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.

Whilst the focus was undoubtedly going to be the bailouts birds found on Kerkini’s lake & in the surrounding wetlands, we hoped to photograph some of the other iconic birds. These included bee-eaters, hoopoe, storks & little owls. It would be fair to say that nature thwarted us for two of these species, but we were told of a hoopoe nest within one of the buffalo farms adjacent to the river so it seemed churlish not to pay it a visit. The result was several hours of hoopoe watching & photography.
Fabulous sunrises on several mornings led to dramatic scenes. We already knew that the mountains, lake & pelicans could inspire dramatic scenes from our winter trips, but as we sat in the boat waiting on the golden light to arrive, there was a palpable sense of anticipation.
We were fortunate enough to come across a nest of storks within the village of Kerkini itself & spent some time photographing & just watching the parent feeding the chicks. Sometimes, it is good to put the camera down & just marvel at the wonder of nature. We felt privileged to have been able to witness this gentle interaction in this little stork family.
Squacco herons hunt & feed by standing very patiently & perfectly still, whilst waiting for prey to approach. They feed during the day but especially concentrates on crepuscular foraging, which can start an hour before sunrise, which is when we encountered them, & last until 90 minutes after sunset. These herons were so full of character & photogenic & presented us with many photographic opportunities from reflections to behaviour.
Lake Kerkini is home to two species of pelican. The famous Dalmatian Pelican & the White Pelican. We were able to get quite close to this particular White Pelican as it floated serenely on the waters of the submerged forest. They may not be as stunning or pre-historic looking as the Dalmatian Pelican but there is something about their colouring & features that make them endearing.
Steen said “what an absolutely amazing trip to Kerkini! I was excited to experience a different season & Lake Kerkini in early Summer did not let us down.”

Thanks to Steen for sharing his wonderful images with us.


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.

The Winter Birds of El Taray

One of the Harriers poses on a small tree stump in front of the hides on the photography estate photographed at the Winter Raptors of Toledo photography holiday at El Taray

During early-November 2019, after our Polar Bear trip & before I headed out to Costa Rica to run multiple trips back to back,I headed to Toledo in Spain, to the estate of El Taray, this is the estate that is our base for our summer trips that encompass a massive variety of species & also the Winter Birds of El Taray photography holiday – the estate at this time of year is a real mine of gold for those raptor loving photographers. During winter the number of harriers present on the estate increases & several other species become bolder or make use of El Taray to spend winter upon – it is not only raptors that make use of the estate, there are impressive starling murmurations – that have to be witnessed to be believed – & a large population of cranes also make use of the pools of El Taray, which of course have hides strategically positioned in adjacent positions.

Although I was only on the estate for two mornings & one afternoon, the species present meant that I left the trip with a massive amount of fantastic images of the raptors of the estate – including some that I was not expecting to see – & two that I hoped to see but had crossed my fingers for.
First up, the harriers, in the summer, these birds are plentiful, in the winter, even more so, but not only that, they look magnificent in new plumage – they are also emboldened by their higher numbers!
While it is reasonable to see the harriers at the hides & area specifically for them at all times of the year … during the winter, due to their emboldened state, they are frequently found at the other raptor hides in higher numbers than in the summer months … & are not afraid to stand up to most of the larger raptors!
The bulk of the harriers observed on the estate were marsh harriers; these are birds of prey of the harrier subfamily. Marsh Harriers are medium-sized raptors & the largest and broadest-winged harriers; it is only when they come soaring into the area of the hide that you realise how significant their wingspan is! Indeed, within the estate of El Taray, the harriers are most commonly found across the marshlands or hunting above the dense reedbeds.

From within the hides, the marsh harriers are first spotted flying low over reedbeds which form the backdrop to the hides, with their wings raised in the prominent & characteristic ‘V’ shape. However, the images above & below were captured at the location which is mainly the domain of the larger raptors & eagles.

An unexpected visitor to the hides was the red kite; I had no idea that this species was making use of El Taray during the winter. I was very lucky to observe the kites at both locations; firstly at the hide mainly used by the larger birds such as the Bonelli’s Eagle but then the following afternoon at the hide used primarily by the marsh harriers; on both occasions, the kites were reasonably bold, notably at the marsh harrier hide a squabble broke out, from which the kite was momentarily victorious – I say momentarily as the harrier left having been beaten, but return minutes later with several other marsh harriers to see the kite off!
Like the harriers, the red kites appeared to be in fresh plumage, which made them look fantastic from any angle, but none better than looking down their back at all the rich detail of their feathers!
Whilst at the eagle hide, the kite present was very interested in what was going on around it, I was later told that the birds had only arrived a few days previous & as such were still finding their feet.
The behaviour of the kites at the marsh harrier hides was far more bold – although they still stayed in the background areas & did not come that far forwards – thank goodness for lenses with a long reach!
Also present. although mainly at the eagle site, were buzzards, but sadly in comparison to the marsh harriers with their piercing eyes and the red kites, they were not as exciting or active.
Now we reach the big visitors to the estate, years ago, when El Taray was a shooting estate, most of the raptors had left, in the last 24 months when Bonelli’s Eagles first returned to the estate, it was a subject for much celebration, now with them being established visitors to the hides their return should be shouted about, it just goes to show that given the right circumstances, nature will recover & make use of the environment made available to it
There are several separate Bonelli’s Eagles that visit the hides – & more besides can be observed on the estate – meaning this as a population is growing well, for much of 2018 & 2019, they were the kings of the estate, but in the latter months of 2019, they have had to learn to share with the new visitors to Taray.
The new visitors are in the form of Imperial Eagles – again a species not even present when this was a shooting estate – but now they have returned & hopefully they will be an ongoing part of the wintering population of the Winter Birds of El Taray.
The bird that is the crowning glory of the winter visitors, in my opinion, is the Goshawk when the Goshawk decides to enter the area in front of the hides, every other bird becomes wary, when the Goshawk finally takes to a perch, everything else keeps its distance or leaves – hardly surprising as the Goshawk is pure aggression, it arrives, it scans the area & it eats – nothing gets in its way!
In 2020, you can join Dan to capture images of these amazing raptors for yourself, we have a trip heading out at the end of January, you will spend time on the estate in the hides, but even better you will stay on the estate itself in the estate main house on a full-board basis – this is priced at £1699 per participant for a holiday of 5-night duration, the dates for the trip are between the dates of 29th January – 3rd February 2020.


22 Images from the awesome Zimanga Wildlife Hides

A backlit portrait of a yawning lion photographed during the NaturesLens Zimanga Wildlife Hides and Safaris photography tour

In September 2019, I led our second trip of the year to make use of the main reserve & Zimanga wildlife hides in South Africa. Our photography tour is a combination of hide photography & traditional game drives, with the main attraction being the overnight hides & the opportunities that may present itself.

The Big Five can be photographed here but on this particular occasion, the leopard eluded us. More on that story later!
Our first game drive set the tone for the remainder of the trip – we walked with a pair of cheetah brothers. This is a truly breathtaking experience – there are no words to describe what a privilege it was to be in the company of these stunning, graceful predators.
The following morning saw our first hide session in the Scavenger Hide. The set-up is meticulous, the hide has been positioned to give photographers a clean background. As you look out of the hide, there are two perches, one to the left & one to the right. Both have been positioned for the 300mm lens – you don’t need long lenses here at Zimanga.
The Scavenger Hide is popular with canids & birds of prey like vultures & tawny eagles. And, it would seem, hornbills too!
We encountered the first of the Big Five during our afternoon game drive – the elephant. We were mindful that we had strayed into their territory but they seemed to be perfectly relaxed & not the least bothered by our presence.
The following morning saw us in one of the birdbath hides. If you love birds, this is the hide for you! We had visits from blue waxbills, oxpecker, cape glossy starling & even a brown hooded kingfisher, to name but a few of the species. Quelea, yellow fronted canary, Jamieson’s fire finch, coucal, & Black-capped bulbul were also frequent visitors.
Our first overnight hide session was in Tamboti. We had many visits from another of the Big Five – the Cape Buffalo. They may not be as glamorous or as highly sought after like the lions or even the leopard, but they make for a pretty stunning subject.
Activity at the Lagoon Hide was quieter than normal, so we used this opportunity for some photography tuition, assisted by a very obliging black crake, green-backed heron & even a crocodile!
Our next overnight session was in Umgodi. We didn’t have to wait long before the first visitors arrived – the nyala. Later on in the evening, we would be visited by the third member of the Big Five – the Rhinoceros. As you can see, their horns have been removed to protect these gentle herbivores from poachers.
It has to be said that photographing from the overnight hides is very addictive! It can also be very tiring but the rewards are worth it. These state of the art hides are equipped with wifi, flushing toilet, beds, kitchenette furnished with a microwave & fridge to ensure that your time in the hide is as comfortable as possible.
The modus operandi for using the overnight hides is to arrive around 3.30 pm so that you have the opportunity to photograph from the afternoon to sunset, through the night, to sunrise. We were fortunate to have warthog & rhinos visit by day & it was a real treat to be able to observe their behaviour up close & personal.
Everyone in the group had opted for an extra activity in the form of a backlit session with the lions. Judging from the photos I have seen, I think I can safely say that it was a huge success.
Our trip to the Zimanga wildlife hides was coming to an end but we had not yet managed to photograph the elusive leopard. When we were offered the opportunity to have another go in Tamboti, we jumped at the chance! As the saying goes, “you have to be in it, to win it.”
We didn’t get the leopard. Instead, we were treated to visits from hyena, nyala bull, hare & a serval cat! On our way back to the lodge for breakfast, we came across the sub-adult lions. It was the perfect end to a perfect trip.


To photograph the awesome wildlife of Zimanga for yourself, join Pui Hang, in South Africa for the 1st – 8th May 2020 for a 7-night photography trip. With photography opportunities in traditional open jeeps & specially designed hides at water level, including an overnight hide, this tour will give you unrivalled exposure to the wildlife.

The photography holiday is offered on a full board, shared basis. Group size for this photography holiday is a minimum of 6 participants & a maximum of 6, plus Pui Hang
All the details of the Zimanga Wildlife Hides & Safaris Photography Holiday are available on the dedicated event page & it’s priced at the rather super price of £2999 at the moment.

16 images showing the diversity of the Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria

A pair of Eastern Green lizard both Male Female together photographed during the NaturesLens Reptiles Amphibians of Bulgaria Photography Holiday

Carl attended our inaugural trip to photograph the Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria earlier this year & came back with some stunning shots.

Although frogs & snakes were the target species on this tour, there were opportunities to photograph mammals & wildflowers as well. Carl captured this super-cute image of a hedgehog during one of the night photography sessions.
There is no need for big lenses on this trip. A macro lens such as the Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro USM is perfect & a tripod would also be useful. A wide-angle lens would also come in handy if you fancied capturing some landscapes or getting creative with your wildlife shots.
You will spend time looking for newts & frogs such as the Danube Crested Newt on the shores of the Danube River before heading into the Vitosha Mountain to capture images of high mountain species such as Slow Worm & Alpine Newt.
Our tour is designed to help you capture images of common species as well as rare species & species with a limited distribution such as this Krotschky’s Gecko.
Thanks to Carl for allowing us to share some of his beautiful images. See you again in October!
If you would like to photograph these stunning reptiles & amphibians, we still have a few places available on our 2020 trip. You can find the details here.

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.

During early spring the frogs gather in breeding ponds or swamps where the males call to attract the females. The noise at these ponds is just incredible & almost deafening as these little frogs all call together. Once the breeding season has finished, they all disperse back across the areas.
We encountered this little frog in a few places, from near the Danube Delta down to the south near Kresna Gorge. They are the most easily recognisable of the frog species found in Bulgaria & the most fun to photograph be it during the day or at night.

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.
Smooth Snakes (Cornonella Austriaca) grow up to around 70cm in length & feed mainly on lizards. However, they will feed on other snakes & even vipers securing their prey by constriction. They are ovoviviparous, meaning the embryos develop & hatch from the eggs within the female. Up to 9 juveniles are born in late August or September.
The Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax) can grow up to 100cm & are slender snakes with beautiful markings. They are almost entirely crepuscular or nocturnal & may be found climbing walls or rocky outcrops in search of lizards, with geckos being their primary prey. They are venomous but rarely bite.
Dice Snakes (Natrix Tessellata) grow up to 100cm but can be up to 130cm. They are both diurnal & nocturnal feeding mainly on fish. The female will lay between 5 to 37 eggs which will hatch out in August/September. Again we didn’t find an adult but found a couple of juveniles which certainly had the cute factor.
Eastern Montpellier Snakes (Malpolon Insignitus) grow up to 200cm & are a sturdy, formidable mostly diurnal thermophilous snake. They are a fast predator that actively hunts its prey, which consists of other reptiles, birds or mammals. They are venomous but rear-fanged. We only found a juvenile of this species, but they are far more beautiful with colourful markings along with their large eyes making them adorable.
The Nose-Horned Viper (Vipera Ammodytes) grows up to around 65cm & are easily recognisable due to the horn on the snout. They are diurnal & also crepuscular with adults feeding mainly on mammals or lizards with the juveniles feeding on arthropods. They are highly venomous with both neurotoxic & cytotoxic components. If disturbed, they will hiss but typically only bite if handled or stepped on.
Photographing snakes can be a challenge as they move fast & have very reflective eyes. But spending time watching them pays off & allows you to capture their beauty. If you are lucky, you can get the tongue flicker too. Snakes are a real favourite subject of mine & furthermore, very rewarding to photograph.

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.

On arriving in Sofia, we headed north stopping at a couple of locations on the way to search for different species. Although we only found a young wall lizard, we did find a few scorpions under stones. Our first hotel for the night was in the Vratsata Gorge which had the most stunning views of the mountains. After a delicious dinner, we headed off to see if we could find anything around the area.
The next morning it was off to Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park, just a short scenic drive up into the mountains in search of newts & frogs at a pond. While Georgi was searching for amphibians, we took the opportunity to capture images of some of the numerous early wildflowers & even invertebrates that were on the plateau before photographing smooth & great crested newts in an aquarium.
After lunch, it was time to head further north up to the Danube river to spend the whole day & evening exploring the area. The first site we stopped at we were treated to European tree frogs calling & had the chance to see a few in & around the water. Sadly, there was no real opportunity to get decent images. We would return to this site later to set some newt traps in the hope of finding the Danube Crested Newt & other frogs & toads. In the meantime, we headed off to another site where we encountered a young Caspian whip snake & young dice snake along with Eastern green lizards & fire-bellied toads. With the light fading, it was time to head back to site one where it had started to rain. Just a light rain but it was enough to bring out the common spadefoot toads & European tree frogs. After a long but eventful day, it was time to head to the hotel for dinner & bed.
The next morning, we headed back to check the traps & to photograph the European tree frog & Spadefoot toad along with Danube Crested Newts that we found in the traps. Alongside photographing the different species, we had the opportunity to learn all about the habitats & the various amphibians & reptiles before releasing them back where we found them.
Post lunch it was time to hit the road making a couple of stops on the way to Sofia. That evening, there was the option to head out on a night walk to a pond up the hill from the hotel in search of fire salamanders, common frogs & common toads & we were not disappointed. There was a chance to do some more night photography on-site & then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
First stop was the pond from the night before where we found some more fire salamanders & frogs. We headed further up in the forest & had the chance to photograph a female fire salamander by a waterfall & to take some in wide-angle habitat shots. We had lunch back at the hotel before heading up to explore Vitosha mountain plateau, checking out hibernacula for adders & a breeding pond for frogs. Unfortunately, following a hard winter, much of the ground was still covered with snow! We decided to head down the mountain & got lucky finding a smooth snake & slow worm. After dinner, we headed back to the pond to set some newt traps, where we also found a baby salamander from last year, & then it was time for an early night!
After checking the traps, we hit the road. We made a couple of stops on the way to Kresna Gorge via Kyustendil close to Osogovo Mountain. One of these stops was a breeding pond where hundreds of alpine newts gather to breed every year. This gave us an excellent opportunity to photograph these beautiful newts in the aquarium. The next stop we finally found a couple of young sand lizards, one male & two females, & spent a fun couple of hours photographing them & some more wildflowers. As it was raining heavily, we opted for an early night in preparation for the next few days exploring Kresna Gorge & Sandanski areas.
On the road again & our first stop on the way to Kresna turned out to be quite a successful one. We found a female cat snake which after photographing, we measured & recorded all the details; a young & stunning Montpellier snake & both male & female wall lizards; & all in a lay-by off the main road! Post lunch we set off to explore the other side of the road in the warm sunshine, finding several Herman’s tortoises & a couple of swallowtail butterflies. Following the path round, we came across a praying mantis & finally found adult & young Greek Stream frogs which we had great fun photographing in the stream. The next few hours we spent photographing green toads, looking for lizards & frogs & setting up newt traps before heading back to the hotel.
We found both male & female Balkan crested newt & a couple of tree frogs in the newt traps so we spent some time photographing them before grabbing some lunch & heading off in search of snakes. Georgi found nose-horned vipers, along with a yellow-bellied toad & agile frog. Before heading for dinner, we set some more traps close to the Greek border.
After dinner, we headed to a thermal pool area which has a good population of Syrian spadefoot toads which we found a few of, along with some green toads, European tree frogs & hedgehogs which gave us the chance for some night photography.
Our last full day started with the usual checking of the newt traps, which came up empty. So, we went in search of lizards & anything else that we could find. Eventually, as the sun came out, we found both male & female Eastern wall lizards. It was great to see the sexual dimorphism between them.
We spent the afternoon back at the thermal pool photographing the Syrian spadefoot toads both in the open & as they buried themselves in the sand & searching for terrapins & had great fun trying to photograph them. Post lunch, & replenishing energy supplies, we headed off in search of snakes & lizards at another site but came up empty. However, did have the chance to photograph Lycosa tarantula (tarantula wolf spider).
After what has been an incredible trip with so many highlights, it was time to go home.
By the end of the trip, we had found & photographed 33 species of reptile & amphibian along with butterflies, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets & wildflowers. All in all, it was a hugely successful trip.


To photograph the Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria yourself, join Victoria, in Sofia during April 2020 for a trip lasting seven nights. This photography holiday is ideal for taking photo opportunities with up to 20 species of amphibians & 37 species of reptiles!

The photography holiday is offered on a half board, non-shared basis. Group size for this photography holiday is a minimum of 3 participants & a maximum of 7, plus Victoria.
All the details of the Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria photography holiday are available on the dedicated event page.

21 fabulous images of the wildlife of the estate of El Taray

Locked in the stare of a harrier an example of the wildlife of Laguna del Taray that may be photographed during our Spanish Wildlife Birdlife of Toledo Photography Holiday

This was my first visit to the hide network that David had spent a year raving about; this hide network facilitates photography of the wildlife of the estate of El Taray & I was blown away by the accommodation, the setting & the wildlife.

Once you come to the end of the 4km dirt track from the main road you pull through some gates & the sweeping walls of the ex-hunting estate welcome you as tens of swallow explode out of the old stable block that is now used for car storage. The inside is very traditional & combined with the excellent home cooking, wine & sangria really sets the scene for a beautiful week in rural Spain.
The estate is now turned back fully to nature with no hunting & as a consequence the wildlife of the estate of El Taray has really bounced back with several raptor species doing well & some super mammals even cropping up on trial cams!
The raptor hides provide loads of opportunities for marsh harriers & common buzzards, if you’re lucky something even more special can turn up too!
There are some great European pin-ups on offer too with several reliable roller hides & hoopoes popping up in front of just about every hide! In fact, I’d never seen so many, hoopoes were extremely common on the estate.
One of my favourite hides was, of course, the lesser kestrels. These tiny birds are incredibly entertaining as they bring prey back for their semi-fledged young lined up on the roof. The constant activity is enough to keep even the most conservative shooter firing multiple frames a second!
This year was unusually dry which meant a lot of the water hides couldn’t be used, however, the water holes are kept filled to the brim & these proved to be fantastic with loads of visitors throughout all the sessions. These were the hides that left photographers a bit worn out because of the endless opportunities to capture. A week with the wildlife of Laguna del Taray can only be described as a brilliant experience & the images shown both above & below are just a small selection to give an idea of the variety!
I’ll be returning in January 2020, for the Winter Raptors & can’t wait to see the changes & variation over the seasons!


To photograph the Spanish Wildlife & Birdlife of Toledo during the Winter, join Dan, in Spain during January 2020 for a trip lasting 5 nights. 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 of the estate, that call Laguna del Taray their home during the winter months.

This winter 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 September 13th 2019, there is a special offer of £1699 available.
All the details of the Winter Raptors of Toledo photography holiday are available on the dedicated event page.
However, should you wish to visit this magnificent hide network during the summer, then you can join Alan, in Spain during June & July 2020 for a trip lasting 7 nights. This photography holiday is ideal for photographing a vast variety of Spanish Birds, including common buzzard, common reed warbler, common sandpiper, crested lark, hoopoe, Iberian hare, lesser kestrel, little owl, harriers of varying type, spotless starling, starling, stone curlew, wild rabbit & more besides!
The summer photography holiday is also 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 Alan. Until September 13th 2019, there is a special offer reducing the price to £2249 available.
All the details of the Spanish Birdlife of Toledo photography holiday are available on the dedicated event page.