A day in Creux-du-Van

This sunday I decided to go to Creux-du-Van, a stunning natural area known for its impressive rock arena, as well as for its rather tame population of Alpine Ibex, which has been reintroduced in the reserve in the 60's. Chamois and even lynx are also resident of this fantastic natural landscape.

It was my second time there, but this time I really wanted to spend the whole day exploring the reserve. With 25 square kilometers, it is the largest nature reserve in the Canton of Neuchâtel. I took the train from Geneva to Noiraigue, and then hiked all the way up to the top of the 160 meter high cliffs. It is an easy 1h30 hike.

My main goal of the day was to spend time enjoying the beginning of the rut of the Alpine Ibex, but I was more than delighted to see this beautiful Chamois on my way up! It is my best encounter with this species so far.

chamois-creux-du-van-switzerland

Once at the top, a group of female and young Ibex were feeding on the plateau.

alpine-ibex-creux-du-van-switzerland

After observing them for a while, I decided to leave them alone and walked along the edge. What a good idea it was, I spotted my first Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria)!!

Walking back, I noticed a female Ibex resting in the sun right at the edge of the cliff. I contemplated this moment for a few minutes. Suddenly, her yound appeared from "nowhere" and sat down right by her side. They peacefully enjoyed the afternoon sun together. A sight I can never forget.

alpine-ibex-female-and-young-creux-du-van-switzerland

It is only at about 3pm than a few males arrived and started to parade for the females. I did not see any fight between males. Light was getting better and better and the show was fascinating, even though it is clearly not as graceful as some bird species parade such as the Mute Swans or the Great Crested Grebes. The male would follow the female closely, stretching his nostrils, sticking his tongue out and pulling his head back.

I was laying on the floor, trying to be as discrete and invisible as possible. Then I noticed a female and a young approaching from afar. The female joined the small group, but the young remained at distance.

It then walked to and on the small rock wall for the last few minutes of direct sunlight. It was another surreal moment.

young-alpine-ibex-sunset-creux-du-van-switzerland

Then it went down the cliff to find a shelter for the night. It was time for me to go.

sunset-creux-du-van-switzerland

Some local wildlife photographers would say that Creux-du-Van is not really worth it because the Alpine Ibex can be approchaed way more easily than in the Alps for example, that they are not that wild, etc etc...

These animals are 100% wild : they live in an open wild nature reserve, they are not artificially bred, they are not fed by humans. I personally see it more as a fantastic example of how animals resilient can be when we stop harming them and their habitat.

This day spent in Creux-du-Van was exceptional for me. I hope to go back soon.

JAG