching them with great caution I can take some shots without disturbing them. I decide to continue further to see if I can spot some impressive adult male.
I'm lucky. On reaching the next plateau, I meet a couple of large males grazing near the huge rock walls that make the happiness of many sport climbing enthusiasts. One of them even comes close to my position, attracted by some dwarf pine bushes. I start shooting while the ibex is feeding by tearing tufts of vegetation; at some point I take a few steps closer to change the angle of shots. The king of the peaks stops grazing, stares at me intently and lets out a couple of intimidating whistles. Message received! I crossed that invisible barrier beyond which you can disturb wild animals.
Satisfied with the fantastic encounter, I come back to Forno Alpi Graie. Easter lunch is waiting for me and it wouldn't be nice to make my guests wait!
How to photograph ibexes in Val Grande? Let's say immediately that these ungulates are relatively easy to photograph because they are quite confident in humans and for their mainly diurnal activity, which does not force the photographer to rise up absurdly soon.
In Val Grande they are present especially in the valley of Sea and in valley of the Gura. In spring, adult and sub-adult males drop a lot in altitude (females and young generally stay at higher altitudes) and can be seen in the immediate vicinity of Forno Alpi Graie. Last year, for example, a herd of about twenty males, with some really impressive specimens, grazed near the bridge that leads to the staircase leading to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Loreto.
During the summer they are much higher and it is not uncommon to meet them near the Daviso refuge and the Soardi bivouac.