Avid photographers have been recognised for their incredible images of birds in their natural habitat in some of the most picturesque locations.
The winners of the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards, run by the National Audubon Society, were announced.
The judges from the nonprofit – which is focused on birds conservation – sifted through 2,253 entries from across the United States and
A winner for each of the ten categories was announced, ranging from professional wildlife photographers to amateur snappers on their travels.
Photos show birds in the blowing smoke rings, feeding on nectar from flowers, hunting as well as fight for mates.
All photographs were judged on their technical quality, originality and artistic merit.
Amatuer photographer Kathrin Swoboda took out the title of Grand Winner for her picture of a Red-winged Blackbird smoking rings at Huntley Meadows Park, in Alexandria, Virginia. Ms Swoboda said that she often tries to take pictures of the blackbirds as they smoke rings that form from their breath as they sing out. She continued: ‘This particular bird was very vociferous, singing long and hard. I looked to set it against the dark background of the forest, shooting to the east as the sun rose over the trees, backlighting the vapor.’
Winner of the Amateur category Mariam Kamal captured this image of a white-necked Jacobin hummingbird during a visit to Dave and Dave’s Nature Park, Sarapiqui, in Costa Rica. The vibrant photograph shows the blue-hued hummingbird tipping its head into a heliconia flower and sipping its nectar. Ms Kamal said: ‘For an hour I photographed a valiant troop of White-necked Jacobins consuming nectar from heliconias that swayed and bobbed in a forceful wind. I could barely breathe as I snapped—I felt that I, too, was fighting to hang on!’
Professional category winner Elizabeth Boehm captured a fight between two male Greater Sage-Grouse in Pinedale, Wyoming. She said: ‘The two contestants sit side by side until, upon some invisible cue, they suddenly throw blows, hitting each other with their wings. This photo, captured on hard snowpack, shows the power they exhibit when they are fighting for mates.’
Kevin Ebi received an honourable mention in the professional category for his image of a Bald Eagle catching a fox and the rabbit it was trying to catch in San Juan Island National Historical Park, in Washington. He said: ‘I expected to have only a split second to capture the theft in one explosive frame; instead the eagle snagged the fox and rabbit, carrying both 20 feet off the ground. After eight seconds it dropped the fox, seemingly unharmed, and flew away with its stolen dinner.’
Melissa Rowell also received an honourable mention in the amateur category for her photograph of two Great Blue Herons, in Wakodahatchee Wetlands, in Florida, engaging in a mating ritual. Ms Rowell said: ‘The male, obviously attempting to entice the female, was doing a stretch display. I love this mating ritual and decided to spend some time with them. When serious bill duels erupted between the pair, I was fascinated by their intense expressions as they sparred. The drama was further heightened as, thunder rumbling in the distance, the wind picked up, accentuating their long, flowing plumes.’
The winner of the Youth Category was Sebastian Velasquez who photographed a Horned Puffin with its bright coloured bill close to its chest at the Alaska SeaLife Centre. He said: ‘I waited for hours for the perfect shot. At last I spotted this secluded puffin in a moment of stillness, preening its feathers, providing a glimpse into a seemingly private moment.’
The winner of the Fisher Prize category Ly Dang who captured a black-browned Albatross on a windy slope of Saunders Island, in the Falkland Islands. Speaking about his highly artistic image he said: ‘As I sat watching the birds conducting their daily activities, I started to notice the simple, elegant beauty of the adults’ eyes. After several positions looking for a clear view and a good light angle, I took this shot.’
The winner of the Plants for Birds category was Michael Schulte who photographed a Hooded Oriole at his home in San Diego, California. He explained that he noticed a pair of orioles that regularly visited a fan palm in his backyard. Mr Schulte said: ‘When I saw the female gathering palm fibers for a nest, I grabbed my camera. I love this shot; it shows the relationship between two native species and illustrates the natural beauty to be appreciated even in a city. And the radiating palm fronds behind the female give a sense of radiance to her diligent efforts.’
An honourable mention for the Plants for Birds section went to Joseph Przybyla for his image of the normally elusive Purple Gallinule climbing up a plant to feed on flowers in Lakeland, Florida. He said: ‘I spotted this one making its way up the plant mid-morning on an overcast day, eating as it went. I set up with my monopod and camera, watching, waiting. When it reached the top, I captured images as it moved from stem to stem, moving quickly, side to side, up and down, choosing the best angle, and ultimately getting this photo of the bird mid-snack.’
Young photographer Garrett Sheets got an honourable mention in the Youth category for his image of a Bobolink standing on a branch in Dunn Ranch Prairie, Missouri. Mr Sheets said: ‘At sunset the Dunn Ranch Prairie becomes a field of golden grasses, which provided a perfect setting for this male as he perched briefly for a curious glance at my camera. The robotic tone of his song was echoed by dozens of other Bobolinks as they flew overhead. I was almost too excited to take the photo, but I secured a burst of photos before he took off, flying far out over the grasses.’