Autumn in the heart of the Dolomites National Park in Belluno

— text and pictures by Ivan Mazzon, translation by Barbara Falsetto

The days have grown shorter and the temperature has dropped. As I tread between beech trees the Summer just passed runs through my mind. It flew by. With hiking boots on my feet and a backpack on my shoulders I keep running after my projects – far from their completion – sometimes with Bruno and Roberto, photographer friends and colleagues, and sometimes alone. Compared to a few months ago when the heat drained me, this cool breeze caresses my face and keeps the strain at bay.
The vegetation has suddenly changed its clothing, the morning mist covers the landscape with a delicate veil. The small inhabitants of the woods prepare for the arrival of Winter: some gather supplies to feed themselves when the offerings get low, while others prepare for a long slumber or are still looking for a refuge.

Love calls
During the damp days of October it’s easy to find a small inhabitant of the woods. With their flashy yellow and black, the spotted salamander can mostly be found while under 1000 meters. My hike goes past the beech trees where the landscape transforms and the old beeches make way for the larches. These trees love the cold and are the only conifers to lose their needles, but not before having reached their maximum splendor covering the forest in a yellow blanket.
The mountain has again fallen into silence. The hikers have gone, and for those, who like me, live the mountain in every season, each month holds surprises and discoveries. As a passionate photographer and naturalist I observe the fauna and study habits and behavior. Autumn is a rich period for this, brief but intense like the Spring.
From the deep valley to the peaks ancient calls of love can be heard, as stags compete for does. Whoever has the deeper call wins, but if this isn’t enough a physical confrontation ensues, which in some cases can lead to the death of a contender.

I leave the larches behind, and reach high-altitude pastures, these too having changed colour, and yellow dominates. Among the scrubs in the distance I hear movement; I take out my binoculars, an inseparable companion forever hanging about my neck. I see two male mouflons who are following a female. The period of love draws near for them too, and the adult males contend for the right to mate. A few young ones, cunningly manage to pass unobserved. This ungulate arrived following a history of reintroduction of the species and is now very common. Besides man, it has no particular enemy, but something is about to change, naturally.

In my own company
I climb higher, towards the sweet crests from where I can better observe the environment that surrounds me, forever hoping to make some interesting sightings. From this perspective one can see more clearly the change in seasons. I am in the heart of the Dolomites National Park in Belluno: my second home. At times the wind is intense and the weather changes suddenly, black clouds rushing in from the West bringing rain and sleet. It’s not uncommon to see the snow falling in this season; a white veil that contrasts with the warm colours of Autumn, a scene that reminds everyone that Winter is near. Tonight I will sleep in a shelter, in my own company, and wonder about my projects and animals, waiting for the following day when I can start walking again.

Ivan Mazzon / Photographer and Naturalist

Photographer and naturalist by passion. He has always been greatly attracted to the world of animals, which brought him to travel to various countries in Europe, Africa and America, photographing fauna in its habitat. Currently his work is principally carried out on his mountains, in the Belluno area and the Dolomites National Park in Belluno, where he collaborates as a volunteer in various research, monitoring and census projects. Such work is accompanied by naturalist photography as an instrument of divulgation, being convinced that only that which one knows, one can protect. Ivan also carries out awareness projects through photography exhibitions and conferences. Since 2017 he has been a member of the Veneto Fauna Association which awarded him a grant for studying snakes (Vipera ammodytes) in Veneto. - www.ivanmazzon.com

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