“A man of Murcia in the Shetlands.”

Javier Coll is one of the most important contributors to our project and Southeast vivo. Great photographer and naturalist with extensive knowledge of the nature of the southeast Iberian and avifauna. But above all, Javier Coll is a magnificent nature illustrator, a complete artist brimming with art and nature from every pore of his skin with every stroke and every one of his photos. This time he traveled with his camera and his brushes to the cold shores of northern Scotland to bring us this report.

© Javier Coll

We know you’re a crazy wildlife enthusiast and nature from an early age but, was there a turning point in your childhood or youth to determine that passion?

From my point of view I think that there was no turning point. For whatever reason grew within me a lively interest in nature, the fact that many weekends we went out to the countryside with family I guess reaffirmed my passion. I remember very young, my brother and I ran like crazy to watch TV programs “Man and Earth” by Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente, when we heard the music program presentation. And if there really was a turning point was when he fell into our hands, being 10 or 11 years old, a little book called “The Birds”, black and white, but very worthy drawings, in which my brother and I started obsessively identify any feathered creature. Soon our bird guide book was short, our interest in learning species led us to achieve more complete bird guides ( full of exciting drawings), and after many trips to the countryside and the mountains there was a progressive approach, a growing interest in wildlife.

When did this passion for nature move to photography?

In the 90 I bought a film camera with two zoom lenses, one of them was a 70-200mm. In each excursion to the countryside I was trying to photograph birds. I remember specifically a trip to “El Hondo” which I scored a lot, because when I took the photos there I could identify some ducks.  I was already drawing animals since childhood, so I saw in the photographic technique a new way of research and knowledge for my love of drawing birds. As I saw with my camera could not zoom in enough, I opened a new way by discovering the digiscoping.

Landscapes or birds?, Do you prefer to photograph?

I’ve always preferred the birds, for the life that passed, and I love the color, variety and ease of observation. Lately the landscape also interests me, as is the medium in which they grow and live animals and shows us with some clues, we can decipher with sufficient knowledge, the kind of life that sustains both fauna and vegetation.

You’ve tried different photography techniques as: hide, digiscoping … which one do you prefer to photograph birds?

Each has its advantages. To take good photos there is nothing like putting a hide and take pictures with a good camera lens and SLR camera.
For birds that are at a distance, as in the shore, digiscoping technique is very good. But I also like  approaching to  birds just walking; although this doesn´t give me the best  results -at least with my equipment-, it does give the satisfaction of approaching animals and “hunt” in their habitat.

What equipment you used or which equipment currently hold? Anything to add to the debate between Nikon and Canon?

Like I said before, I first analog reflex camera not too much quality, then I bought a telescope and a Nikon digital compact camera, with which I digiscoping, and later took the leap to digital SLR with a Canon 300d, sigma-apo  70-300 lens, which gave me great satisfactions, then I’ve changed  lens and cameras to increase quality, and still with Canon, I do not think one brand is superior to another.

Is there a bird or group that interests you most? Why?

For me, and I’m not very original , my favorite group are the birds of pray, for their speed, their beauty and power. Watching an eagle in its environment still fascinates me, and some of the most touching  visions of nature for me were  hunting scenes where birds of prey played the main role. Waders, because of their variety and relative ease of observation also interest me, and passerine birds, with which I iniciated, are also among my favorites.

You are an expert on both Murcia and iberian nature … you recommend any particular place to enjoy wildlife?

It is hard to choose … In Murcia we are lucky to find great sites for observation and enjoyment of wildlife, as the  San Pedro Salinas and the Mar Menor, or even Guadalentin plains. Out of Murcia, Extremadura my favorite sites would, in whose meadows life bustles  like in few sites already, and the Sierra del Segura and Cazorla, with many possibilities for hiking and wildlife observation.

What would you tell us about the journey you show in this gallery? Why Shetland?

I wouldn´t be able to tell you what this journey meant for me even if a had a whole page available for it, being in a place so full of wildlife as the Shetlands. For example, if you’re in the right place you can have in front of you a kittiwake colony, next to you a  few seals swimming close to shore or simply resting, and at the same time you may see at your back  another puffin and fulmar colony, in the meantime a colony of great skuas and Arctic terns may be hovering above your head. Of course is the site with more birds I’ve seen in my life by far. Here is   the largest colony of great skua in Europe, and the second most numerous, if I’m not mistaken, of gannets. There you also can see  the largest colony of picofino Phalarope, besides numerous colonies of common murres and puffins. It is certainly an unforgettable experience.
Also I would like to highlight the incredible docility of birds in the Shetlands. Due to the small population of the islands and the absence of discomfort, the birds that are usually difficult to approach anywhere else are at your fingertips in these islands.

Besides photography your true passion is the naturalist illustrations you develop in a more or less professional. What have been your most outstanding publications and where you can we see them or consult?

I have made some minor publications such as posters, stickers, informative booklets, brochures. Also large format notebooks in separate sheets describing the Special Protection Areas, published by the Ministry of Environment of Murcia. I also made:

– Illustrations from the book ” Diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey of the region of Murcia“, published by the Ministry of Environment of the region of Murcia.

– Illustrations of the book “Natural heritage and power lines in the region of Murcia“, published by the Ministry of Environment of the region of Murcia.

– Home and illustrations from the book “Manual of good practice hunter“, also published by the same Ministry of Environment of the region of Murcia.

– Illustrations from the book “Ecology and Conservation of European Forest-Dwelling Raptors” published by Diputación Foral de Vizcaya.

Currently working on a project to make a bird identification guide.

How does the eye of an artist / illustrator in the picture or vice versa?

Well, I would like to think that I have a special sensibility to find the beauty in nature, although it is not me who should say so but  others. As an illustrator and amateur photographer I find myself in this second role an invaluable tool to obtain information to adapt to my illustrations, for example on anatomy.

Who are your teachers or your references in this painting and nature photography?

As for photografy I have no reference author. As for the painting and illustrations  my role models in Spain are: Manuel Sosa and Juan Varela, to highlight some; in  the rest of the world I admire Lars Johnson, Roger Bateman and Peter Hayman, whom I have the good fortune to meet and whom I usually accompany on some  birdwatching outings.

Interview by  J. M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia / Sureste Vivo)




All images are subject to Copyright @ Javier Coll and may not be used in any form of media or publication before prior permission.

“Birders Around The World” is an idea promoted by the Association Southeast Alive (Sureste Vive) through the Project Birdingmurcia.