The winged sultans of Ranthambhore”

Birdingmurcia-Hemraj Meena(a)Hemraj Meena runs an ecotourism project in the small Indian village of Bhuriphari; a place remote from urban areas and close to nature in the surroundings of the Ranthambhore National Park, a territory in the past lived by legendary bandits and where still survives the Bengal tiger.

Considered a gentleman for his clients; reputed as one of the best guides of the National Park and winner of several awards as best birder and trekker in his region, Hemraj is the man behind the noble idea of promoting ecotourism in Ranthambhore worldwide.

C Birdingmurcia-Hemraj Meena
Gallery (part.1)  / (Click right button to enlarge)
© Hemral Meena

Interview with HEMRAJ MEENA

Welcome Hemraj; is a pleasure to have this interview with you. Tell us how started your interest in wildlife.

I born and grown in surroundings of Ranthambhore National Park and closely observed nature and wild life so my interest is from childhood in wildlife.

How is habitual question in our interviews: Can you reveal what equipment you are using to get your pictures?

Canon D1100 body and lens is 70-250.

Birdwatching is always a rewarding activity but work in a place surrounded by tigers should be very exciting …

Both have equal place in sighting, apart from tiger sighting birding is a great activity.

So I’m afraid the animal for which you feel greater passion is the tiger, but I suppose there be place for a bird between your favourite species?

In a national park tiger sightings are for few minutes, I spend my more time in birding after seeing tigers, my favourite bird species are owls.

What is the main objective of your project “Ranthambhore EcoTourism” and what differences it has with other similar projects in your country?

The objective is to save wild life and nature with participation of local individuals around the park.

What role do birds on routes offered by “Ranthambhore EcoTourism” and which are the most interesting species from the point of view of ornithological tourism?

More then 250 different species of birds found in and near Ranthambhore: Demoiselle crane, Painted stork, raptors, rollers or pelicans are found.

As you relate on your website, there are several special places around Ramthambore for ecotourism and birding that have never been taken on a map or popularized by writing … Is this an advantage? Or do you think that more tourists would come if they were more popular sites?

Yes for sure if they are on more popular sites.

Do people in your region, feel the conservation and observation of wildlife as a good opportunity for the development of their economies?

Yes at my place 70 % of economy depend on tourism… so many N.G.O work for conservation and save nature.

You are very critical of those who take the observation of nature as another “consumer product” … But what is your attitude as a guide of wildlife?

As a naturalist and guide my responsibility is to ensure satisfaction of my clients in observing nature and wildlife. And i give all information about wild life and nature.

Gallery (part.1)  / (Click right button to enlarge)
© Hemral Meena

And now, lets talk about tigers. Certainly you are an expert tracking tigers. Do you use any technique or method of individual identification to monitor the tiger population?

Tigers are distinguished by their different stripe patterns. Tracking tigers is a experience which we get by spending more time in parks.

Tell us a especially exciting time during your contacts with the Tigers.

When tigress is with cubs.

What is the present and future of the Bengal tiger?

Good number has been increased in India of Bengal tigers and government doing good job.

Interview by J.M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)
The images that appear in this article are the property of Hemraj Meena; is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.

Logo Ranthambore (web)

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



Tatzpit Birding: Ornithological tourism across Israel”

Fascinated by wildlife and birds since childhood, over a decade of experience guiding tours supports Lior Kislev as an excellent birding guide. From The Golan Heights, Sea of ​​Galilee, the Hula Valley, Bet Shean Valley, to Eilat and Arava Valley and the Dead Sea Wildlife in Israel has no secret for him and in his custom ornithological tours, Lior will guide us through the best habitats to discover some of the best birding areas in the Western Palearctic.

(Click right button to enlarge)
© Lior Kislev

When start your fascination for wildlife and birds, Lior?
I grow up in a Moshav (village) surrounded by birds and mammals and always love them, i can remember going with my mom for searching for Lapwings that i really love when i was 4 years old!

And your interest in wildlife photography? What equipment do you use and what techniques to get your photographs?
I start wildlife photography after seen a Tiger hunting wild boar in India and i had no camera with me, that’s what brought me into wildlife photography.
I started with old Nikon full manual camera and moved to Canon d20 with 100-400 Canon lens. Now days i use Canon 7d with Canon 400 5.6 Lens.

In your website we see an extensive and excellent collection of photographs, including birds, mammals and reptiles … What is the most difficult group to photograph?
The most difficult to photograph are species that are shy and their habitat is thick vegetation where they can hide, for example Warblers, Crakes.

And your favorite group or species?
Its a hard question but from all i think it will be passerines.

You lead a project of birding trips. What is Tatzpit Birding and what services you offer? Do you work full time to ornithological tourism?
Tatzpit birding tours which i lead gives guiding services to tourist and Israeli birders all over Israel and i have 2 groups one for adults and one for youth , this groups meet a few times in a month in different areas for bird watching. Also take bird photographers and birders for private  tours around the country, every tour is planed special for the client after i see his wish list.

On your website, you affirm that, probably, Israel is the best place to see, bird migration in the western Palearctic and also a great  place for wintering birds. What is the cause of the rich diversity of birds in Israel?
The cause of this rich diversity is that Israel is located between 3 continents, Europe, Asia  and Africa so we get here species from all this continents for example,    Black Bush Robin from  Africa, Black Francolin from Asia, and Eleonora’s Falcon from Europe. Israel is also a land bottleneck for soaring birds that use thermals for migration (about 1.500.000). The numbers of all migrants in a season is more than 500.000.000, five hundred million of birds that passes in Israeli sky.
There are many different habitats in Israel: deserts ,wetlands, forest, steppe country and even one snowy mountain.

What are the birds most demanded by your customers? And, what is the main origin of your customers?
Most customers wont to see a large number of species and its possible to see any number between 60 to 120 in a day, depends on the season. Some are looking  for  birds of prey and specialities like Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, Marbeld Duck, Thick billed Lark, Lichtensteins Sandgrouse and overs that we have over here.

How birding guide, what is your opinion about the role that the ornithological tourism can play in the conservation of wildlife and ecosystems?
The main thing is of course education of people to love and save the nature.
Ornithological tourism is slowly growing in Israel and it helps to convince Farmers that have conflict with birds (Pelicans and  Cranes for example) that there is another way to do things and they can make their income from tourism and they don’t have to fight the birds. Its also gives the Israeli birders   some good reasons to show state  authorities when dealing with them about   lost of habitat and conservation.

How is conservation of nature and birds, perceived in a country like Israel? What Is the environmental awareness of the Israelites?
Conservation in Israel is good and all birds are protected by low,  but there is always a way to be more good, there are some  that deal with conservation   and the local media is very helpful when  there’s something to publish. The internet did a big thing for conservation and it helps to make awareness of the issues we are dealing with. For example, after a sad find of  electrified Eastern  Imperial Eagle the  pressure in the news websites helps protect the electric lines that where killing the birds.

What message would you send to other birders in the world, from Israel?
Keep on birding and respect the nature we love so much.

Interview by J.M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)
The images that appear in this article are the property of Lior Kislev; is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.


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



“Working in nature”

I was born in 1976 in Hungary. I’ve always been interested in nature and drawing, but combined these 2 interests only at the age of 20. I became a full-time illustrator and artist in 2001. I’m a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) since 2012. In 2008 I was the ‘Birdwatch Artist of the Year’ by Birdwatch magazine and Swarovski. In 2010 I won the ‘Don Eckelberry Scholarship Award’ of the Society of Animal Artists (this price brought me to Trinidad on a 2 weeks study trip). More on my webpage: http://www.kokay.hu

© Szabolcs Kókay

Have you always been linked to the world of drawing and illustration? When you start to draw birds?
I’ve been drawing in all my life, from my childhood, but started drawing and painting birds seriously only at the age of 20.

How a self-taught artist gets to become a full-time illustrator?
I have been working in nature conservation in Hungary (in BirdLife Hungary and the CITES office). These years were very important for me, I made very important contacts in this field. My first commissions, which helped me to start my full-time career as an artist and illustrator came from national parks, nature-protection organizations, and the Ministry for the Environment.

As an illustrator you are using different techniques, acrylic, watercolor, gouache … Which of them is best suited to drawing birds or your favorite?
For many years I used acrylics. But around 2005 I became less and less satisfied with it, and turned to watercolours (for fieldwork and looser paintings); watercolours with little gouache added (for illustration work); and oils (for bigger paintings on canvas/canvasboard). When I have to work on walls, murals, or on festivals/fairs I go back to acrylics.

Is there any artist that has definitely influenced your training?
I had an old friend in Hungary, Róbert Muray, who was a hunting artist (he died in 2009). He was the very first mentor who helped with honest criticism and advices as a young, beginner artist. His help was very important. I have also learned a lot from other artists, who emphasized the importance of fieldwork. Following their work, asking for advices from them was, and still is very important for my improvement. I must mention Keith Brockie, James Coe, Paschalis Dougalis, Barry van Dusen, Vadim Gorbatov, Lars Jonsson, Chris Rose, John Threlfall, Juan Varela, Darren Woodhead.

And which illustrators inspire you today?
The best bird illustrator nowdays is Ian Lewington. His ability to paint the feather quality of birds is increadible. His birds are even more beautiful than birds in real life. My friend, Paschalis Dougalis has an amazing style of illustrating birds much more in their natural, not so perfectly arranged plumage. I’m trying to find my own way somewhat between these 2 approach.

© Szabolcs Kókay

Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, plants … What group do you prefer to paint, a favorite species in particular?
Definitely birds are my favourite group, but probably because I’m a birdwatcher since my early teenage years. I want to concentrate on mammals also, I think I need a lot of practice depicting this group. Reptiles and amphibians are also close to me. I’m not much a plant illustrator. I have several favourite species. Slender-billed Curlew is probably extinct now, but I had the chance to see one bird in 1996. I have a great advantage depicting this bird compared to photographers, so from time to time I come back to this species. My favourite mammal is Snow Leopard, I’m extremely lucky to have 3 observations on 2 trips to Ladakh in India. I want to paint more this animal in the future.

Do you have a favorite theme when you paint birds?
Difficult to choose. Probably in fieldwork my favourite time is April-June, when I have the chance to sketch singing birds, which return to the same singing post regularly, and pose really nicely. I love getting up early, and being out for the first light when they become active. My absolute favourites are the more plain coloured birds like Nightingale, Reed Warblers, Whitethroat, etc. I love mixing these colours.

Your list of works is very extensive; books, posters, magazines, nature trais, logos… Do you feel particularly proud or satisfied of any of them?
I’m most proud and happy of the poster series of the protected birds of Hungary. That was my first more important commission, when I left the CITES office at the Ministry for the Environment. It was a kind of farewell to my colleagues whom I spent several years there. Also this is the work of mine that I’m encountering most often (in schools, clubs, visitor centers, and even once in a Hungarian crime movie).

You have participated in the realization of several field guides. What are the parameters to illustrate a good bird guide?
The best result can be achieved definitely if I know the birds, I have seen them myself. I’m most satisfied with those bird illustrations, that I have good experience with. Sometimes this experience is lacking, publishers usually don’t pay for study trips to the other side of the World. In such cases it is very important to see video footage of the species I have to illustrate. I can see the character of the birds much better on such moving footage than on still photos.

© Szabolcs Kókay

Of all the countries you’ve visited, which impressed you most from the point of view of an artist of wildlife and a birdwatcher?
Difficult to reply. Ladakh had definitely the biggest impact on me as an artist. The scenery, those immense mountains, the presence of the Snow Leopard were something incredible. Those are my photos taken there that I’m watching the most often, and I feel the urge to go back again in the coming years. As a birdwatcher probably Trinidad was a bigger impact. That is my only trip to the real tropics, the variety and number of birds, and seeing and sketching hummingbirds are amazing memories.

As colaborardor of conservation institutions What is your opinion about the conservation status of birds in Hungary?
BirdLife Hungary and several others smaller organizations are doing a fantastic work in making birds and bird protection (and general nature protection) more and more popular. They make a lot of effort to send this message to the public, and they use bird art in this work more and more. Beside this they have several very important conservation projects concentrating on important species (Great Bustard, Imperial Eagle, Saker, Red-footed Falcon to mention a few). Sadly we experience some extraordinary cases in the last years, the most worrying being poisoning of birds of prey, which hits even one of our most important species, the Imperial Eagle. I hope the strong forces that are working to stop this will be effective.

What qualities requires a good bird illustrator? Any tips for beginners?
Fieldwork! Don’t make the same mistake I have made. I recognized the importance of working in the field very late. I wasted many years. I was working exclusively from photos (both for my illustration and artworks). To paint birds (and anything else) really well, one must have a first-hand experience. It’s very difficult at the beginning, I clearly remember, but it’s worth being dedicated.

Interview by J.M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)
The images that appear in this article are the property of Szabolcs Kokay; is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.
“Birders Around The World” is an idea promoted by the Association Southeast Alive (Sureste Vivo) through the Project Birdingmurcia.

Birding Autumn Tour with “Walking With Wildlife”



LOCAL GUIDES: J. M. Escarabajal; Paul Sparkes

PARTICIPANTS: Mandy West, Steve Harford, Jean McKell, Paul Coombes and Cedric Coombes.


Poster autumn Trip (for web)Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Gadwall , Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Black Kite, Red Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk , Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Iberian Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Merlin, Hobby, Peregrine, Red-legged Partridge, Moorhen, Coot, Crested Coot, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing , Little Stint, Dunlin, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank , Redshank , Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Eagle Owl, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Skylark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Crag Martin, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff , Firecrest, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Southern Grey Shrike,  Great Grey Shrike, Jay, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Raven, Jackdaw, Red-billed Chough, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill , Corn Bunting.


Last year we had the pleasure to welcome Mandy West (tour leader in Walking With Wildlife) who visited our region for our ornithological tourism project and the potential for bird watching in the southeast Iberian. As a result of this first visit we organized a trip for 2013, Birdwatching and photography through the Region of Murcia and some of its neighboring provinces. Here we have the report of an interesting and busy week in southeast region of Spanish  with a group of British birders.

The first day, after picking up our guests at the airport we made our way to the rural accommodation “The Perez B & B,” a nice house in the middle of the countryside in the Campo de Cartagena, on the way stopping at a local bar for tapas and a cold beer! In the afternoon we had our first contact with some of the birds of Murcia (Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler …) and also in a lonely valley at sunset, with got to see an Eagle Owl.

The second day was pretty intense and helped us to meet the extensive Iberian steppes in the south of La Mancha, in an unknown place, where the plains are mixed with small and medium gaps. There you can see a number of different birds, both aquatic and steppe, and also the area is used by many raptors as hunting ground. Thus we enjoyed watching several species, such as Little Owl,  Great Bustard, Black-bellied sand grouse and pin tailed sand grouse, Stone curlew, Flamenco, White-headed duck, Black-necked Grebe and up to 8 different species of raptors, highlighting a small group of Black Kites and at the end of the afternoon, two juvenile Imperial Eagles and a magnificent specimen of Golden Eagle that flew over our heads for several minutes.

The third day it was the turn of wetlands, in a beautiful natural park near the Costa Blanca, where there is an abundance of waterfowl and, at this time of year, migration occurs and the start of the wintering of various birds of prey (this time, again, another 8 different species in a single day). The group was able to enjoy, despite the hot day with good observations, Squacco heron, Glossy Ibis,  Red-crested pochard, Osprey, Booted eagle, Southern grey Shrike, Little owl and Bee-eater, the later probably the stars of the day. A gastronomic delight  in a rustic restaurant where we enjoyed the excellent local cuisine was the perfect end to a wonderful day.

The fourth day was reserved to visit a colony of Griffon Vultures ( throughout the morning these flew close to the rock faces) in the interior mountains of southwest Murcia, an unknown area that retains some of the best and most lonely landscapes of this region, with a variety of habitats (forests, crags, rivers, canyons, plains, reservoirs) which allow the presence of a variety of birds. Herons, grebes, cormorants, larks, crows, raptors, small forest birds, shrikes, wheatear, woodpeckers and owls came out to greet us. For example, it was a good day to learn the differences between Crested and Thekla larks and to get good observations of the Black Wheatear. Again at sunset, we had a second meeting with the Eagle Owl.

The fifth day began with a visit to a saline steppe zone in the central sector of the Region of Murcia. Although we saw some interesting birds like the Hoopoe and Spectacled Warbler , the number of species was not abundant and decided to change our route to the mountains, rising in the east in search of the Crested tit , Steve’s favorite species, and also for other members of the group that had never observed it. Between spectacular peaks and dense forests of Pines , we went up through the pine forest where, in addition to our main goal ( the crested tit ) We could see other species, such as Common Treecreeper , Peregrine Falcon and Red-billed Chough … In the afternoon , after crossing , again , the salt steppes we observed lesser kestrels. We then headed to the coastal range in search of prey on migratory passage : Booted Eagle , Common Buzzard , Eurasian Hobby , Marsh Harrier and a great sunset over the cliffs and the Mediterranean Sea .

On the sixth and last day with time to devote half a day of birding we went to the saltpans around the Mar Menor (the largest salt lake in the Mediterranean). This was one of the days our guest appreciated the most for observing very closely several species of wading birds and other waterfowl which made a good  photographic oppertunity. Black-winged Stilt, Knot, Audouin’s Gull, Black-necked Grebe, Avocet, Redshank and the flight of the flamingos very impressive passing over our heads.

In short, a lovely and enthusiastic group, with a fun atmosphere and as warm as the good weather that accompanied us throughout the trip, we also enjoyed the delicious local cuisine, the breathtaking landscapes and birds as spectacular as the Golden Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Eagle Owl (up to 18 species of raptors), Great bustard,  Flamingo, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Little Owls and Crested tit.
Thanks for your visit and for your contribution to the protection of birds of southeastern Spain! We’re waiting for our friends at Walking With Wildlife for there next trip in spring!
(And thanks to our dear friends Rafa Torralba and Guillermo Garcia-Elder for there invaluable assistance).
Cheers guys!

Exploring Itineraries (Mar Menor – November 2013)


08/11/2013 Exploring the Mar Menor area.

BirdingMurcia team is constantly working to prepare the best itineraries for ornithological tourism in southeastern Spain.

(Click to enlarge)

CHECK LIST (49 species)

Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant,Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moohen, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Monk Parakeet, Woodpigeon, Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Swalow, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet,



Birdwatching from Malaysia

From wetlands and rainforests of Malaysia comes this exotic report of a young amateur photographer that has the quality of a professional. Inspired by a variety of shapes and color, the photographs of Zhong Ying Koay plays perfectly the ornithological symphony which any birdwatcher could find on one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet.

  • Gallery from Pahang

You have a very extensive collection of photographs of birds. How long ago that you’re on it? How everything began?

Ago 2 years since April 2011. I love wildlifes especially birds, and it began after I get a 2nd hand Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS lens from one of my birder friend.

In addition to extensive, your photo collection account with beautiful images. What techniques are usually used to take your photos? And what equipment do you use?

 I started with Canon EOS 550D+ Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, and later changed to Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and the recently I just upgraded my lens to Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 IS I USM. Sometimes, I also use Canon Extender 1.4x III. For fast birds under good lighting, most of the time I shoot handheld. For highland birds/jungle birds/birds under insufficient lighting, I no longer shoot handheld, but place my camera on a steady tripod (if for static birds, then I will shoot with live view or mirror lock-up) and also a shutter release. Sometimes, I will use bird hide too.

Tropical forests, mangroves, nearly 800 species of birds that live in Malaysia represent a very high biodiversity. I suppose this makes work easier for amateur bird photography, is not it? Any favorite protected area for your bird watching sessions.

Ya, I am totally agree that a very high biodiversity of birds in Malaysia is really good for any amateur bird photographer. So far, my favourite highland area are Fraser Hill, Genting Highland and Berjaya Hill in Pahang State. For mangrove area, are Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary, Kuala Sepetang Mangrove Forest Reserve, both in Perak State and Kuala Selangor Mangrove Forest Reserve in Selangor State. For open land, are Seberang Perak Ricefield in Perak State, Batang Tiga Ricefield in Malacca State.

So, what is your bird or group of birds favorite? Do you have any special reason for it?

I love all types of birds here, especially Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, Owls, Broadbills, Trogons, Flycatchers, the main reasons are either these birds are colourful, or small in size which makes them look very cute.

Interview by J.M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)
  • Gallery from Perak
The images that appear in this article are the property of Zhong Ying Koay; is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.
“Birders Around The World” is an idea promoted by the Association Southeast Alive (Sureste Vivo) through the Project Birdingmurcia.



Birdphotography in Greece

From Greece, inspired by the Mediterranean Sea and the experience of 30 years of involvement in the conservation of birds, Chris Vlachos is ornithological tour guide and is dedicated to his true passion: the photography of birds, such as shown in this gallery.

Birdingmurcia - Chris Vlachos - Phoenicopterus ruber

Birdingmurcia - Chris Vlachos - Pelecanus onocrotalus

How do you start your passion for nature and wildlife photography?

I was always fascinated by wildlife and animals, especially  birds. As I had been working at Canon company for years, everything came in an natural flow! My observations have turned into imprintings  through my camera, at first  through slides and later on through my digital cameras.

At present you have a great collection of photos, do you remember your first photographic equipment and your first photos of birds? What equipment are you using now?

I started with a  AE-1 Canon camera with the 70-210mm (lense). My very first picture was a White Stork in flight. Today I have three contemporary digital camera bodies of Canon and almost the entire series of lenses of Canon. For bird photography I use the EF600mm, f/4 and the EF300mm, f/2.8.

Do you have any preference in the debate between the trademarks Canon or Nikon?

My photographic background originates from Canon, so I couldn’t  do otherwise but opt for this company- subjectively and objectively.

Have you any favorite bird? Why?

What I find fascinating are the Birds of prey. They are intelligent, difficult and every picture of theirs is unique, especially when in flight.

And, you have done several birding trips in Europe.. Is there any country you have enjoyed particularly for birdwatching?

I was captured by the light in Norway and Finnland, and by the variety found in Spain.

How and where you develop your activity as a guide for birdwatchers & birdphotographers?

Mostly in my country but also in other neighbour-to-Greece-countries. I guide people who are concerned both for bird watching and bird photography. The first one is my cup of tea, but the second one is what I  love doing.

What is the main origin of your groups? And what birds they require or prefer to watch?

I have chosen mainly my fellow people. However, there is considerable interest by  watchers or/and photographers from North European countries. They particularly want to meet the Mediterranean species or those appearing in Greece and coming from the East or Africa.

What is today the status of ornithological tourism in Greece?

It is continuously rising.

In a crisis like the current Is ecotourism an economic alternative?

It could be a smart, promising alternative.

After almost 30 years involved in the protection of birds as a member of HOS (Hellenic Ornithological Society); How has progressed the protection of birds in your country?

HOS has significantly contributed to the protection of birds and their habitat through European programmes and actions taken on behalf of HOS to communicate with little children. Nevertheless, more actions and continuous effort are required so that more positive results could be achieved.

Interview by J.M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)
The images that appear in this article are the property of Chris Vlachos; is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.
“Birders Around The World” is an idea promoted by the Association Southeast Alive (Sureste Vivo) through the Project Birdingmurcia.

From plain to rocky hills.


GUIDES:  José Manuel Escarabajal & Paul Sparkes



House Martin, Common Swift, Swallow, Black-winged Stilt, White-headed Duck, Mallard, Pochard, Little Grebe, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Coot, Serin, Spotless Starling, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike, Little Ringed Plover, Yellow-legged Gull, Moorhen, Green Sandpiper, Fan-tailed Warbler, Jackdaw, Roller, Kestrel, Magpie, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Spectacled Warbler, Corn Bunting, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Calandra Lark, Buzzard, Bonelli’s Eagle, Little Owl, Red-legged Partridge, Long-eared Owl, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Golden Eagle, Chough, Blue Rock Thrush, Greenfinch, Goldenfinch, Red-rumped Swallow, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Sardinian Warble, Blackbird, House Sparrow. Eagle Owl.

Day trip:

Our day Started at 8.30, we collected our guests and made our way to the first site. The cloud cover was very low almost to the ground so we new there wouldn’t be a lot to see in the air for a while.  We parked the vehicle and walked for a few minutes to the lakes. In the first of the two lakes we viewed White headed duck, Little grebe and Pochard all keeping close to the canes at the edges of the lakes.  In the second lake were Black-winged stilts, Coots, Moorhen and again Little grebe. As we walked around the area a flock of 10 or more Night herons flow over our heads no more than 20 metres above and they kept circling for a few minutes, it was a great site!
We moved away from the lakes in the vehicle to our next stop, this area is home to many birds this time of year with the summer birds now arriving. As we made our way along the path we spotted Sardinian warblers also Jackdaw, Kestrel, Black-winged stilt, Green sandpiper, Little ringed plover and Little owl.  A bit further along the path we set up the scopes to get better views of the Kestrel and Jackdaw as they where nesting in the sandbanks, but the main attraction where a pair of Rollers sat on the top of the sand banks.
After a short walk we jumped back in the vehicle and drove around this vast steppe area, now the sun had burnt of the low cloud we made a stop by the roadside to view Spectacled warblers flitting about in the vegetation, the next sighting was a first for our guests in this area, a male Little bustard flighing past, as we watched it slow and finally stop in the vegetation  we put the scope on him to get a better view of the plumage, in doing so another past, then another.  Off we moved again but in only a few minutes we were back out of the vehicle as we had spotted a raptor in the sky above, after a quick look with the binoculars it was clear to see it was a Buzzard after a while we spotted another raptor, this time much bigger a Bonelli’s eagle subadult, this was great for our guests but not for the Buzzard who tried chasing off the Bonelli’s but with no luck! While driving around the steppe area we also viewed Chough,Crested and Calandra larks, Hoopoe, Corn bunting and Magpie.  We ended up close to where we had walked earlier but on the tops of the banks now, here we had a good view of another pair of Rollers sat on a cable, also close by a nest with three Long-eared owl chicks staring at us. We moved off quickly and quietly not to bother the chicks to our next quick stop, here we scaned the area and within two minutes a pair of Great spotted cuckoo turned up flew around from tree to tree then stopped together on the same branch and looked at us.
By now we where all hungry so we moved off to a traditional restaurant for some lunch. After we had eaten we made our way up the mountain in the vehicle, close to the top a Golden eagle flew over us with its massive wingspan. At the top we stopped to take-in the spectacular views, while we did a small flock of Bee-eaters circled over head and stopped on cables nearby. Further down the mountain on the other side we spotted  Kestrel, Green and Gold finch. At the next stop we viewed the mountains and trees here we spotted Pied flycatcher, Redstart, Serin and a possible sitting of a Crested tit from one of the guests.
As time was getting on we made a slow trip back to our guests house on the way spotting finches, larks and warblers and an Eagle Owl on a nearby rocky as last surprise of the tour.. A great day was had by all!

We would like to thank our guest for their company and welcome them back soon.

Jose and Paul



Ospreys, Bald Eagles and Caracaras from Florida and Alaska.

Photography has always played an important and deep role in her life, although it has been in recent years when Debra has been immersed into the world of professional image. Through her lens she have learned to appreciate the beauty of all the small things that make up the beautiful world we live in and her photography is the way she speaks.

When did your passion for photography begin?

My photography started back in my teen years with a cheap pocket camera taking pictures of my horses and friends with their horses. Then as the years went on and I became a mother I was always taking pictures of my daughter and all our animals and of course that is still the case.  In later years I purchased a 35 mm Canon AE 1 film camera which was the real start to my photographing everything, but found that my daughter, horses and wildlife were my favorite things to shoot.

Why have you decided, in recent years, to immerse yourself in the world of professional photography?

I started out taking photographs as a hobby; I don’t know that I ever decided to go professional in my photography it just kind of happened for me.

What equipment do you use for your photographs of birds?

Most of my photographs are done with a Nikon D4 and the Nikon 500mm lens with and without a TC.

According to the gallery that you present in this report, you’re living in a great place to practice raptors photography and bird watching. What natural values can be found in your local path in Sunny Florida area?

Florida is a wonderful place to photograph birds as they migrate here for the winter and many of them nest here which watching and documenting the growth of the juveniles is just breath taking.

What method do you use to get pictures so spectacular of raptors? Do you do any biological monitoring or tracking the ospreys and bald eagles in your area?

Photographing raptors you really have to have patience for. We do a lot of research on raptors learning their habits, what type of habitat they live in and what time of year they migrate.

Why bald eagles are your favorite bird?

Bald Eagles are a very proud and majestic bird, they are so beautiful to watch soar thru the sky. They are very caring and dotting parents showing so much tenderness with the eaglets what’s not to love about this beautiful bird.

schmidt_mitThrough your webpage you distribute a custom accessory for photo cameras and telephoto lenses. What is camera covers “Schmidt Mit Rain Covers”? Can we get this product in Europe? and, where can be purchased your photographs?

Schmidt Mit Rain Covers are a protective rain cover to keep your camera and lens dry in the rain and protected from other elements like salt air & sand.
As far as shipping to Europe I have not researched that as of yet but can diffenately look into it.
Photographs can be purchased thru my website www.schmidtphotography.net  just click on the gallery tab.

What have you learned about the world through your camera?

When you pick up a camera and start to walk around looking for things to photograph it really opens your eyes to how much beauty is in our world and I love to photograph the beauty to share with others.

Interview by J.M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)
The images that appear in this article are the property of Debra Schmidt is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.
“Birders Around The World” is an idea promoted by the Association Southeast Alive (Sureste Vive) through the Project Birdingmurcia.



” Bonelli’s Eagles…

We have had the immense pleasure of interviewing Dougalis Paschalis, self-taught artist of Greek origin and resident in Munich especially interested in Europeans birds and mammals, who today is probably one of the best illustrators of birds of Europe.. It is an honor to enjoy his kind collaboration and also enjoy the wonderful and amazing illustrations of this extraordinary wildlife artist. Ladies and gentlemen with all of you … ¡Paschalis Dougalis!

© Paschalis Dougalis

JME:  In the first place we want to thank you that you’ve agreed to share your illustrations of Bonelli’s Eagles with us..

What is the current population status of the species in Greece? Does working the authorities in their protection?

After the Greek Ornithological Society, the current population is estimated at 120 pairs, although there is no current data available. Consequently ,there is no official census regarding the population of the species except of regional actions, just like on Crete for example, where a constant population of 12-15 pairs regularly breeding. As I already wrote before, the rest of the population is dispersed on various islands mainly on Cyclades, Dodecanese and few pairs on Peloponese. Though it is declared as a protected species from the greek law, the reality is that they are not protected at all. Fortunately, because of the geographic mosaic of the country with thousands of Islands and Islets, many pairs breeding in isolated remote areas with minimal human disturbance. This is the main reason to me that this species still survives in Greece

JME: I have worked very closely with the Bonelli’s eagles, and I can affirm that, the precision with which you capture the traits of their behavior is amazing How do you get it and why Boneli’s eagles illustrations have much presence in your catalog?

I`m afraid that I can`t explain that properly, why I became amazed since I saw them for the first time, and this excitement has transformed into a deep admiration. I`ve been watching, sketching, and painting them for the last 12 years now, and I would claim that there is no other species that I know so well. Meanwhile has been created a kind of a personal relationship. I feel these birds so close to me since I had the chance to experience first-hand their family life.

JME: Any idea or proposal you consider essential for the conservation of the Bonelli’s Eagles?

To me, the most important thing is the environmental education, not only for the new generations to become aware of the wonders living out there, but also to approach farmers, hunters and people who are spending time in nature trying to “awake” in them the fascination about this raptor. Direct persecution will be always a problem , but trying to reduce this and other threats , (wind turbines for example )to a minimum  as well trying to guard well known nests during breeding period could be a huge step forwards in case species protection & conservation.


…and other stories”

© Paschalis Dougalis

JME: Since when you develop your artistic ability and as you become a professional in the illustration of the nature? Are there any event that has been a determining factor in your career?

According to my parents I took a pencil and start sketching a rooster when I was four years old. I never stop ever since.. It was 1995 when I`ve been commissioned to illustrate a series on endangered species in Greece. Two years before in 1993, I had my first solo exhibition in my home town in Greece with birds and animals of the region. But the turning point in my career was first to buy a book illustrated by Carl Brenders in 1995, followed by the Lars Jonsson`s bird guide, and “The art of Robert Bateman” in 1996. I realized then very well the importance of fieldwork and that I had a long way to go. These three books helped me to change the way I was looking at things.

JME: Make all the illustrations for the modern edition of a classic of the identification guides such as “Birds of Europe (European Bird Guide)” next to the author Peter H. Barthel, in addition to assume a huge effort, must be a challenge isn’t it?

It was more than a challenge! Having to illustrate all the European species in various plumages within two years was a huge undertaking which has been a very hard test for me mentally and physically. The biggest problems for me were the tight deadlines.

JME: What characteristics must have a good field guide?551778_460370647357025_934328603_n

First of all accurate drawings, natural poses, avoiding showing details not really visible in the field, presenting the  species as they look like from a certain distance and pay attention on their most important ID features.

 JME: And what are the key features that must have a good illustrator of birds and a good illustration?

He must be a good artist who knows his subject and medium very well, and because such books require cooperation of more people, should have the willingness to learn and have always his eyes and ears open. These two years have been despite the pressure a valuable time of learning and improving my illustration style.. Finally, a good illustration should have all the features already mentioned answering the former question (3) in order to fulfil the needs of the certain guide.

JME: What are you trying to capture in your pictures of animals?

I`ve been asked often to answer similar questions and it is easy to say that my aim is not just to portray an average image of a species but the particular individual, I`m drawing at that moment. And if I managed to complete an alive, very similar to the “model” drawing, that satisfies me most!

 JAS: As we look through facebook, your production work is really impressive, how much time do you dedicate to painting / drawing a day?

To be honest I never counting the hours I`m  ́working a day, they are just countless particularly at times when a commission has to be delivered soon and the pressure is exceptionally high.

JAS: What is your “modus operandi” to start a new painting?

It`s always different. But the common within is the source of inspiration. I’m looking for interesting postures or behaviour, browsing through sketchbooks or videos and trying to create a believable situation. On the other hand in case of a commission after an intense research I`m preparing a series of Bic pen preliminary sketches or even a small watercolour in order to show them first to the client.

JME: Acrylic, watercolor, gouache, sketches … You work many different techniques, with which do you feel more comfortable? What is the most appropriate to draw birds?

Meanwhile after years of drawing and painting I wouldn`t prefer a medium as my favorite but I would say that rather every medium has been adapted to every single situation. Bic pen, watercolours, mainly in use while working outdoors or in case of Illustrations, Gouache for Illustrations and paintings, and Acrylics solely for Paintings.

JAS: The Bic pen is one of your most usual techniques in drawing, do you feel comfortable with a technique in which errors can not be corrected?

Absolutely! Looking for a cheap medium to work outdoors and because I found out that sharpening of pencils-coloured pencils is time consuming, I`ve tested many pens of various brands and the Bic pen with the fine tip fulfilled my expectations. After 15 years of sketching with it is a matter of training that eliminates the possible mistakes.

JAS: What has been the place, by moisture, discomfort, danger, heat, cold, etc … where you found more difficult to paint?

I recall my first encounter with the Bonelli’s eagles in late March of 2001. Hidden in a camouflaged tent up at the edge of a cliff I`ve been surprised by a heavy rainstorm. For almost two hours I was “battling” against the wind and rain trying to protect my equipment and materials from getting wet. Last year on a hot May day at Saltmarshes of Korinos (Northern Greece), while sketching Collared pratincoles, and though the birds were absolutely cooperative, the wind start getting stronger and various insects, including countless mosquitos came from the open windows into the car and attacked me again and again .The “torture” lasted almost three hours at that hot day but the willingness to come to an successful result was stronger.

JAS: What drives you to draw above all animals and not other elements such as architecture, people, etc…?

Though animals-birds dominate my artwork now, there have been periods in my life where people faces were the main subject of my interest. On the other hand I`ve been always surrounded by animals, domestic first, since I grew up in a village and they were always there. The excitement about wildlife grew rapidly when I bought my first animal book with fantastic illustrations of Robert Dallet . I presume that there are the myriads of life forms , colours, shapes, behaviours, different environment types that excites me most , and I`m sure that I will never get bored or tired sketching and painting nature.

© Paschalis Dougalis

JME: Do you feel predilection for drawing some group or species of birds in particular?

Oh, yes! They are the raptors first, followed by Larks and Galliformes. I guess, I don`t have to explain why I feel so fascinated by raptors!

 JAS: Who are the artists that have influenced your work as an artist of nature?

They are so many that it’s impossible to name all of them. But I recall the first encounters with work of Robert Dallet, Carl Brenders, Lars Jonsson, Robert Bateman, Ray Harris Ching , Bob Kuhn, Keith Brockie, Vadim Gorbatov and Ian Lewington, fantastic artists and Illustrators all of them…

JME: Books about animals, posters and information material for LIFE projects, bird guides, monographs, exhibitions, countless paintings and illustrations … and several awards: What do you think has been your most notable work or you feel especially satisfied and how it can purchase your work?

First came the awards, in Britain and Germany, and then the commisions. Definitely , the European Bird guide, has been the most important project for my career as an Illustrator, ,because since then my work has been widely known, but it is the forthcoming Breeding Bird Atlas of Germany I enjoyed most. Check out:
Every one can purchase or order an artwork by contacting me directly via E-Mail.

JME: From our point of view and from many other birdwatchers and illustrators your work has achieved a great prestige and recognition do you feel lucky that you can enjoy professionally to your passion?

I feel lucky having found my own way and I know well that despite any kind of recognition there is no time to lie back and enjoy a possible professional success. To be a professional Artist-Illustrator means to me a life long dedication, hard work, and trying to improve my abilities day by day. And because you mentioned recognition I feel that there were the fellow artists across Europe who contributed to this, with their excitment about art and sensibilty . In this point I would like to thank in particular the Spanish nature artists for their support and friendship along the way.

Interview by: José Manuel Escarabajal & José Antonio Sencianes


The images that appear in this article are the property of Dougalis Paschalis is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.
“Birders Around The World” is an idea promoted by the Association Southeast Alive (Sureste Vivo) through the Project Birdingmurcia