Clockwise from top left: Gary Robinette; Carole Wiley; Brian Genge; Nancy Gaudino; Ralph Gaines; Chris Hartzell

Audubon Photography Awards

The 2017 Audubon Photography Awards: Top 100

Explore the incredible pool of photographs our judges had to choose from, along with each image's backstory.

Every year, photographers submit thousands of images to Audubon's Annual Photography Awards, and every year our panel of expert judges must whittle the contenders down to just four that represent the best of the best. There are many more worthy images, however, that capture birds in breathtaking scenes and fascinating behaviors, and so we've compiled 100 of those in the following photo gallery.
Go ahead and click through—we know you will be as taken with the variety of birdlife and the ingenuity of bird photographers as we were. And if you're inspired to pick up a camera and pursue avian subjects of your own, browse our guide to bird photography, where we've collected advice from experts, and tips on the best gear for getting started. 
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1 of 100

Category: Amateur
Photographer: Ann Pacheco
Species: Atlantic Puffin
Location: Grimsey Island, Iceland
Story Behind the Shot: The cliffs of Grimsey Island, 40 kilometers off the north coast of Iceland, house a large colony of puffins, each with a chick tucked into a burrow. Lying at the top of the cliff, Pacheco waited to capture the delivery of food to the chicks. When she anticipated the puffin’s head turn to be parallel to her camera’s sensor, she clicked. Unlike most of the chicks, which scarfed down meals of small fish, this one had a Medusa-like beakful of eels.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Mick Thompson
Species: Gambel’s Quail
Location: Green Valley, AZ
Story Behind the Shot: By placing old saguaro cactus ribs out as a possible perch and tucking suet into nooks and crevices, Thompson successfully attracted this male Gambel’s Quail and then photographed him from behind a blind. Thompson loves the lines and lighting in this image—and in particular, that the quail looks as though it is about to be shot out of the ribs like a cannon.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Kirk Benson
Species: American Avocet
Location: San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine, CA
Story Behind the Shot: The American Avocet feeds by walking through shallow ponds and sweeping its long bill from side to side to find its prey by touch. On this occasion, the pond was deep enough that the avocet’s whole head would submerge with each swipe—the reason there’s water flowing off of its neck in this image. In order to get this eye-level perspective Benson lay flat on his stomach and used a screw-in beanbag on the lens foot.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Scott Dere
Species: Peregrine Falcon
Location: New York City, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Dere found a few birds bathing in a huge puddle that filled out parts of a parking lot in the Bronx. When a Peregrine Falcon came along, it scared all of the other birds away and claimed the bath for itself. Dere inched his car forward just enough to get a head-on photo. Surprisingly, the falcon wasn’t afraid, so he crept a few feet closer and began shooting from inside the car. The falcon soon lost interest in Dere and continued to do its own thing.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Aaron Baggenstos
Species: Bald Eagle
Location: Skagit Valley, WA
Story Behind the Shot: Every year thousands of Bald Eagles gather along rivers in the Pacific Northwest in search of their favorite food, wild salmon that have swum upstream to spawn. When these two birds locked talons in a battle over one such fish Baggenstos was there to capture the action. To overcome the cloudy conditions he used a Nikon D4S camera body at ISO 3200, and he froze the moment by locking in his shutter speed at 1/2000. Lastly he shot to the right of the histogram to optimize results in post-processing, a technique he recommends for anyone photographing action in low light.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Sue Dougherty
Species: Common Raven
Location: Yellowstone National Park
Story Behind the Shot: On a Yellowstone trip with her photo-enthusiast friends, Dougherty spotted a raven as she got out of the car. The bird cawed and strutted. Dougherty says she must have looked “ravenesque” to him because he fluffed up at her from only a few feet away. Capturing interactions such as this, she says, made her realize that people share the Earth with many other sentient beings worthy of respect and protection.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Jefferson White
Species: Wren sp
Location: Worcester, MA
Story Behind the Shot: While enjoying an afternoon in his backyard, White noticed a head peeking out of one of the gourd birdhouses. It was a very hot, dry summer, and the little fellow seemed to need a break from the heat inside. The wren poked his head out, eyes shut tight, just enough to enjoy some fresh air.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Gary Robinette
Species: Golden-crowned Kinglet
Location: Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Woodbridge, VA
Story Behind the Shot: Photographing Golden-crowned Kinglets were on Robinette’s bucket list, and so when he heard the kinglets had been spotted near Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge he went the next day. Though he knew their calls and habitat, Robinette had no idea how fast the birds are. So after a few misses, he was thrilled when a male kinglet presented itself with a full-crown display on a bare branch with no obstructions.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Barbara Baird
Species: Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Location: Laguna Seca Ranch, near Edinberg, TX
Story Behind the Shot: To Baird, it's always a joyous moment when a Golden-fronted Woodpecker shows up. She finds the species to be especially photogenic, with its beautifully colored feathers accented with black and white, and so was pleased one winter day to capture this image at Laguna Seca Ranch.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Alice Cahill
Species: Cedar Waxwing
Location: Cuesta Park, San Luis Obispo, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Each year, Cedar Waxwings visit the central coast of California for a few months during late fall and early winter. They’re regular visitors to Cuesta Park, and when a flock staged themselves high in nearby Sycamore trees, Cahill was ready. She watched as multiple waves of waxwings swooped in to feast on native Toyon berries, including the bird in this image, which appeared to be showing off his prize before gobbling it down.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Mark Hendricks
Species: Von Der Decken’s Hornbill
Location: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Story Behind the Shot: One evening, during a month-long wilderness adventure in East Africa, Hendricks and his wife found their neighbor to be a male Von Der Decken’s Hornbill. It hunted ants as they set up camp, performing the traditional hornbill “toss and catch” with its meal. In order to avoid disturbing the bird, Hendricks belly crawled toward it and spent about 10 minutes photographing the feast.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Ralph Gaines
Species: Anhinga
Location: North Augusta, SC
Story Behind the Shot: Anhingas are known to search for food underwater by using their long, sharp mandibles. After foraging for a while, they like to spend time with their wings spread in the sun, grooming and airing out their feathers—a moment Gaines captured in this image, which shows off the bird’s unique feather patterns and behavior.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Sean Crane
Species: Nazca Booby
Location: Genovesa Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Story Behind the Shot: While on the Galápagos Islands, Crane photographed three species of boobies, including the Nazca Booby in this image. Most were sitting on eggs or with their newborn chicks, which he observed looked like little piles of cotton with beaks sticking out. Crane got low to the ground to isolate the fuzzy birds from the dark background. It’s amazing how unafraid Galapagos wildlife is of humans, he says: “Even this vulnerable little chick seemed to be okay with the large man down on the ground staring back at it.”
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Glenn Conlan
Species: Peregrine Falcon
Location: LA County Coastal Ocean Cliff, CA
Story Behind the Shot: After a few days of observing and waiting, Conlan caught two falcons in an act of love. He had prefocused on the female perched on the edge of a cliff. As she bent over, the male swooped in. Conlan pressed the shutter button for seven to eight seconds, capturing the mating sequence in full.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Andrew Lee
Species: Western Grebe
Location: Lake Hodges, Escondido, CA
Story Behind the Shot: On a chilly day in February, Lee visited a California lake as the sun barely rose above the horizon. The air was filled with the calls of the Western Grebes. After about 20 minutes, two grebes suddenly appeared, extended their elegant, long necks, and raced with each other across the water. Lee raised his camera and quickly fired a burst of five shots, capturing this display of dramatic, finely choreographed courtship.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Warren Hatch
Species: American Oystercatcher
Location: Lido Beach, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Hatch captured a tender moment between parent and child. After foraging in the surf, the adult American Oystercatcher in this image headed back to the nest with a small crab. One chick spied the meal before his two siblings and hurried over. You could almost sense the parent’s pride (and amusement), Hatch says, as the chick wrestled to break into the crab.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Kirsten Tucker
Species: Green Bee-eater
Location: Phetchaburi Province, Thailand
Story Behind the Shot: Tucker spent three days birding in Phetchaburi Province in central Thailand, where she spotted 150 species. When this Green Bee-eater briefly emerged from a tangle of branches along the roadside, she was struck by the elegance of the bird’s lines and how its plumage perfectly reflected its environment—the blue of sky, brown of branch, and green of leaves.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Vince Streano
Species: Rufous Hummingbird
Location: Anacortes, WA
Story Behind the Shot: Streano and his family installed a hummingbird feeder about 20 years ago. At first, only Rufous Hummingbirds were attracted to his home, but over the years, more species took notice. Now with eight feeders, the Streanos have 50 to 100 birds on their patio every summer. Photographing them proved to be extremely tricky, so Streano watches the birds for hours, learning their habits and flying patterns. He takes advantage of the high-noon sun and his camera’s ability to shoot at a 4,000th of a second to stop those rapid wing flaps.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Morris Finkelstein
Species: Tree Swallow
Location: Allen's Meadows, Wilton, CT
Story Behind the Shot: Finkelstein set out in search of a rare warbler with some fellow birders. But when he saw male Tree Swallows posturing on a post close to a nest box, he was in the ideal spot to photograph the brief interaction. He never tracked down the warbler, but he felt fortunate to capture this display of avian territorial behavior.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Therese Scheller
Species: Brown Creeper
Location: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Carver, MN
Story Behind the Shot: Scheller and her husband visited the Rapids Lake Unit of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in search of Golden-crowned Kinglets. In the flood plains of the Minnesota River, they could hear off in the distance the tapping and trilling of Red-bellied Woodpeckers echoing off the leafless trees, along with the chirp of a cardinal and the beep of nuthatches. When looking through the sea of trees, Scheller spotted this Brown Creeper, at one with the landscape, busily working the trunks.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Ashleigh Scully
Species: Yellow-billed Oxpecker
Location: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Story Behind the Shot: Scully was on a photo safari in Tanzania when a herd of Cape Buffalo blocked the road. She noticed these Yellow-billed Oxpeckers along for the ride and steadied her lens on a beanbag to frame a group of them. In this image, the bird on the far right has just scooped a beakful of blood from an open wound, a behavior that surprised Scully. She particularly likes the expressions on the birds’ faces, the clean background, and the fourth bird, just out of focus, “that seems to be wondering why it wasn’t invited to the party.”
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Janine Schutt
Species: Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbird
Location: Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Story Behind the Shot: As she waited one early spring evening for migrating Sandhill Cranes, just outside the southern block of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Schutt saw a flock of what she thought were Starlings feeding on corn. She ignored them, until they flew closer and she noticed Yellow-headed Blackbirds. So she snapped several shots. When Schutt reviewed the images later, she noticed numerous Red-winged Blackbirds as well. The two species are usually at odds and so Schutt felt it was a real treat to see the two getting along in this mixed flock, seemingly relying on one another for food and safety.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Brad Lewis
Species: Brown Pelican
Location: Elkhorn Slough State Marine Reserve, Moss Landing, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Lewis went to Elkhorn Slough on a wet and foggy morning with low visibility. He sat in a small boat and waited for the sun and the arrival of Brown Pelicans. Due to the movement of the boat, he kept his shutter speed at 1/1600, lowered his aperture to f/5.6, and raised his ISO to 2500. The resulting image captured a unique coloring of greys, browns, and oranges in this pelican in flight.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Joe Galkowski
Species: Brandt’s Cormorant
Location: Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Galkowski was dismayed to learn the hard way that adults can get chicken pox. Bored at home, he went somewhere he couldn’t infect anyone else—near the edge of a cliff in a nature preserve. He spent the rest of the day watching courting Brandt’s Cormorants. He adjusted the exposure to bring out the detail of this bird’s black feathers, which nicely contrast its stunning blue eyes and throat pouch.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Brian Kushner
Species: Grackle sp
Location: Mariner Point Park, Joppa, MD
Story Behind the Shot: Mariner Point Park, a small park in Maryland, attracts a great variety of birds in the winter. Kushner was standing and looking around one day when this grackle landed on a nearby tree. It stared directly at him as he took the shot.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Danai Sriprasert
Species: Wood Duck
Location: York, ME
Story Behind the Shot: On a freezing cold day, Sriprasert went to visit the ducks that live on Abbott Pond in the southern tip of Maine. One Wood Duck stood out from among a hundred Mallards, unfazed by either his neighbors or the photographer. Because of the bitter cold Sriprasert was only able to shoot for about five minutes, but that’s all it took to get this shot.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Patrick Maurice
Species: Dunlin
Location: Bunche Beach Preserve, Fort Myers, FL
Story Behind the Shot: For five hours, Maurice army-crawled his way across the sand, challenging himself to take better shorebird photos. He started the morning by photographing Little Blue Herons and Reddish Egrets, then moved on to Western Sandpipers and Sanderlings, and finally crawled into the surf to photograph a small flock of Marbled Godwits feeding with Red Knots and Dunlins. Because he laid still and moved very slowly, the sandpipers, including this Dunlin, walked right up to him.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Lorraine Minns
Species: Wood Stork
Location: Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, FL
Story Behind the Shot: The boardwalk meandering through Wakodahatchee Wetlands, created by a Florida water utilities department, attracts an abundance of wildlife, including over 150 species of birds. On the day she took this image, Minn captured a Wood Stork taking a bath—spraying water everywhere as it stood up and shook itself off. The species, North America’s only native stork, can be found breeding there every winter and spring.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Ly Dang
Species: Osprey
Location: San Diego, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Dang staked out this Osprey’s nest on a typical San Diego “May grey” day, near the San Diego River Estuary, hoping to catch the female in a teaching moment with her chicks. He waited for more than an hour before he finally saw an Osprey returning from the direction of the river. She carried seaweed between her talons—a meal that seemed to catch the chicks by surprise.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Steve Mattheis
Species: Great Gray Owl
Location: Grand Teton National Park, WY
Story Behind the Shot: Mattheis found this Great Gray Owl fledgling on its first day out of the nest. It decided to climb back to safety on a vertical tree, but after only a few feet, the young owl paused in exhaustion. It wrapped its wings around the tree trunk as if it was hanging on for dear life. Eventually, the bird climbed another few feet to the nearest branch and rested for quite some time before jumping off, clumsily flapping its wings as it fell to the ground.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Chris Schlaf
Species: Wood Duck
Location: Washington, MI
Story Behind the Shot: Schlaf was photographing a Wood Duck floating on a log when a Painted Turtle arrived to sunbathe. He focused on getting both of the animals together with their reflections when he noticed that the duck was getting antsy. Schlaf snapped this image just as she took off and the turtle ducked its head for cover.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Artur Stankiewicz
Species: European Bee-eater
Location: Bratsigovo, Bulgaria
Story Behind the Shot: Stankiewicz spent three days in a hide above a European Bee-eater colony, patiently observing and photographing. Despite it being late June, weather refused to cooperate; intermittent showers and clouds presented a challenge in capturing dynamic photos of birds in flight. Eventually, Stankiewicz noticed that a few individuals regularly took off from a thin perch, and that became his target. He captured this shot of a bee-eater, wings colorfully spread, during a brief shimmer of sunlight.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Ann Pacheco
Species: Northern Pintail
Location: Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro County, NM
Story Behind the Shot: After scouting the refuge for ducks, Pacheco homed in on an open-water marsh with late autumn colors, winds blowing from the north, and sunlight that had broken through the clouds. Her challenge was to capture the unique wing and body position the Northern Pintail displays in its descent. She tracked the bird’s looped and long, slow, drooped-winged approach, and this image shows its elegant posture, long neck, namesake pin tail, and angled-back wings. In the final seconds before impact, its triangular feet act as a brake.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Frank Abbott
Species: Brown Pelican
Location: Sanibel Island, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Abbott’s favorite subject is the Brown Pelican, for its triumph over DDT, its elegant flight, its incredible dives, its graceful swimming, and not least of all, its accessibility. For this image, Abbott maneuvered his wheelchair onto a finger pier. He lined up with the bird with just inches to spare between his wheels and the edge of the pier. For him, the resulting image, of a mature pelican in mating plumage captured at the apex of a stretch, was worth the risk.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Greg Gard
Species: American Oystercatcher
Location: Lido Beach, Nassau County, NY
Story Behind the Shot: While lying low and photographing shorebirds during high tide, Gard noticed an adult and a juvenile American Oystercatcher approaching the water pool. He expected both birds to take a bath, but to his surprise, the adult bird stopped at the edge of the water, looked at him, and started to drink. With slow movements, Gard pointed his lens at the bird and started snapping.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Carolina Fraser
Species: Mallard
Location: Dawson Creek Corporate Park, Portland, OR
Story Behind the Shot: One morning on a family vacation in Oregon, Fraser woke early to bird at the nearby Dawson Creek Corporate Park. She watched as this Mallard shook itself dry after swimming in a pond. Because the early-morning sun created fascinating light, Fraser leveraged it to capture a unique scene of an everyday bird.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Caroline Samson
Species: Osprey
Location: Nequasset Fish Ladder, Woolwich, ME
Story Behind the Shot: In May, alewives—a fish in the herring family—start to move upstream to spawn in freshwater lakes in Maine. Osprey find it an opportune time to snag an easy meal. Samson went to the the Nequasset Fish Ladder to watch as alewives made their way over the dam into Nequasset Lake. She had her camera ready when an Osprey’s head began to bob, because it takes just seconds for it to go from sitting in a tree to snagging a fish. As in this image, she also tries to get low to capture the motion of both the bird and the water.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Jim Akers
Species: Brown Pelican
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Story Behind the Shot: On a cold, windy morning on the beaches of Santa Monica, the waves were five to eight feet high and Brown Pelicans were out on a fishing expedition. The birds were playing “chicken” with the waves, and because it was preoccupied with gulls waiting to steal its catch, this one just barely escaped a crashing wall of water.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Chris Hartzell
Species: Ring-necked Duck
Location: Dead Horse State Park, Cottonwood, AZ
Story Behind the Shot: Hartzell enjoys the challenge of capturing creatures as they rise out of water, pushing surface tension to its max. This Ring-necked Duck at Dead Horse State Park spent just a few minutes diving next to him. Auto focus wouldn’t work so he had to focus manually—a near impossible task. But for the second time in more than 30 years of photography, Hartzell got the image, conveying the unique dynamics of water, that he was after.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Zachary Webster
Species: Saddlebill Stork
Location: Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
Story Behind the Shot: Webster spent a morning on a boat in the Lower Zambezi, looking for elephants crossing the river or frolicking in the mud along its banks. Instead, a Saddlebill Stork caught his eye as it frenetically searched for food, then stabbed its bill “like a lance” into the water. Webster got the water-level shot using a handheld lens, despite the challenges of keeping it steady as the boat rocked in the wind.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Carole Wiley
Species: Bronzed Cowbird
Location: Santa Clara Ranch, McAllen, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Bronzed Cowbirds have a dramatic courtship display that begins with a territorial, head-down display and segues into a fluttering aerial flight. The latter lasts only 10 seconds, and Wiley wanted to capture the bird square to the lens, unobstructed with both wings in the proper position and the bird looking at the camera. She fired a four-frame burst and this image did the trick.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Nate Chappell
Species: Reddish Egret
Location: Bird Island, Calhoun County, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Chappell was boating near Bird Island, a rookery in San Antonio Bay, when he saw two white morph Reddish Egrets land and perform a territorial display on the beach. As they raised their crests and flared their wings, Chappell started taking pictures, and then they both leapt into the air. Chappell particularly loves how in this shot the birds seem suspended in action.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Marjie Goldberg
Species: Reddish Egret
Location: Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Goldberg loves photographing Reddish Egrets because of their animated style of hunting. She’s been photographing an adult pair, which she nicknamed Fred and Ginger for their graceful dances, for a few years. Recently, she spotted a wonderful surprise—a juvenile Reddish Egret. Just like its parents, the juvenile bird sprints across the water, spreading and raising its wings over its head to create a shadow that attracts fish.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Brian Genge
Species: Great Blue Heron
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Genge spent a while watching this Great Blue Heron as it waded in the harbor, in search of a meal. He wanted to capture the beauty of this large bird and the lighting lent itself to that task, making for a dramatic scene.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Sabrina Adleson
Species: Collared Aracari
Location: Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
Story Behind the Shot: This past December, Adleson visited Costa Rica on a teen birding trip with Audubon's Hog Island Camp. The feeder at the Selva Verde lodge—replenished with bananas multiple times a day—provided especially rich opportunities for bird photography. All of the birds loved the free food, Adleson says, but when the Aracaris arrived, other species vacated the scene. She observed the fierce colors of their fiery chests fit their bossy personalities.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Judylynn Malloch
Species: Green-crowned Brilliant
Location: Savegre, Costa Rica
Story Behind the Shot: The vibrant color and beauty of the Green-crowned Brilliant, not to mention feisty character and incredible energy, put the species on Malloch’s life list for bird photography. Because the individual in this image didn’t rest very much, Malloch adjusted her camera settings to capture the bird in flight as it went about the business of gathering food for the day.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Gail Bisson
Species: Purple Gallinule
Location: Cano Negro, Costa Rica
Story Behind the Shot: After a disappointing start to her Costa Rica trip (she mistakenly booked a bird-watching tour instead of a bird-photography tour), Bisson joined her husband at his fly-fishing camp in Cano Negro in the northern part of the country. That camp turned out to be bird photography heaven, with many wonderful subjects and opportunities, and this image of a Purple Gallinule was the very last frame Bisson shot before they left.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Carolyn Varley
Species: Western Grebe
Location: Lake Osakis, MN
Story Behind the Shot: Taking photographs of a moving bird is hard. Taking photographs of a moving bird on moving water in a moving boat—that’s a whole different level of complexity, which Varley tackled with this shot. Ultimately, she was able to capture this image of a Western Grebe on Lake Osakis, the largest rookery in the Midwest for the species, as it peered out from among the reeds.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Will Hilscher
Species: Red-winged Blackbird
Location: Lake Pflugerville, Pflugerville, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Living in Central Texas, Hilscher is blessed with a huge variety of beautiful birds to photograph. However, he never considered the female Red-winged Blackbird as pretty—that is until he noticed 10 females feeding among the lake’s reeds. It was not just the bird that appealed to Hilscher, but also the habitat. The bird Hilscher never took notice of has now become the subject of one of his favorite photos.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Nate Chappell
Species: Curve-billed Thrasher and White-winged Dove
Location: Pond at Elephant Head, Amado, AZ
Story Behind the Shot: Chappell was focused on photographing a Curve-billed Thrasher from a blind when suddenly a White-winged Dove flew in, causing the thrasher to flare its wings and tail. Chappell fired off a burst of shots. He had seen thrashers strike this pose when threatened before and had wanted to get a good image. Because Chappell makes a point of keeping his shutter speed up, just in case action unfolds, he was able to capture it.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Linda Koo
Species: Sandhill Crane
Location: Bernardo Waterfowl Area, Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex, NM
Story Behind the Shot: Thousands of Sandhill Cranes gathered in a field in New Mexico for a last meal before taking off for their nighttime wetland roosts. It is at this time, in this packed space with the evocative music of their vocalizations, that they put on flashy displays. Being there to capture this shot is to be a privileged part of the landscape, Koo says, living each moment with senses engaged to their fullest.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Peter Dominowski
Species: Indian Peafowl
Location: Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Rajasthan, India
Story Behind the Shot: It was a chilly, predawn morning at Keoladeo Ghana National Park, and Dominowski wanted to revisit some peafowl he found the previous day. When he arrived, several were already perched in a tree. He set up his tripod and snapped a few profile shots, but as the light grew brighter, one peafowl took off and he captured this silhouette of the bird in flight.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Peter Cavanagh
Species: Toco Toucan
Location: Porto Jofre, Mato Grosso, Brazil
Story Behind the Shot: Porto Jofre on the Cuiabá River lies at the southern end of a heavily rutted 150-kilometer dirt road through the Pantanal. After the bone-rattling ride there, he had his camera on a large tripod and was ready for the moment when a Toco Toucan landed nearby to feed on fruit. He framed the bird, fruit residue still visible on its black bill patch, in front of blazing foliage that seemed to clone the toucan’s colors, and used a wide aperture and long focal length to blur the background. Taking multiple refueling breaks helps some birds fare better during migration. But for Gray-cheeked thrushes, a two-week binge session in Colombia can be all they need to reach their boreal breeding grounds.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Carolina Fraser
Species: Great Blue Heron
Location: Dawson Creek Corporate Park, Portland, OR
Story Behind the Shot: During a family vacation in Oregon, Fraser, her dad, and her sister decided to get up early to bird at the nearby Dawson Creek Corporate Park before the rest of the family awoke. She spotted a Great Blue Heron next to a pond, hunting for fish. The sun's rays were highlighting the heron beautifully, so she used it to her advantage when photographing the bird.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Kristian Summerer
Species: Northern Cardinal
Location: Stockton, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: Summerer appreciates the birds attracted by his wife’s feeders—but he felt the structure interfered with his attempts at photographing them. As an advertising creative, he approached the problem as if he was photographing a model in a studio. He built a small stage with a recessed seed trough and mounted it outside his window. Then he hung a black background and positioned off-camera flash heads a couple of feet behind the stage. When, one drizzly day, a cardinal landed he had a camera on a tripod trained on it and ready.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Pamela Karaz
Species: Pileated Woodpecker
Location: Trenton Falls, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Karaz’s favorite winter blind is her car, which on this day she used to observe Pileated Woodpeckers nibbling on crabapples. The crabapple tree sat along a country road, so she positioned her car at a safe distance and used a fixed lens to capture this image. The male was making his way around the tree and ended up on a small branch, reaching for the apples toward the bottom.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Sonja Puhek
Species: Red-winged Blackbird
Location: Petersburg, KY
Story Behind the Shot: When Puhek was a young girl, she would carry her point-and-shoot camera outside and spend hours photographing the birds at her feeder. In March 2016, she got her first DSLR, which took her photography to a new level. On a trip to Kentucky that spring, she caught a glimpse of a female Red-winged Blackbird sitting near a pond. The blackbird flew onto a brilliant pink bush, and though she was still learning her camera, Puhek captured this image highlighting the contrast between the colorful vegetation and the bird’s brown stripes.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Carolina Fraser
Species: Barred Owl
Location: Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: While driving through Ontario's Wolfe Island with her dad, Fraser spotted a Barred Owl hunting near the road in the snow. A gust of cold air blew its feathers and she captured this image as the bird closed its eyes and looked up.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: William Page Pully
Species: Piping Plover
Location: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island, MA
Story Behind the Shot: Shortly after hatching, Piping Plover chicks venture out to feed on their own. Pully was fortunate to witness this milestone on Plum Island last year, but found it challenging to see eye to eye with the chicks, which are just a few inches tall. As he laid flat on the beach, keeping a safe distance with a telephoto lens, a storm blew up a gust of sand. This chick fought its way through to the shelter of its mother, displaying what Pully calls “an amazing amount of resilience and self-sufficiency for such young and tiny creatures.”
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Mary Madden
Species: Northern Pygmy-Owl
Location: Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Madden and a friend were out looking for birds to photograph when they heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl calling. They spotted it on a low branch of a giant fir tree and approached it slowly from across a small meadow. The owl took off after just a few shots. Afterward, Madden lamented the poor light in the shade of the tree; her friend reassured her that the lichen-covered branch the owl sat on would make up for it—and he was right.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Carolina Fraser
Species: Sandhill Crane
Location: Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, Fairbanks, AK
Story Behind the Shot: During a family vacation in Alaska, Fraser visited Creamer’s Field. Hundreds of Sandhill Cranes frequented the refuge, and their calls echoed around the rainy area. The cranes would often fly away together, and Fraser photographed this one as it flew to catch up with the rest of its flock.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Dieter Schönwetter
Species: Forster’s Tern
Location: Whitewater Lake, Manitoba, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Forster’s Terns have a very protective lifestyle, hiding their nests deep in a marsh. In order to approach the birds slowly, without stressing the parents or chicks, Schönwetter built a floating muskrat house. Being at water level afforded him with a wonderful vantage point, as well as the opportunity to maximize the natural lighting of the sun. Schönwetter made three visits, and after countless hours of watching, waiting, and maneuvering, was able to capture this image of the parent feeding a minnow to its chick.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Owen Deutsch
Species: Egyptian Goose
Location: Zimanga Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Story Behind the Shot: For Deutsch, taking photos from a hide below the water line at the Zimanga Reserve was an emotional experience. The pond was tranquil and serene, and he felt privileged to witness a mother Egyptian Goose carefully tending her goslings. He hopes photos such as this will entice others into becoming more involved in efforts to protect our environment and conserve it.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Marjie Goldberg
Species: Little Blue Heron
Location: Siesta Key, FL
Story Behind the Shot: It was a beautiful morning on Siesta Key, and Goldberg was watching a variety of species work the tidal pond for a breakfast snack. That’s when she saw two immature Little Blue Herons prancing around in a manner that reminded her of playful puppies. They conveyed a sense of carefree joy that caught her imagination, and her focus literally turned to them to capture this image.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Marie Read
Species: Eared Grebe
Location: Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, Malta, MT
Story Behind the Shot: Along the shore of Lake Bowdoin, Read noticed Eared Grebe families foraging among floating algae. Wearing camouflage, she laid on the shore nearby for several hours each morning, waiting for them to approach. One morning, a storm turned the water blue-black and eventually obscured the sun. Moments later, an opening in the clouds allowed Read to photograph a grebe with its piggybacking chick illuminated by an extraordinary light.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Danny Hancock
Species: Snow Goose
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro County, NM
Story Behind the Shot: Hancock has always tried to get close enough to wildlife to capture the expression in the eye of his subject. To do so without disturbing it, he uses a super telephoto lens with an extender, and then waits patiently. For this photo, he stood for quite a while near a shallow pond in the refuge when a small flock of geese came in for a landing.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Marlyss Brightwell
Species: Muscovy Duck
Location: Mesquite City Park, Mesquite, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Brightwell had barely owned her first professional camera for a month when she took it to a city park to practice. The park happened to have a number of feral ducks, including this Muscovy Duck. When the mother let a duckling climb onto her back to nap and then slowly fell asleep herself, Brightwell captured the loving moment.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Caroline Samson
Species: Swamp Sparrow
Location: Bowdoinham, ME
Story Behind the Shot: Samson loves to shoot at a dock that overlooks Merrymeeting Bay in Bowdoinham, Maine, near her home. She tends to visit early in the morning when the bay is quiet, except for the stirrings of birds starting their day. On this particular morning, there was low-lying fog over the water and the sun was just starting to rise on the other side of the shore. The beautiful golden backdrop offered the perfect opportunity to capture artistic silhouettes of Swamp Sparrows.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Nancy Gaudino
Species: Waved Albatross
Location: Isla Espanola, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Story Behind the Shot: Male albatross arrive before females on Espanola Island to stake out a territory for nesting. Once settled, with a delightful show of bill clacking and bowing, a male will woo a female to be his lifelong mate. On the day Gaudino took this shot, Waved Albatross were using the high cliffs overlooking the sea as launchpads, and she spent a good deal of time watching them takeoff. When she returned to the paths along the cliffs the loud clapping of this bird caught her attention; she crouched low and focused on the young bachelor’s open gullet.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Nancy Gaudino
Species: Magnificent Frigatebird
Location: Genovesa Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Story Behind the Shot:While nesting, the male Magnificent Frigatebird will inflate its gular sac, like a big red balloon, to attract a mate—the moment Gaudino captured in this image. Each time a female flies overhead, the male raises his beak and shakes his head in a loud display.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Catherine Dobbins d’Alessio
Species: Northern Pintail
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro County, NM
Story Behind the Shot: Just before d’Alessio pulled up to the entrance gate of Bosque del Apache early one December morning, she noticed a small pond on the left with a patch of low-lying fog and ducks bathing and diving in the water. The light was mystical, so she pulled into an adjacent parking area to grab a few shots before the fog dissipated.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Hrishikesh Nulkar
Species: Purple Gallinule
Location: Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Purple Gallinules can be found at the Green Cay Wetlands in South Florida, but they are not usually cooperative models as they typically hide amongst the vegetation. On this day, Nulkar caught one sitting up high for a good point of view. The just-setting sun cast a warm light that added a glow to the bird’s colorful feathers.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Christina Renee McCormick
Species: White-breasted Nuthatch
Location: Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Topsfield, MA
Story Behind the Shot: McCormick set off on the morning of this shot hoping to catch spring migrants at Ipswich, one of her favorite locations. Once her camera was set up near a likely perch, she waited to see which birds would stop by. Eventually, the distinctive call of a White-breasted Nuthatch caught her ear, and she realized the bird was watching her from a nearby thorn bush.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Sue Dougherty
Species: Northern Flicker
Location: Bend, OR
Story Behind the Shot: One late spring morning, Dougherty watched a pair of flickers from her backyard deck as they chased and sparred around Ponderosa Pines. She grabbed her camera and froze their antics in mid-flight. The flickers on her property are year-round residents, and for her this image affirms that wildlife is everywhere—to connect with it you just need to look.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Dawn Wilson
Species: Roseate Spoonbill
Location: Smith’s Oak Rookery, High Island, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Wilson arrived at the Smith Oaks Rookery shortly before sunrise, not having had time to scout it the day before. She quickly realized she would have to shoot directly into the sun but decided to make the best of it. When a Roseate Spoonbill flew into the shadows of trees, Wilson hoped she had caught a little bit of light on the bird’s wings. Not only did she get the shot, the warm morning light also magnificently illuminated the soft pink feathers.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Gene Putney
Species: Rough-legged Hawk
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Story Behind the Shot: It was zero degrees in the Rocky Mountains the day this Rough-legged Hawk flew from tree to tree to escape harassment from Common Ravens. The wild chase and freezing temperature made it difficult for Putney to take a photo. But moments later, the hawk burst through snowy trees just close enough for Putney to capture this moment in time.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Zachary Webster
Species: Saddlebill Stork and Wattled Crane
Location: Duba Plains, Botswana
Story Behind the Shot: For 10 minutes, Webster observed a pair of Saddlebill Storks displaying—replete with head bobs and the flapping of massive wings—before both flew off. Then two huge birds wheeled and banked across the sky, coming towards him from the same direction the storks had gone. Webster realized a stork was chasing a Wattled Crane; the two jockeyed and swooped above. As they banked back, the stork nipped the crane’s tail feathers. This shot captures the crane’s reaction in the moment directly afterward.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Kathleen Elam
Species: Anna’s Hummingbird
Location: Aliso Viejo, CA
Story Behind the Shot: A hummingbird’s wings beat more than 50 times per second, so Elam never knows if she got a good shot until she reviews her pictures later. When she saw this one, an Anna’s Hummingbird preparing to attack another at the feeder, she knew it was special. Elam used a macro lens to capture the bird in detail and several flashes set at 1/16th of a flash in order to the stop motion of its wings.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Gail Bisson
Species: Lazuli Bunting
Location: Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Bisson and a friend were driving along a dirt road in Kamloops when they spotted a blue bird singing on a tree in the distance. She assumed it was a Mountain Bluebird, but when she mentioned it to her friend, he immediately recognized it as a Lazuli Bunting. This was a new bird for Bisson, and she was thrilled. They piled out of the car and followed the bird as it sang to them from multiple perches.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Sarah Blodgett
Species: Yellow Warbler
Location: Stewart Park, Ithaca, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Tired of being trapped inside during a very wintry Ithaca April, Blodgett ventured out on a gray day in search of subjects. She walked around a little pond that sits at the south end of Cayuga Lake, which is frequented by many birds throughout the year. Blodgett saw a bright little flash of color flickering through the gloom and followed it with her lens. The image she snapped of a Yellow Warbler was a hopeful sign, she felt, of the coming spring.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Patrick Newcombe
Species: Open-billed Stork
Location: Tarangire National Park, Manyara, Tanzania
Story Behind the Shot: While watching elephants from an open-top Jeep in Tanzania, Newcombe noticed a flock of Open-billed Storks resting on a dead snag. He snapped this photo from the confines of the vehicle. Each individual bird seems to be doing something slightly different, he says, which makes them fascinating to observe. When feeding, the storks wade slowly through water while probing for snails in the mud with their bill. In the rainy season, they will nest in dead trees such as the one in this photo, making the protection of snags vital.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Teri Shors
Species: Long-eared Owl
Location: Winnebago County, WI
Story Behind the Shot: Shors came across 18 Long-eared Owls roosting in a willow thicket, near an unlimited supply of prairie voles with which to satiate their appetites, in what was the first documented sighting of the species in Winnebago County. She wore a special “owl cap” in hopes that they would welcome her as one of their own and observed the owls for two months. But her biggest hurdle proved to be the thicket itself. The owls nestled within the thick, tangled brush; obtaining an unobstructed view was akin to playing "Twister," she says, so she didn’t bother with a tripod. Nonetheless, she found photographing them an “enchanting experience.”
Category: Youth
Photographer: Zachary Webster
Species: Montezuma Oropendola
Location: Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
Story Behind the Shot: Typically Montezuma Oropendolas are photographed with other members of their dense colonies. But during a week of listening to the species’ unique calls in Costa Rica, Webster honed in on this individual—a lone oropendola with its neck outstretched and bicolored bill prominent, its pale patches of bare skin standing in contrast to both the bird’s dark chestnut feathers and the roughness of the branch’s bark and moss.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Marie Read
Species: American Oystercatcher
Location: Fort De Soto Park, Pinellas County, FL
Story Behind the Shot: The resident oystercatchers at Fort De Soto aren’t fazed by beachgoers, so Read sat on the ground near the waterline and waited until one approached her. She was striving for a close-up of the bird using its chisel-shaped bill to deftly pry open small clams. At one point the oystercatcher came so near she could only include part of it in the frame. The result was this unusual front view with the colorful bill held straight down and both eyes visible.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Sam Miller
Species: Killdeer
Location: Gambrills, MD
Story Behind the Shot: Killdeer tend to nest in open and often busy places. To lure predators and other animals away from their nests, the birds do a “broken-wing” dance to make their presence known. Miller saw this display and got down to the bird’s level. As he snapped a few long-angle shots, he realized the everyday challenges that these birds face. With potential threats perpetually around the corner, they persevere and put themselves at risk for the future of their young.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Judylynn Malloch
Species: Lesser Violetear
Location: Savegre, Costa Rica
Story Behind the Shot: There’s an incredible number of hummingbird species in Costa Rica. The challenge for Malloch was capturing them as they zipped quickly around in the air. She was prepared when this bird finally paused to rest at a favorite spot, spreading its tail feathers to show off beautiful detail that is typically hidden.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Ellen Nelson
Species: Florida Scrub-Jay
Location: Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary, Rockledge, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Nelson had never been to Florida and was particularly taken by the 140-acre Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary, named for the renowned Audubon photographers, where she says Florida Scrub-Jays put on a show. One even landed on her head several times. She was focused on a jay perched in a tree when a second landed on a short pine near her elbow. She swiveled and got this shot. (Though the bird has food in its mouth, Nelson notes she did not hand feed it, as it is now illegal to do so.)
Category: Youth
Photographer: Zachary Webster
Species: Northern Flicker
Location: Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: This male Northern Flicker and its mate were engrossed in building a nest in a dead tree in British Columbia, which is a summer breeding ground for the species. The pair had selected a fallen tree near a road dotted with bluebird nest boxes, and so they were close to Webster’s eye level. With this shot he captured the flicker’s fanning tail and underwing, each luminescent feather spread, as the male returns to his excavation duties.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Rodney Cammauf
Species: Pileated Woodpecker
Location: Everglades National Park, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Cammauf was surprised when he spotted a Pileated Woodpecker near Flamingo Campground, a relatively popular site within the Everglades—but he wasn’t able to capture it in a photo. So he went back again and again, watching from different vantage points each time to avoid disturbing the bird. After several days, he realized the woodpecker wasn’t alone—it had two chicks tucked into a hole in a palm tree. He captured this shot as the nestlings stuck their heads out to look for a parent returning with food.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Nancy Elwood
Species: Great Horned Owl
Location: Longwood, FL
Story Behind the Shot: When Elwood’s friend told her that two owl chicks were nesting at his child’s school, she knew she had to investigate further. She scoped out the site and found the nest tucked into an American sycamore tree, right along the driveway leading to the school’s main entrance. Because the kids kept faithful track of the owls, they had little fear of humans—less than three weeks after this image was taken they had successfully branched and were wandering the grounds of the school with their parents.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Glenn Conlan
Species: Peregrine Falcon
Location: LA County Coastal Ocean Cliff, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Conlan got this shot after many days of observing a family of Peregrine Falcons. With a handheld lens, he prefocused on a fledgling at the cliffside. As soon as the fledgling took flight, Conlan began began shooting and tracked the bird as its parent released a small bird in midair. To his surprise, two other fledglings flew in to nab the meal as well.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Mike Anderson
Species: Northern Shoveler
Location: Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, Petaluma, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Even the most common bird can be striking when seen from a new angle. Anderson and his wife had been watching birds on a pond at Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, including a group of half a dozen Northern Shovelers. He noticed that occasionally one shoveler would paddle off, then fly straight back to its companions—so when this one started swimming away, he was ready to catch its return.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Patricia Halitsky
Species: Black-capped Chickadee
Location: Hylo, Alberta, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: This Black-Capped Chickadee was drinking the water drops from an icicle near the dining room window of Halitsky’s rural home. The temperature had to be just right—too warm and there was too much water, too cold and there was none. She set her camera on a tripod and focused on the end of the icicle. Timing the photograph was difficult, as both the drop of water and the bird were there for only a fraction of a second. But she got the shot—one she hopes conveys the resilience of the tiny birds during harsh Alberta winters.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Nathan Rolls
Species: Red-winged Blackbird
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, San Antonio, NM
Story Behind the Shot: In January, Rolls drove from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to Bosque del Apache to photograph birds during their winter migration. He spent hours sitting on a stool with his camera, and eventually, a swarm of female Red-winged Blackbirds flew into an open field. Rolls snapped a couple photos of the entire flock, ebbing and flowing through the air like a stream, but then homed in on a smaller portion in order to capture the detail of their lattice-like formation and methodical acrobatics.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Steve Mattheis
Species: Great Gray Owl
Location: Grand Teton National Park, WY
Story Behind the Shot: It was early October, and pockets of beautiful fall foliage still dotted the landscape. One night, a winter storm warning blared notice of 10 inches of snowfall. Mattheis woke before dawn the next day and drove to Grand Teton, hoping to find Great Gray Owls sweeping through the snow. It took only a few minutes before an owl appeared, just as a massive blizzard hit. It moved from perch to perch listening for the footsteps of tiny rodents beneath the snow. Mattheis captured this image as it landed in the perfect spot—a transition from fall to winter.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Zeralda LaGrange
Species: Great Egret
Location: Cypress Island Preserve, Beaux Bridge, LA
Story Behind the Shot: When she arrived at Lake Martin on a January day, LaGrange was planning to practice shooting landscapes in the early-morning mist. But the lake turned out to be too foggy, so she headed for a nearby rookery—and never made it there. Instead, she stumbled on a host of egrets, cormorants, and anhingas, accompanied by a lone Great Blue Heron. She couldn’t maneuver to a spot she liked, but she didn’t need to, not when this egret took flight, framing the perfect shot within what she calls a “nature cathedral.”
Category: Youth
Photographer: Zachary Webster
Species: Common Loon
Location: Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: It was mid-July when Webster captured this iconic shot of a parent loon with a baby positioned comfortably on its back, nestled deep within the bird’s white-blocked feathers. Their motionless demeanor created a near-perfect shadow in the deep green water.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Stacy Hoffman
Species: Great Gray Owl
Location: Yellowstone National Park
Story Behind the Shot: Hoffman was passionate about photography at a young age, but her career took precedence for many years. On a trip to Yellowstone, a rainstorm began to break and Hoffman spotted movement in the woods. She was finally getting back into photography and this was the moment when she found her first subject—a Great Gray Owl. She was ready as the owl flitted down from a tree while on the hunt.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Sarah Blodgett
Species: Indigo Bunting
Location: Lansing Center Trail, Lansing, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Indigo Buntings fly to North America to breed after wintering in Central America. Blodgett took three or four trips to the Lansing Center Trail to photograph the birds, but each time she neared their territory they would quickly fly off. On her last trip, she approached from a different direction, set up her tripod on a dirt mound, and focused on a midway point on their flight path from Norway maples to phragmites. She stood very still, and as the light faded and softened, she captured this image of a single bird in the grasses where it landed.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Tracy Johnson
Species: Rufous Hummingbird
Location: Livermore, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Johnson is always happy to see Rufous Hummingbirds return to Northern California after their long spring migration. She took a liking to one, who she named “Squeaky McGee” for the way she constantly squeaks during her trip to the feeders. Hummingbirds are said to have incredible eyesight; Squeaky does not. On the day Johnson snapped this photo, Squeaky tried to drink from the flowers painted on her freshly pedicured toes. Johnson’s laughter scared the hummingbird off, but when Squeaky returned Johnson was ready for her.
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