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Dan’s images from the Winter Birds of El Taray

A lone Marsh Harrier stares intently at the photography hides within the estate of El Taray in Spain photographed during the NaturesLens Winter Birds of Toledo photography holiday

This was my second visit to the estate of El Taray, but the first time I have visited during winter. The contrast was fantastic with temperatures exceeding 35C in summer, but now, in winter we were looking at sub-zero misty mornings. The summer migrants have gone, but the raptors have swelled in numbers & the bearded tits are making use of the food on offer – if anything, winter makes the setting even more impressive!

While the Winter Birds of Toledo photography holiday offers a vast range of raptors, I loved photographing the bearded tits. They are incredibly tame & continuously active in front of the hide giving great opportunities for a range of photos including what became known as ‘The Money Shot’ amongst the guests – an adult male strangled between two reeds. Not an easy shot because of their speed but there are lots of chances to nail it & with a few goes in the same hide most people were able to hone their focus & get the shot!
The hide is in a vast reedbed, so there are excellent opportunities for something smaller in the frame as well as natural feeding behaviour on the reed heads surrounding the hide. Other species visit too, including Spanish sparrow. bluethroat & cetti’s warbler.
The constant stream of visitors makes this an energetic hide, knowing which way to point your camera is the biggest challenge, & that’s no bad problem to have! There are so many opportunities, especially once the sun casts warm light over the scene in front.
Of course, we were all here for the eagles, myself & the guests had an incredible visit from a Bonelli’s Eagle, the bird fed in front of the hide for well over an hour. It sent everything else scattering when it arrived! Once the eagle had fed & moved on the marsh harriers returned & put on a brilliant display in gorgeous light. The flight path of the harriers became relatively predictable, so flight shots were not too tricky. We also had lovely opportunities with buzzards & a hen harrier as well as small passerines such as this water pipit, a species usually tough to find & photograph in the UK.
The setting in front of the hide is lovely and natural, representing the Spanish plains with the odd low tree stumps and picturesque branches. When the Bonelli’s eagle started moving around all the beautiful perches, we couldn’t believe our luck.
Such an impressive and powerful bird and being eye level while it fed on the ground gave a great perspective. The area is an essential place for juvenile dispersal, so there were at least six individuals visiting the estate at the time of our visit.
As the sun sets behind the marsh harrier hide, with the eagle long gone, we were blessed with a moody sky and warm light. This allowed for some striking portraits as well as evenly lit flight shots.
It was a perfect way to end the session there and fill up the few spaces left on our cards after the eagle! This final close up flight shot from the afternoon shows how close they come while swooping in to land either on the ground or one of the perches.
The estate of El Taray is wonderful at any time of year, but with the comfortable temperatures & shorter days, this trip was brilliant. Add in lovely home-cooked food, friendly staff & spacious rooms & there’s no negative. Every evening an impressive starling murmuration would form with the odd flock of cranes also moving over ready to roost. Magic!

PHOTOGRAPH THE WINTER BIRDS OF EL TARAY YOURSELF

To photograph the Winter Birds of El Taray yourself, join Dan, in Spain during January 2021, over 4 ½ days of photography, you will have the use of a collection of brilliant hides to capture images of a range of birds, including the raptors, that call the estate of El Taray their home during the winter months.
Our Winter Birds of El Taray photography holiday is offered on a full board, non-shared basis. Group size for this photography holiday is a minimum of 5 participants & a maximum of 7, plus Dan. Until the end of March 2020, there is a special offer reducing the price to £1599.
All the details of the Winter Birds of Toledo photography holiday are available on the dedicated event page.

10 more stunning images of the Spring Birds of Lake Kerkini

A night heron perched within the dead forest photographed during the Spring Birds of Kerkini photography Holiday conducted by NaturesLens

This is the second of the blog postings from David’s visit to photograph the spring birds of northern Greece in June 2019. The first blog post can be found here.

The squacco heron has replaced the green heron as my favourite comical heron. There’s just something about their features & character that makes me smile whenever I see photos of them. The low perspective really helps to make these two images.
Gorgeous light helped to illuminate the feathers on this cormorant. I think this is my favourite image from all the ones that David sent in.  A simple portrait but the bird just pops & I love all the detail in the feathers.
Lake Kerkini offers very different photographic opportunities in June and it is also a lot warmer! Lazy days gliding on a tranquil lake through a submerged forest filled with an impressive selection of nesting waterbirds.
For those of you who have been to Lake Kerkini with us, you will be pleased to know that we stay at the same hotel that we use for our Dalmatian Pelicans trip. For those of you who have not yet visited Kerkini with us, our hosts provide great hospitality, lots of delicious food and you also get to meet our amazing boatman.
Our guide will be on hand to offer guidance so that you go home with a portfolio of images that you will be proud to show off to your friends and family.
Thanks to David for sharing his wonderful images with us. We hope to see you again soon!

PHOTOGRAPH THE SPRING BIRDS OF LAKE KERKINI YOURSELF

To photograph the Spring Birds of Kerkini yourself, join David, in Greece during June 2020 for a trip lasting five nights. This photography holiday is ideal for photographing a wide variety of migrant & resident birds, including bittern, black stork, cattle egret, cormorant, dalmatian pelican, great crested grebe, great white egret, grey heron, night heron, squacco heron, white pelican, white stork & more!

The photography holiday is offered on a full board, non-shared basis. Group size for this photography holiday is a minimum of 3 participants & a maximum of 7, plus David. Until March 2020, there is a special offer reducing the price to £1599 available.
All the details of the Spring Birds of Lake Kerkini photography holiday are available on the dedicated event page.

Lammergeier and Golden Eagles – Trip report

A Lammergeier soars above the hides wings fully outstretched photographed during the NaturesLens Lammergeier Golden Eagles of Spain photography holiday

Early December, I headed off to Spain with a lovely group of photographers to photograph lammergeiers or bearded vultures, griffon vultures, black vultures and golden eagles in the Pre-Pyrenees of northern Spain. I was especially excited about leading this trip because photographing the lammergeier has long been a dream of mine.

The drive to the base for the hides from the hotel took around 45 minutes. Once off the main road; the drive up was very picturesque with views across the mountains and valleys topped off with some wonderful autumn colours.

On the first day, we all went to the lammergeier hides. This was a short drive or a lovely walk up to the feeding site with a choice of three hides. Each offered a different perspective from the chance to capture close up portraits to wider angle flight shots.

The first visitors were the griffon and black vultures and in huge numbers too. Many waiting patiently and some not so patiently for the food, which is mainly bones. Once the food was put out, there was a feeding frenzy which after a while, settled down. I found that the Canon 500mm f/4 lens was great for in-flight shots and tight portraits but a telephoto zoom would have provided more flexibility.

There are many opportunities to capture the vultures as they fly in, feed, interact with each other and also capture some close up portraits. Once the griffon vultures left, the first of the lammergeiers started to appear.

Lammergeiers (Gypaetus barbatus) are truly fascinating birds. Although they are vultures, they have a very different appearance to other vultures. Not only that but their diet is very different too. Their diet is almost exclusively bones. They swallow the smaller ones which are digested within around 24 hours due to their highly acidic stomachs. The larger ones are carried off and dropped from height to break them open. This behaviour takes around seven years to learn and perfect.

These vultures, like many others, have been persecuted in the past. However, thanks to conservation efforts they are making a slow comeback with around 88% of the European population being found in the Pyrenees. The juvenile birds are much darker in colour and go through several moults until they appear much paler in the head, neck and body. They have an interesting bathing ritual where they rub themselves with iron oxides which give the adults the orange/rusty appearance.

On the second day, four of us opted to visit the golden eagle hides. These hides are a short drive and approximately a 15-minute walk through the woodland.. As we settled in the hides, we had our first glimpse of the male as he soared over the valley. It wasn’t long until he came in to feed.

There is one pair in the area that successfully raised a chick this year, and they have a feeding order. The male comes in first. Once the male had fed, he sat in the tree for a while before leaving. We had some quiet time and then the chick came in, followed by the female. We were fortunate to have all three eagles come in and spend so much time in front of the hides. There were lots of opportunities to capture images of them feeding, flying and interacting with each other. It was non-stop action with the female leaving just before we were collected from the hides.

We were treated to glorious weather for our three days in the hides with blues skies and wonderful light. This area is an important one for vultures and a spectacular place to enjoy both watching and photographing these stunning birds. We all came home with thousands of images to sort through after three action-packed days in the hides.

PHOTOGRAPH LAMMERGEIER & GOLDEN EAGLES FOR YOURSELF

To photograph these stunning raptors for yourself, join Victoria, in Spain in December 2020 for a 4-night photography trip.

The photography holiday is offered on a full board, non-shared basis. Group size for this photography holiday is a minimum of 4 participants & a maximum of 6, plus Victoria. Until the end of February, there is a special offer reducing the price to £1499 available.
All the details of the Lammergeier & Golden Eagles photography holiday are available on the dedicated event page.

10 stunning images of the Spring Birds of Lake Kerkini

A night heron hunts for fish in the shallow waters of Lake Kerkini photographed during the Spring Birds of Kerkini photography Holiday conducted by NaturesLens

David was another attendee on our Spring Birds of Lake Kerkini trip in June 2019. He sent in so many stunning images that we decided to spread them over two blog posts.

A regular NaturesLens client, David has also visited Lake Kerkini with us many times for the iconic Dalmatian Pelicans. In fact, after he visited Lake Kerkini for the second time with us, he asked us, “when are you going to run a trip to photograph the spring birds?”

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9 more images showing off the beautiful birds of Kerkini

An egret perched on one of the submerged trees in the dead forest photographed during the Spring Birds of Kerkini photography Holiday conducted by NaturesLens

This is the second of the blog postings from Steen’s visit to northern Greece during Spring 2019 with us to capture images of the beautiful birds of Kerkini – the first blog post. can be found here.

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8 images of the fabulous Tree Frogs of Bulgaria

A European Tree Frog on a reed photographed during the NaturesLens Reptiles Amphibians of Bulgaria Photography Holiday

The European tree frog (Hyla Arborea) has to be one of the most adorable of all the Tree Frogs of Bulgaria & it is by far my favourite frog. Not only are they super cute & charismatic, but they also change colour! Depending on the temperature they can range from dark grey/brown through to the bright green & this change can happen surprisingly quickly too.

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6 species of snakes found in Bulgaria

A coiled Young Dice Snake photographed during the NaturesLens Reptiles Amphibians of Bulgaria Photography Holiday

During the 2019 Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria Photography Holiday, of the 16, we found 6 species of snakes found in Bulgaria.

The Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis Caspius) can grow up to 200cm in length. They actively hunt their prey which includes small mammals, birds & reptiles & although usually a terrestrial species, they can climb up to around 7m in search of prey. During the tour, we didn’t find any significant adult individuals, only a young one which quite adorable.
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30 images of the diminutive Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria

A Common Spadefoot Toad photographed in Bulgaria during the NaturesLens Reptiles Amphibians of Bulgaria photography holiday

For 2019, Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria was a brand new trip that covers the western side of Bulgaria heading north for a few days before heading south for the rest of the trip. Bulgaria is a real wildlife hotspot thanks to its bio-geographical location. The main targets for this trip are some of 37 species of reptiles & 20 species of amphibians that can be found in Bulgaria. The trip was timed to coincide with many of these species coming out of hibernation & starting their breeding season. The trip allows the exploration of different habitats & territories from the Danube River in the North to the Bulgarian-Greek border in the south, from river banks to high mountain lakes & forests.

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