2011 Bird Madness Winner: Red-shouldered Hawk

The votes are in. Meet the champion of our online competition, who just so happens to be Audubon’s photo contest winner, too.

Carol Fryer’s northern Florida backyard is a slice of paradise, where dragonflies dance, osprey bathe, and, when the light is just right, dangling Spanish moss absolutely glistens. Situated on a golf course, Fryer’s house looks out onto two small manmade lakes that welcome a variety of birdlife. The setting is a living canvas, one that reinvents itself each day with shifting shapes and splashes of color—an inviting scene for a former hobby painter who has now turned to amateur photography.

done absolutely nothing,” Fryer says. She caught its struggle in a series of photographs, documenting how it hung with drooping wings, moth-like, until its liberation. “It was very exciting,” she says.

Though Fryer sometimes donates her photographs to philanthropical causes, entering a photo competition never dawned on her—she wasn’t sure she was good enough. Her husband, however, encouraged her after spotting an announcement for the 2011 Audubon Magazine Photography Awards. Turns out, it was a smart move: Fryer’s shot bested thousands of entries and garnered enough votes in the online Bird Madness competition to surpass the likes of a red-wing blackbird “surfing” on a snail kite and a tree spangled with egrets, set against a moonlit sky.

An advocate of “practice makes perfect,” Fryer hones her talents by taking photos for an hour each day and learning more about the technology. On car trips, she listens to podcasts about photography, absorbing useful tidbits. Her favorite subjects to shoot span a spectrum. “I like beautiful scenery, I like anything having to do with water, I enjoy the birds,” she says, “Any bird that I can, I take a picture of.” Once, while swimming, she saw a bald eagle flying overhead. “I levitated out of the pool” and went after the camera, she says. Alas, the raptor was just passing through.

Travel plans hold the promise of fine-tuning her talents. With a journey to the Everglades slated for February’s end, Fryer wants to concentrate on “not just taking beautiful photographs, but creating a story”—the way her ensnared hawk does. For Fryer, building on her skills leads to much more than prizes. “Whether you really take a winning photograph or not, you really start to be aware of your surroundings,” she says. “You start to look at things with different eyes.”

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