Behind the Image: Beautiful Sunbird

Mohamed Shebl’s graceful shot of a Palestine Sunbird scoring some nectar from an Echinops flower was chosen as the overall winner for this year’s BMC Ecology image competition. In this Q&A we find out the “story behind the image”.

Although normally used to studying bees and insects, Mohamed Shebl used his field researcher’s expert eye to capture this image of a wholly different kind of pollinator, this beautiful Palestinian sunbird, commonly found from the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa.  The bird’s long tongue helps it to feed on the nectar of these Echinops flowers, highlighting how well-adapted it is to the environment, as well as showing that not all pollinators are insects.

Can you give us a little background information on yourself and your research?

I am working as assistant professor of Entomology at Suez Canal University, Egypt. I have a temporary position at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia until next October. My research interests are bee diversity, bee taxonomy, pollination, and bee biology. I’m fascinated with the diversity of insects and in particular bees. I carried out different field expeditions in Egypt, Japan, China and Saudi Arabia and hopefully with more funds I can visit more countries to gather more data about bees.

This photo is wonderful.  Tell us a little bit about where and when this image was taken. Was it hard to capture the bird like that?

The image of The Palestinian sunbird was taken in Deisa Valley, Tabouk, North west Saudi Arabia in April 2015. It was a big challenge for me as I have never photographed any birds before. Most of my photographs are of bees and a very few insects.

What things about this image do you find particularly interesting? 

I was not planning to photograph any birds but when I noticed the Palestinian sunbird, I liked it. The Palestinian sunbird is amazing. I was observing the behavior of the bird as a plant pollinator.

Why did you enter this image in the competition, and how do you feel now that you’ve won?

I didn’t really plan to enter any competition but when I heard about this one I decided to try. I didn’t have a good camera before so I didn’t know that I could be considered a good photographer, but now I can try to get more photos. I feel so happy and I can make myself more useful to the scientific community by taking more photos of nature and our wildlife.

Thanks a lot for giving me this great opportunity and encouraging me with my work.

You can find out more about why this image won our competition and view all the winning images in our accompanying editorial.


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