Winners: 2021 Bird Photographer of the Year Contest

September 6, 2021 • 1:30 pm

The “Bird Photographer of the Year Contest” is one of the better nature/wildlife photo contests around, and My Modern Met presents the winners. I’ve chosen six favorites, but you can see them all by clicking on the screenshot below. I’ll give the captions (indented), which come from the page.

This first one is my favorite:

“Floral Bathtub” by Mousam Ray, India. Gold, Bird Behavior.
“This image was taken at North Bengal Agricultural University in Cooch Behar, West Bengal. To set the scene, here in India autumn days (when the photo was taken) are typically hot and humid – sporadic rains interspersed with sweltering heat – while the nights are cold. I was keen to capture images of Crimson Sunbirds drinking nectar from banana flowers. Typically, these flowers point towards the ground, but in some ornamental species they point skywards and some of their outer petals open up like cups, holding water from rain or dew. Late one evening, a female Crimson Sunbird suddenly arrived and started sipping nectar. Her thirst quenched, she then started bathing in the water stored in this banana flower petal. It’s quite common to find birds refreshing themselves in the evening, visiting puddles and pools, dipping their heads, and wetting their wings and body. However, it was a unique experience to see this sunbird immersing herself upside down in water contained in an ornamental flower petal, like a lady in a bathtub. Her relaxed and indulgent manner, lit by the glow of sunset, was truly a sight to behold.”

“Wing Stretch,” by Kevin Morgans, United Kingdom. Portfolio Award Winner.
“Back-lighting is strongly represented throughout this portfolio. Combining the technique with the beautiful golden hues of sunset can transform an image, and birds, in particular, look fantastic using this approach. The light shining through their feathers creates an almost translucent effect.”

“Thirsty” by Tzahi Finkelstein, Israel. Gold, Birds in Flight.
“Common Swifts live their lives on the wing and are a challenge to capture in flight. With a diet of flying insects, they need to drink from time to time, and even that behavior is performed on the wing. I had had this image – of a swift skimming over water – in my mind for a long time. I finally found a suitable place to attempt it, and to get the photo I had to sit in water wearing a wetsuit, shrouded by a portable hide, every day for three weeks. Eventually, I got this photo on the final day – the day after the birds had all gone.”

Underwater Portrait” by Felipe Foncueva, Spain. Gold, Best Portrait.
“This underwater image of a Brown Pelican was taken off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, near the mouth of the T.rcoles River, where there are small fishing villages. Groups of pelicans await the return of fishermen and take advantage of the scraps they throw into the sea. Looking at this image, I am struck by the similarity between the way the pouch beneath the pelican’s bill functions and the throat of a feeding baleen whale. At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking you are looking at a marine mammal rather than a bird!”

“Funnel” by Kathryn Cooper, United Kingdom. Silver, Creative Imagery.
“Between November and March, tens of thousands of Common Starlings migrate to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Potteric Carr Nature Reserve. My aim was to depict the fluid-like movement of a murmuration and capture its essence. I am interested in transient moments when chaos briefly changes to order – moments when thousands of individual bodies appear to move as one. Here, I’ve captured the flock’s swirls, twists and turns, forming shapes like funnels and tornadoes as the birds seek a suitable spot in which to land. Rather than using a typical long exposure, I adopted a technique whereby I merged aspects of consecutive images using my own coding.”

And this is the grand prize winner:

“Blocked” by Alejandro Prieto, Mexico. Winner, Bird Photographer of the Year. Gold, Birds in the Environment.“The 3,000km-long US–Mexico border traverses and straddles some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions. It is home to uniquely adapted mammals, reptiles, birds, and plants, some of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Numerous species will be affected if the US government decides to build a wall along the border with Mexico. Border infrastructure not only physically blocks the movement of wildlife but it also destroys and fragments habitats. Many desert animals are, to a degree, nomadic wanderers, and a wall would sever habitat connectivity and prevent them moving freely from one place to another. In this photograph, a Greater Roadrunner approaches the border wall at Naco, Arizona, with what almost looks like a sense of bewilderment.”

h/t: Malcolm

Wildlife photographer of the year

September 2, 2021 • 2:00 pm

London’s Natural History Museum has once again opened its Wildlife Photographer of the Year Contest, with the prizes awarded on October 12. But in the meantime, you can look at some of the entries at TimeOut. I’ve chosen a couple to stimulate your eyes this lovely afternoon (well, at least it’s lovely in Chicago). Captions and info from TimeOut; click on the photos to enlarge them.

The first is awesome:

Teeth-gritted, waves sloshing around them, these cheetahs don’t exactly look like the keenest of swimmers. The photograph was taken just after the group of males jumped into Kenya’s River Talek – and clearly regretted their decision.

The water-averse big cats are known in the area as the Tano Bora: Maasi for ‘magnificent five’. The group comprises two sets of brothers and another male, who apparently go everywhere together (even into uninviting waters).

The photographer, Buddhilini de Soyza, said it took them hours to decide to go for a dip, because they couldn’t find a way to cross the river without getting their paws wet. Eventually – and after much grimacing – the gang paddled their way across the crocodile-infested river. We don’t blame them for making a fuss at all, really.

The photo was highly commended in the ‘Behaviour: Mammals’ category at this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. More than 50,000 photographers from 95 countries entered the competition this year, tackling subjects ranging from the minutest of sea creatures to the disastrous effects of climate change.

Highly commended, Animal Portraits: ‘Storm Fox’ by Jonny Armstrong

Is this the late Statler, the geriatric flying fox?

“A caring hand” by Douglas Gimesy:

“Mushroom magic,” by Juergen Freund:

“Lynx on the threshold” by Sergio Marijuán:

And a winner from last year: “Great crested sunrise” by Jose Luis Ruiz Jiménez. One grebe parent feeds babies riding on the other parent:

h/t: Rich

The 2021 Audubon photography awards

July 11, 2021 • 12:00 pm

The Audubon Photography Awards regularly present some of the finest wildlife and nature photos around (birds are the star of course, though the name “Audubon” may be on the way out), and I’ve chosen a selection for your delectation. Click on the screenshot title below to see the winners and honorable mentions.

There were a lot of entries:

Focusing our attention on the winged wonders that share our planet can reveal everything from the finest details to the largest patterns of life, as shown by many of the 8,770 images and 261 videos entered in this year’s contest. From the admissions focused on native flora for our Plants for Birds category to the more artistic compositions for the Fisher Prize, our judges were once again amazed by the beauty and breadth of entries. We thank all 2,416 photographers for sharing their visions with us.

This year we expanded the competition with two new prizes: a Video Award, for a new video category, and a Female Bird Prize, awarded to the best photograph of a female bird across all divisions. We also continued our tradition of bestowing the Fisher Prize on the image that takes the most creative approach to photographing birds, and a Plants for Birds Award to the top photograph depicting the relationship between native plants and birds.

I don’t quite get the female bird prize: either it’s an attempt to flaunt virtue, or to make up for all the previous years’ photographs of spectacular male birds whose colors and feathers were molded by sexual selection.

There’s a story behind each shot, but I’ll just give the title and photographer. Do click on the photos to enlarge them.

First, the grand prize winner:

Photographer: Carolina Fraser

  • Category: Amateur
  • Species: Greater Roadrunner
  • Location: Los Novios Ranch, Cotulla, Texas
  • Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon 500mm f/4.0 lens; 1/3200 second at f/6.3; ISO 2000

Amateur Award winner: Robin Ulery

  • Species: Sandhill Crane
  • Location: Johns Lake, Winter Garden, Florida
  • Camera: Sony A9 with Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/800 second at f 6.3; ISO 1600

Amateur Honorable Mention: Tom Ingram

  • Species: Peregrine Falcon
  • Location: La Jolla Cove, California
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with Canon 1.4x III Teleconverter; 1/1250 second at f/8; ISO 2500

Youth Honorable Mention: Joshua Launstein

  • Species: Canada Goose
  • Location: Burnaby Lake, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  • Camera: Nikon D7100 with AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D IF-ED lens and Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x Teleconverter; 1/640 second at f/7.1; ISO 720

Professional Award Winner: Steve Jessmore

  • Species: Northern Cardinal
  • Location: Rural Muskegon County, Michigan
  • Camera: Sony a9 II with Sony FE 200- 600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/5000 second at f/6.3; ISO 250

Plants for Birds Honorable Mention: Karen Boyer Guyton

  • Species: Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Location: Quilcene, Washington
  • Camera: Sony a7R IV with a Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens; 1/5000 second at f/4; ISO 800

JAC: I love this one: it’s a female hummer collecting cattail fluff for nesting material.

h/t: Malcolm

Bird Photographer of the Year contest

June 27, 2021 • 2:00 pm

Once again the My Modern Met site has put up the finalists of the Bird Photographer of the Year contest, and they’re stunners—as usual. Click on the screenshot below to see ’em all. (h/t Malcolm)

Some background from the site:

Wildlife photographers take some of the most adventurous and exciting shots. The recently released 2021 finalists of the Bird Photographer of the Year Awards are no exception. From a confrontation between an enormous eagle and a fox to an adorable fluffy duckling exploring its pond, this year’s gallery is a collection of magical moments in the animal kingdom.

The Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 competition saw a stunning 22,000 entries from around the world. The hopeful photographers hailed from 73 countries. According to Will Nicholls, director of the competition, “The standard of photography was incredibly high, and the diversity in different species was great to see.” The final winning images in categories such as “Bird Behavior” and “Black and White” will be announced, alongside all winners, in September 2021. In addition to the Bird Photographer of the Year title, the ultimate winning photographer will take home a cash prize of £5,000 (~$6,900). The finalists—and other standout images from this year’s competition—will also be included in a fine art book available on the BPOTY website.

There are thirty photos in total, and I’ve chosen my favorite 8 (but it’s hard to choose!). Go see ’em all! The captions are from My Modern Met. And click on the photos to enlarge them.

“Great cormorant” by Irma Szabo. (Photo: © Irma Szabo/Bird Photographer of the Year)

“Fiery-throated Hummingbird” by Gail Bisson. (Photo: © Gail Bisson/Bird Photographer of the Year)

“Mallard duck” by Zdeněk Jakl. (Photo: © Zdeněk Jakl/Bird Photographer of the Year)

Untitled, by Gábor Li. (Photo: © Gábor Li/Bird Photographer of the Year)

“Red-billed oxpecker” by Daniela Anger. (Photo: © Daniela Anger/Bird Photographer of the Year)

“Black-and-white warbler” by Raymond Hennessy. (Photo: © Raymond Hennessy/Bird Photographer of the Year)

“Great grey owl” by Scott Suriano. (Photo: © Scott Suriano/Bird Photographer of the Year)

“White-tailed sea-eagle” by Fahad Alenezi. (Photo: © Fahad Alenezi/Bird Photographer of the Year)

Finalists: Bird photographer of the year

April 9, 2021 • 8:00 am

The Bird Photographer of the Year Contest is recognized as the premier competition of its type, and is sponsored by companies like Svarovski Optics, F-stop, Zenfolio, and Olympus.  Some of the finalists are displayed on the My Modern Met page (click on screenshot below).  As the Met site notes, competition was keen:

The Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 competition saw a stunning 22,000 entries from around the world. The hopeful photographers hailed from 73 countries. According to Will Nicholls, director of the competition, “The standard of photography was incredibly high, and the diversity in different species was great to see.” The final winning images in categories such as “Bird Behavior” and “Black and White” will be announced, alongside all winners, in September 2021. In addition to the Bird Photographer of the Year title, the ultimate winning photographer will take home a cash prize of £5,000 (~$6,900). The finalists—and other standout images from this year’s competition—will also be included in a fine art book available on the BPOTY website.

Here are my selections for the most striking photos, with the captions and credits above the photos (indented). Be sure to go to the Met site to see the other finalists.

“Mute swan” by Andy Parkinson. (Photo: © Andy Parkinson/Bird Photographer of the Year):

“Great cormorant” by Tzahi Finkelstein (Photo: ©Tzahi Finkelstein/Bird Photographer of the Year):

“Black-and-white warbler” by Raymond Hennessy. (Photo: © Raymond Hennessy/Bird Photographer of the Year):

“Fiery-throated Hummingbird” by Gail Bisson. (Photo: © Gail Bisson/Bird Photographer of the Year):

“Mallard duck” by Zdeněk Jakl. (Photo: © Zdeněk Jakl/Bird Photographer of the Year):

“Hooded crane” by Taku Ono. (Photo: © Taku Ono/Bird Photographer of the Year):

“Southern giant petrel” by Eirik Grønningsæter. (Photo: © Eirik Grønningsæter/Bird Photographer of the Year):

“Red-billed oxpecker” by Daniela Anger. (Photo: © Daniela Anger/Bird Photographer of the Year):

h/t: Malcolm

Guess the Nobel Prizes, redux

October 4, 2020 • 8:30 am

We didn’t get many entries in the “Guess the Nobel Prize” contest, with the prize being an autographed book with a special commissioned drawing by yours truly. To enter and see the rules, go to the earlier post and leave your guesses there (or below). (You have to guess one person who will win in the three science categories plus the literature prize.)

I have no guesses myself, but I already have plenty of books!

Guess the Nobel Prizes

October 2, 2020 • 9:00 am

It’s Nobel Prize season again, and again I’ll have my annual contest, which almost nobody ever wins.  Your job is to guess the Nobel Prizes for this year in all four following categories:

  • Physiology or Medicine
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Literature

You must get all four right to get the prize, which is an autographed copy of either Why Evolution is True or Faith Versus Fact (your choice). And in the book, besides making it out to you, I will add a genuine PCC(E) drawing an animal of your choice.

You can make only one guess per category (no saying “it could be X or Y or Z”). For areas in which more than one person can win—science prizes can be shared by up to three people—it’s best to name just one person, for if you name someone who doesn’t win, you lose the whole category.

Put your choices below. What do you have to lose?

If several people guess all four right, the first entry wins.

The Prize Awards will begin on Monday, with announcements on these dates:

PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE – Monday 5 October, 11:30 CEST at the earliest
The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Wallenbergsalen, Nobel Forum, Nobels väg 1, Solna

PHYSICS – Tuesday 6 October, 11:45 CEST at the earliest
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien, KVA), Sessionssalen, Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm

CHEMISTRY – Wednesday 7 October, 11:45 CEST at the earliest
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sessionssalen, Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm

LITERATURE – Thursday 8 October, 13:00 CEST at the earliest
The Swedish Academy (Svenska Akademien), Börssalen, Källargränd 4, Stockholm

Joey Chestnut sets world record in Nathan’s July 4 contest: downs 75 hot dogs in 10 minutes

July 4, 2020 • 6:19 pm

Every year I post a video of Nathan’s July 4 hot-dog-eating contest, and every year readers respond with a near-universal “ECCH!” And the results are nearly always the same. This year, competitive eater Joey Chestnut, 36, won for the 13th time in 14 years, beating his previous record by one dog. Remember, these are dogs with buns, and remember that the pace was 7.5 dogs per minute!

Here’s Chestnut’s world-record performance, conducted under pandemic conditions this year: no crowd to cheer on the gluttony, contest inside rather than outside, and only five contestants.

I do love my dogs (I’m from Chicago after all), preferably dragged through the garden.

The woman’s record was set by Miki Sudo:

The Coney Island tradition allowed betting this year. The coronavirus crisis forced some changes, too. Spectators weren’t allowed to watch in person. Competitors were separated by clear barriers. And the people bringing them fresh supplies wore masks.

“It was hard, but I knew I was fast at the beginning,” Chestnut said on ESPN. “The dogs were cooked really well today. At minute 6 is where I missed the crowd. I hit a wall. It took a little more work to get through it.”

Miki Sudo ate 48.5 hot dogs to win the women’s division and set a world record. It’s her seventh title, more than any woman ever.

Here’s Sudo’s new record:

Winners of Nature TTL’s wildlife photography contest

March 26, 2020 • 2:00 pm

Reader Laurie sent me a link to the BBC’s presentation of some winners of Nature TTL’s Wildlife and Landscape Photography Contest.  I’m having trouble braining today (enforced solitude does that), so, for your delectation, here are my favorites. The BBC’s captions are indented. The fourth photo is a stunning example of crypsis (camouflage).

First, the winner among 7,000 entries.

French photographer Florian Ledoux took the winning photo, entitled “Above the Crabeater Seals”, in Antarctica.

Landscape winner: “Shadow Game” by Marek Biegalski.

“An aerial image taken in Tuscany in autumn light. A flock of sheep was hiding in the shade from the sun under the shadow of a tree.”

Wildlife category, highly commended: “Breathing”, by Bence Mate, taken in Romania.

“A brown bear growls a warning of its presence to an interloper, his breath vanishing slowly in the windless forest.”

Macro category, highly commended: “Nothing here but this tree” by Catilin Henderson, taken in Australia.

“The lichen huntsman (Pandercetes gracilis) is an incredible species of tree-dwelling spider from Australia’s tropical north. Its astounding camouflage enables it to blend perfectly with tree bark and lichens, and it’s nearly impossible to spot by day.

“At night, I went searching for these spiders with a torch, using their reflective eye-shine to discover their hiding places in plain sight.”

Landscape category, highly commended. “Flower Power” by Brandon Yoshizawa, taken in USA.

“An incredible display of man and nature. The exhaust plume of a SpaceX rocket is lit by the low sun at twilight.

“The plume takes on the shape of a flower with the trail almost looking like a broken stem, as it shoots out from behind the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains.”

You can read more about the photos, and see more, at the BBC site.

Six pounds of steak in 13 minutes! (not to mention salad, fries, and onion rings)

February 12, 2020 • 2:15 pm

Meet (or should I say “Meat”?) Leah Shutkever, who specializes in eating large quantities of food in short periods of time. In other words, she’s a competitive eater, a job (or avocation) which fascinates me. She’s not fat or anything, and she’s probably a landsman, which makes me kin—and proud. Her performance here is unbelievable: she demolishes a six-pound steak, complete with fries, onion rings, and a side salad, in only 13 minutes. (The restaurant where she’s meeting the challenge, Catllemens Grill Harrogate, gives you a whole hour to finish to get the meal for free. She finishes, setting a record, in less than a quarter of that time.)

Somehow I found this video mesmerizing, and watched the whole thing. If you wish to skip the intro, start at 3:22 . Her YouTube channel is here, where you can watch her dispatch pancakes, burgers, and chicken with equal speed and alacrity. A notable one is where Leah polishes off four Big Macs, four McDonald’s milkshakes, and four large fries in—get this—6 minutes and 15 seconds! Eight pounds of pigs in blankets in 33 minutes!