25 years is a milestone-and the Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre is celebrating the occasion by releasing a 2017 calendar.

Rotorua wildlife and bird photographer, Kurien 'Koshy' Yohannan, says the calendar showcases close to three years of his work with the registered charity.

"When we think about a 25th anniversary we think about the journey we've had so far. It's a milestone, and because at Wingspan it's all about the birds of prey we thought [for this year's calendar] let's concentrate on the birds and look at the journey that the birds take from when they are born to the time they are adults.

"To see the progress of chicks to adults, it's a privilege to take these photos. It's really cool to be able to share the images with the general public through this calendar. It has photos average Joe Bloggs wouldn't have seen."


This is the third year the centre have done a calendar.

Koshy says the 2015 calendar had photos of birds of prey Wingspan have at their centre, with the 2016 calendar showcasing the falcons that were released from Rotorua Museum as part of the 2015 On The Wing program. The previous two calendars raised over $8000 for the charity.

All proceeds and sales from the calendarwill go back to Wingspan and will help them with their conservation programme of education, rehabilitation and advocacy.

"It will help them do what they do best," says Koshy.

Wingspan's executive director, Debbie Stewart, says the theme of the calendar is quite timely for Wingspan.

"We are as developing and growing each year."

She says it's an amazing thing Koshy has done on his photographic journey of passion.

"While it is a centre of national significance it's a community effort and Rotorua people are part of that journey. It's humbling, people want to make a difference."

All the photos were taken at Wingspan.

"It is a controlled environment, and due to Wingspan's breeding programme as well, we have the advantage of having the chicks there and sometimes eggs are brought in," says Koshy.

When asked by the Rotorua Weekender which was his favourite bird of prey Koshy says it is the New Zealand falcon.

"They are really special to me. They are birds of prey that have been designed for speed and agility. It's awesome to see a New Zealand falcon fly out in the wild . . . they're an endemic species, only found here in New Zealand. They are one of just seven forest falcons around the world so it is very special."

Photography is not Koshy's fulltime profession, instead a hobby where he works under the name Black Stallion Photography.

He says he first visited Wingspan as a tourist, and he and his family moved to New Zealand from Scotland four years ago

He now works as a parish manager at St John's Church, and recently two days a week as administration manager at Wingspan. He says his initial relationship with Wingspan was as a photographer.

"My love for wildlife and bird photography naturally means I am attracted towards Wingspan as an organisation. My relationship with Wingspan has been one of admiration for the entire team for what they do, they do some really awesome work in the area of conservation.

"Just watching their dedication has been a great driving force for me. Using my photography to raise money for conversation is what I want, my images need to be able to do something."

As well as from the Wingspan Centre or from their website the 2017 calendars are available from Portico Gallery on Pukuatua St.

Owner Cheri Hayes says it is the first year they have stocked the calendars, and they are very happy to help a local charity.

"We really enjoy and likewhat they are trying to achieve."

Koshy says he feels lucky to have the privilege of going out with the Wingspan team to take photos.

"We want to raise money and raise awareness about these birds. Birds of prey can unfortunately get a bit a bad press. They are predators and we make no apologies for that, you can't tell lions to eat carrots and cabbages, and it's the same thing. They are birds of prey and that's what they do."

He encourages people to support the organisation, and the birds.

"I wanted people to see the beauty of these birds and admire them for what they are.

- Georgina Harris is the Rotorua Weekender editor