Audubon Photography Awards

The 2018 Audubon Photography Awards: Top 100

Feast your eyes on these always exquisite, sometimes hilarious, images, and find out the backstory behind each spectacular shot.

This year photographers from across the United States and Canada submitted more than 8,000 images to the ninth annual Audubon Photography Awards, and our panel of expert judges whittled down the entries to four exceptional winners. We know you want to see more of the entries, so every year we select 100 additional photographs to share. Displayed in no particular order, the images here feature birds in all their varied glory, from intimate portraits of family life to fascinating feeding behavior to massive flocks in motion.

Settle in and prepare to be delighted by the variety of birdlife and the story behind each shot—we certainly were. And should the stunning images spark an interest in picking up a camera to capture the beauty of birds, check out our photography guide; it’s got everything you need to get started, including tips and how-to’s, ethical guidelines, and gear recommendations. Next year, it could be your shot that makes the cut. 
Category: Professional
Photographer: Cindy Goeddel
Species: Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Location: Ambergris Caye, Belize
Story Behind the Shot: Goeddel is accustomed to hard-earned photographs achieved by spending long hours in unforgiving conditions. But that’s not always the case. While on vacation on Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, she enjoyed photographing this Golden-fronted Woodpecker nest cavity over several days, and captured this image of one of many morning food deliveries as both parents worked tirelessly to bring insects and fruit to their ravenous young.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Judy Lynn Malloch
Species: Pyrrhuloxia
Location: Santa Clara Ranch, McCook, TX
Story Behind the Shot: At Santa Clara Ranch, a wildlife sanctuary in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Malloch observed territorial behavior among birds visiting a watering hole—conduct she captured in this photo of a feisty Pyrrhuloxia, a close relative of the Northern Cardinal that inhabits the desert Southwest. The songbird’s aggressive posture may be intended to scare off other birds, but viewers can’t help but be drawn to the Pyrrhuloxia’s beautiful colors in Malloch’s photo.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Feng Qiao
Species: White-tailed Ptarmigan
Location: Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: It took two years, and four visits, to Kananaskis Country, a park system west of Calgary, before Qiao finally photographed one of the elusive, elegantly camouflaged White-tailed Ptarmigans that live there. He was just in time: One week later, the road he took into the park would be closed for the winter season. The thick snow allowed Qiao to bury himself and hide from the bird, and provided a dreamlike foreground for the image.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Susan Ellison
Species: Snowy Plover
Location: San Luis Pass, Galveston, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Sometimes mistakes create opportunities. Ellison was supposed to meet a photographer friend on the beach, but she got lost and ended up at a different spot. Then she realized she’d forgotten a key piece of gear for taking low-angle shots. Determined not to waste the remaining evening light, Ellison soldiered on, eventually encountering this Snowy Plover foraging by itself. Making do with the gear at hand, she came away with this image of the fast-moving plover and its reflection in the retreating surf.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Cynthia Herrick
Species: Snowy Egret
Location: Anna Maria Island, FL
Story Behind the Shot: After being in a head-on car crash, Herrick’s friends invited her to recuperate at their home on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where she became fascinated by the local bird life. As the sun was setting one evening, Herrick lay on the beach, propped herself up on her elbows, camera at the ready, and waited. Before long, this Snowy Egret approached, too focused on a house fly to notice the photographer. Just after Herrick snapped this photo, the egret harpooned and gobbled the fly.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Kevin Malo
Species: American Coot
Location: Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Malo says he’s long hoped to capture a close-up of the American Coot’s clownish lobed toes, which help the birds navigate marshy habitat. He finally got the chance on the boardwalk at a favorite birding hotspot, the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center along the Texas Gulf Coast. The boardwalk and surrounding landscape suffered heavy damage last year during Hurricane Harvey, but restoration efforts are underway.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Caroline Samson
Species: Bobolink
Location: Bowdoinham, ME
Story Behind the Shot: It was June, and the buttercups and daisies were in bloom in Samson’s horse pasture. When she saw this male Bobolink singing from a sapling among the wildflowers, she knew she had to photograph it. A barrier of shrubs and trees along the pasture’s edge provided the cover Samson needed to get this shot without spooking the bird. She chose a wide-open aperture to let the flowers blur while keeping the Bobolink in sharp focus.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Charles D. Johnson
Species: Common Loon
Location: Washington, NH
Story Behind the Shot: For more than a decade, Johnson and his wife have helped New Hampshire’s Loon Preservation Committee to monitor a pair of Common Loons that nest each year on Island Pond, a 200-acre glacial lake. Here, while her partner fishes across the lake, the female rests in the shallows on a warm summer evening against a colorful backdrop of aquatic plants.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Red-necked Phalarope
Location: Delta, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Gertsman spends countless hours each year photographing shorebirds as they migrate through Canada’s Fraser River Delta near his Vancouver home. One August day, he spotted this juvenile Red-necked Phalarope foraging on its own at low tide. Gertsman carefully approached close enough to photograph it with a 400mm lens. The bird, apparently oblivious to the photographer, soon moved too close for the telephoto lens. Gertsman switched to a wide-angle lens, delivering this shot of the phalarope in its habitat.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Steller’s Jay
Location: West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Some of Gertsman’s earliest memories are of Steller’s Jays visiting his family’s backyard hazelnut tree in autumn. They may be common and familiar—Steller’s Jays are the provincial bird of British Columbia, where he lives—but Gertsman was still thrilled to see this one while on a winter hike. He was dazzled by its blue plumage against the white snow. After shooting close-ups of the cooperative corvid, he focused on wider-angle shots—like this one—to show the bird’s natural surroundings.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Bob Schamerhorn
Species: Great Egret
Location: St. Augustine, FL
Story Behind the Shot: At a St. Augustine rookery popular with photographers, Schamerhorn decided to use his longest telephoto lens to see if he could capture an intimate interaction between this Great Egret parent and offspring. To get the shot he wanted, he needed the adult to bend down toward the chick—a frustratingly rare event. Schamerhorn finally captured this moment when the parent woke the chick while tending the nest, its legs and plumage symmetrically framing the youngster’s wild hairdo.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Peter Brannon
Species: Reddish Egret
Location: Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Reddish Egrets are flamboyant hunters, often flapping their substantial wings and running through the shallows to stir up prey. Brannon lay in the water for a low-angle shot of this egret foraging at low tide, making a bipod of his elbows to steady the camera. When the bird spooked a school of small fish, Brannon snapped his shutter as they leaped into frame.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Jesse Gordon
Species: American Oystercatcher
Location: Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Gordon was flat on the ground as this American Oystercatcher family approached, both to photograph them from eye level and to avoid disturbing them. The chicks strolled close alongside their parents, watching carefully as the adults dug for sand crabs. Soon they passed right in front of the camera, offering a glimpse of what Gordon calls “a tender and fascinating family moment” and a window into the lives of these beautiful shorebirds.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Karl Bardon
Species: Common Goldeneye
Location: Canal Park, Duluth, MN
Story Behind the Shot: The shipping canal in Duluth only ices over during the coldest weather, making it a great spot to find overwintering Common Goldeneyes. Bardon, a local, regularly visits to photograph the striking ducks. On this subzero morning, just after sunrise, he found the birds clustered in the last remaining window of open water, with “sea smoke” rising in the air. Bardon caught this photo of a rowdy moment when the flock skittered across the water, sending spray into the frigid air.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Robert Rommel
Species: Barred Owl
Location: Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Any visitor with a phone could have snagged an Instagram-worthy photo of the Barred Owl pair that built their nest right above a popular hiking trail in central Florida’s Circle B Bar Reserve. But Rommel didn’t want just any shot—he spent a week with the duo, waiting for the ideal composition and perfect light. Early one morning, it all came together. Rommel resisted the temptation to move closer to the cooperative owl, instead opting to photograph from a distance in order to show the serene bird surrounded by live oaks draped in Spanish moss.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Peter Ismert
Species: Greater Sage-Grouse
Location: North Park, near Walden, CO
Story Behind the Shot: The Greater Sage-Grouse’s elaborate courtship displays have long fascinated Ismert, so he was excited to learn about a lek—the grounds where they perform their flashy dance—a few hours from his Denver home. He arrived in the early-morning dark and, using his vehicle as a blind, watched in awe as sunrise revealed sage-grouse displaying all around him. Ismert took home many photos from the visit, but this image of a male strutting through the snow is his favorite.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Dale Preston
Species: Atlantic Puffin
Location: Machias Seal Island, Maine/New Brunswick
Story Behind the Shot: Tiny Machias Seal Island, claimed by both the United States and Canada, is one of the world’s best sites for Atlantic Puffin photography. Preston was hidden in one of the island’s bird blinds as this fast-moving puffin approached. Behind it, he noticed a fishing vessel skirting the shore, and hoped to capture bird and boat in a single shot. His timing was perfect, nicely catching both the puffin’s dramatic features and the area’s maritime heritage.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Tim Boyer
Species: Western Grebe
Location: Ocean Shores, WA
Story Behind the Shot: Conventional wisdom used to hold that Western Grebes, with feet far back on their bodies, couldn’t walk on land. Add Boyer’s shot to a growing body of evidence that, while they’re far more agile on water, grebes can toddle along when they need to. Boyer spotted this bird resting on a beach as storm clouds cleared, and nabbed the shot from his vehicle, using bean bags to steady the camera. As the sun drew more beachgoers, the grebe staggered to the water’s edge and swam away.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Christopher Schlaf
Species: Wood Duck
Location: Washington Township, MI
Story Behind the Shot: Schlaf is fortunate to have a small lake near his home that hosts a wide variety of waterfowl species. He found this Wood Duck pair there one day and—correctly guessing from its behavior that it was about to take off—locked his camera’s focus on the male. Schlaf’s hunch, coupled with excellent morning light, enabled him to freeze the male’s wings and highlight its rich colors, while also showing the female in crystal-clear focus.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Roger van Gelder
Species: Say’s Phoebe
Location: Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista, AZ
Story Behind the Shot: When he shoots fast-moving birds with his favorite manual-focus lens, van Gelder often ends up with photos of tail feathers and not much else. But he was quick to the draw when a Say’s Phoebe perched briefly in the grass at the historic Brown Canyon Ranch, now part of the Coronado National Forest. The bird was backlit, but the early morning light, which van Gelder had slept in his car to capture, created a mellow golden glow.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Dave Shaffer
Species: Pine Grosbeak
Location: Stone Lake, WI
Story Behind the Shot: Gazing out the window of his home while sipping coffee one frigid morning, Shaffer was surprised to see a group of Pine Grosbeaks, rare visitors to his Wisconsin woods. He tucked his pajama bottoms into his boots, threw on a coat, grabbed his camera and tripod, and headed outside. He realized that it was colder than he thought. Way colder: It was 10 below zero. He wasn’t wearing gloves. His breath kept fogging the viewfinder. Luckily, this female grosbeak landed in a nearby spruce. Shaffer held his breath, got the shot, and went back inside for hot coffee.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Barb D’Arpino
Species: Burrowing Owl
Location: Cape Coral, FL
Story Behind the Shot: By staying low to the ground and keeping her distance, D’Arpino has been able to document the natural behavior of Burrowing Owls on her regular photography trips to Florida. On this visit, she found a mother tidying up her burrow by kicking sand and debris out of the opening—smack into one of her owlets. D’Arpino wondered why the youngster didn’t flee the line of fire, but was happy to photograph this slapstick scene just as the sun broke over the horizon.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Cindy Goeddel
Species: American Dipper
Location: Yellowstone National Park
Story Behind the Shot: Goeddel spends enough time shooting in Yellowstone National Park to know that, on clear September days, twilight paints the LeHardy Rapids stretch of the Yellowstone River in swirls of blue and gold. On one such evening, she found this American Dipper diving and splashing in the rapids. The bird emerged holding a leaf, which it examined closely, turning it 360 degrees in its bill before dropping it in the river and watching it float away.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Carol Grenier
Species: Western Grebe
Location: Pyramid Lake, Washoe County, NV
Story Behind the Shot: After a severe drought, an extremely wet winter brought a welcome recharge to many bodies of water in Nevada. Hundreds of pairs of Clark’s and Western Grebes nested in a formerly dry section of Pyramid Lake, but many of their nests flooded before the chicks could hatch. This young Western Grebe survived. Here the adults feed the young bird their soft, downy feathers, which are thought to help providing cushioning against sharp fish bones.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Barn Swallow
Location: Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Before they’re ready to hunt on their own, Barn Swallow fledglings will perch near their nest and wait for their parents to make food deliveries. The adults don’t land, instead hovering briefly to drop insects into a youngster’s mouth. Keeping his distance and hiding behind some foliage, Gertsman was able to photograph this fascinating behavior on a summer morning in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. His photo shows the colorful, dutiful parent in beautiful detail.



Love birds but haven't mastered identifying them? Download our free Audubon bird guide app to learn more than 800 North American species.

Category: Amateur
Photographer: Mike Timmons
Species: Sedge Wren
Location: Lye Creek Prairie Burn, Crawfordsville, IN
Story Behind the Shot: The Burn, part of the larger Lye Creek Prairie, is a wetland complex surrounded by farm fields. In late summer, Timmons says, “it is wren heaven.” He and his brother arrived at sunrise on a dewy August day and heard wrens calling all around them. This Sedge Wren seemingly forgot that its species is known for skulking unseen through marsh grasses: It perched in plain sight on a cattail and investigated the photographers before resuming more traditional wren-like behavior.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Rhys Logan
Species: Burrowing Owl
Location: Joaquina Beach, Florianópolis, Brazil
Story Behind the Shot: Accustomed to seeing Burrowing Owls at home in Washington state, Logan was surprised to find the widespread birds surrounded by sunburnt tourists at Joaquina Beach. He was grateful to have a telephoto lens on hand so could capture this scene with no risk of disturbing the bird. Perched on a cactus in a light rain, the owl shot Logan a glare that, to him, said: That’s close enough, pal.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Khurram Khan
Species: Snowy Owl
Location: Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: When Khan learned about the irruption of Snowy Owls in the Northeast in December 2017, he headed for Island Beach State Park, a barrier island off the New Jersey coast. At one end of the 10-mile-long ribbon of sand he spotted a Snowy hunkered down on the beach. Khan’s goal in composing this ethereal image was to convey the similarities between the beach and the bird’s home on the Arctic tundra; both have wide-open, treeless expanses where these hunters stalk prey.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Tom Warren
Species: Mourning Dove
Location: Dobbs Ferry, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Warren wasn’t expecting a commonplace Mourning Dove to steal the show when he set out for a snowy day of bird photography behind his home about 20 miles north of New York City. But this resting dove perfectly conjured the peaceful quiet of a winter day. “The art of nature often catches us by surprise,” he says. Warren was charmed by the way snow buildup on the bird’s back echoed the icy accumulation on the branch where it perched.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Marc Yankus
Species: Adélie Penguin
Location: Kinnes Cove, Antarctica
Story Behind the Shot: Yankus describes a Zodiac boat excursion along the coast of Kinnes Cove as “pure magic” and the highlight of a three-week tour of Antarctica. Adélie Penguins lined up on seaside rocks, taking turns diving into the ocean, while blue icebergs floated all around on the surface. But this was the scene that most captivated Yankus: thousands of Adélies moving about on a large glacier, like skiers on a mountainside—an image at once dynamic and elemental.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Veloy Cook
Species: Northern Pygmy-Owl
Location: Provo Canyon, UT
Story Behind the Shot: Cook and his children, Chloe and Spencer, bundled up and piled into the truck for an early-morning winter shoot in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. Arriving at a spot where he’d previously seen Northern Pygmy-Owls, Cook was delighted to round a corner and find this pint-sized predator perched on a snow-dusted seed stalk. The light was just right and the owl was tolerant, giving Cook time to compose the shot. More rewarding than the photograph, he says, was the chance to share this special moment with his kids.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Bald Eagle
Location: Harrison Mills, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Every winter Gertsman visits the area around Harrison Mills in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley to photograph hundreds of Bald Eagles that gather to feast on spawning salmon. He always checks out a gnarled stump, clearly visible from a viewing platform on the edge of the river flats, because there is usually at least one eagle perched on it. As he was photographing a Baldy on the stump, a second one flew in, and Gertsman captured both in one shot.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Mary D’Agostino
Species: Sandhill Crane
Location: Audubon Rowe Sanctuary, Gibbon, NE
Story Behind the Shot: Each spring, half a million Sandhill Cranes spend a few weeks resting in Nebraska’s Platte River basin, fattening up on waste corn before winging to nesting grounds in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. The staging cranes, which mate for life, also build and strengthen pair bonds on the Platte through ritual dancing like the corn toss depicted here. D’Agostino hid out in a ditch for hours to capture this quirky behavior in action.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: B.N. Singh
Species: Piping Plover
Location: Gateway National Recreation Area, Highlands, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: Piping Plover chicks can leave the nest and feed themselves just hours after hatching. It takes several days, however, before they’re able to keep themselves warm, so in cool weather the puffballs periodically return to a parent to huddle under its wing. Using a long lens so he could avoid a protected area where these vulnerable birds nest, Singh snapped this photo of a quick warm-up session as a plover family scooted from its nest to the shoreline to feed.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Jacob McGinnis
Species: Golden-crowned Kinglet
Location: Cottage Lake Park, Woodinville, WA
Story Behind the Shot: When McGinnis showed this photo of a Golden-crowned Kinglet to friends and family, they couldn’t believe the bird was a common, native inhabitant of their Seattle-area neighborhoods. It’s easy to see why they thought the bird, with its flame-yellow Mohawk, must be a tropical vagrant. McGinnis takes a camera everywhere he goes, so he was ready when this bird landed nearby during an afternoon walk in the park. The way it is displaying its crest to ward off other nearby males makes for an especially vivid photo.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Vishal Subramanyan
Species: Great Horned Owl
Location: Livermore, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Subramanyan spent every weekend evening for several weeks at a regional park near his Bay Area home, watching as a pair of nesting Great Horned Owls hunted rodents to feed their chicks. At last, in late April, he finally snapped a photograph of bird and prey together. Subramanyan counts himself lucky to see the birds hunting in the day, let alone to come home with this arresting image of his subjects bathed in evening light.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Harry Colquhoun
Species: King Penguin
Location: St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia Island
Story Behind the Shot: Colquhoun could hear—and smell—the King Penguins of St. Andrews Bay before he and his shipmates disembarked on South Georgia Island. The birds blanketed the coast as far as he could see. Amid the masses, a single penguin slowly plodding over hills toward shore caught Colquhoun’s attention. It was surely heading out to sea to hunt for prey; if it evaded marine predators, it would then make the long journey back to feed its lone chick. The image, Colquhoun says, demonstrates this remote island’s harsh environment and the toughness required for penguins to survive.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Mike Valigore
Species: Variegated Fairywren
Location: Manly, New South Wales, Australia
Story Behind the Shot: While living abroad in Australia, Colorado photographer Valigore often walked the popular Manly to Spit Bridge coastal trail to take in the birdlife. On a November day, he spotted a male Variegated Fairywren showing off its bright colors as it pursued a couple of females. Valigore snapped several shots of the birds flitting back and forth across the trail, but his favorite was this quiet image of the male perched confidently, its splashy plumage contrasting with the drab thicket.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Cindy Goeddel
Species: Mallard and bobcat
Location: Yellowstone National Park
Story Behind the Shot: Goeddel huddled in a snow pit for nearly five hours on a zero-degree day to get this dramatic photo. When a bobcat spotted a drake Mallard downstream, it used a bison trail through the deep snow to stalk unseen along the Madison River to within striking distance. For nine interminable minutes the predator watched the duck swimming in circles, seemingly waiting for the right moment to make its move. Finally, when the Mallard’s head was down, the cat leapt. After nearly a minute-long struggle in the water, the bobcat carried away its prey.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Joanie Christian
Species: American Robin
Location: Colville, WA
Story Behind the Shot: Each year after Christmas, a variety of birds—waxwings, flickers, starlings, and more—descend on an ornamental fruit tree in Christian’s yard, picking it clean in a matter of days. That brief period is a photographer’s dream situation. American Robins, not typically found around her home in winter, sometimes stick around for the feast.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Joe Galkowski
Species: Western Screech-Owl
Location: Solano County, CA
Story Behind the Shot: When a friend told him she’d spotted a Western Screech-Owl a couple of hours’ drive from his California home, Galkowski was intrigued. He had never seen the species, so decided to look for it. He arrived early, found the owl’s tree cavity, and set up a tripod with his longest lens combo. Late in the morning the bird appeared, looked around for a moment, and then promptly went to sleep. Galkowski photographed the bird with its eyes open, but he was more excited by the sleepy behavior and ingenious camouflage highlighted here.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Ali Dhanji
Species: Red-billed Quelea and Southern Gray-headed Sparrow
Location: Mashatu Game Reserve, Jwaneng, Botswana
Story Behind the Shot: Dhanji’s family regularly vacationed at Mashatu Game Reserve while living in Botswana, where the amateur photographer discovered an underground hide near a watering hole provided an eye-level view of a wide range of wildlife, including the Red-billed Quelea (and one Southern Gray-headed Sparrow) pictured here. Quelea flocks arrived and departed the site together, providing a perfect opportunity for this shot of the birds in different stages of flight as they enjoyed an early morning drink.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Western Sandpiper
Location: Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico
Story Behind the Shot: At home in British Columbia, Gertsman spends many hours each year crawling along coastal mudflats to photograph some of the millions of shorebirds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway. On a winter trip to Mexico’s Pacific coast, he couldn’t help but wonder if any of the flocks gathered there were the same ones he’d photographed at home. Some indeed were, including this Western Sandpiper foraging at the mouth of the Ameca River as the rising sun turned the ocean orange.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Carolina Fraser
Species: Semipalmated Plover
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Fraser was searching for shorebirds along a Santa Barbara beach when she spotted this Semipalmated Plover. She photographed the bird until dark, watching it forage in the sand and rocks. For this shot, Fraser used a slow shutter speed to blur the water as it flowed in. It took several tries, but the image finally came together when the plover perched briefly on a rock as a small wave rushed over the surrounding beach.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Gary Robinette
Species: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Location: Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA
Story Behind the Shot: Robinette was ambling through Virginia’s Huntley Meadows Park, on the lookout for early spring migrants, when he heard the wheezy call of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. He turned around and found this male perched on a budding branch with its prize: a tuft of spider silk. Gnatcatchers use the sticky substance to coat their nests, folding in lichens for camouflage.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Thomas Jacoby
Species: Pileated Woodpecker
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Jacoby’s yard in Tallahassee is sizable, with a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. While he has had the tops of some storm-damaged and diseased trees removed, he has left the trunks as snags that attract a variety of birds year-round, including this pair of Pileated Woodpeckers. The birds were focused on finding six-legged snacks, allowing Jacoby to move in close for this colorful shot.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Christopher N. Ciccone
Species: Barred Owl
Location: Medford, MA
Story Behind the Shot: Tipped off by a friend that a group of Barred Owl chicks were leaving their nest near his Massachusetts home, Ciccone arrived just in time to see this owlet trying out its wings for the first time. The flight started well, but soon the awkward youngster went crashing through the branches. Ciccone snapped this photo as the owlet grasped a few twigs to break its fall. Then it flapped down to the ground, dusted itself off, and started climbing a tree to reunite with its family.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Carolina Fraser
Species: Least Tern
Location: Cape Charles, VA
Story Behind the Shot: On a family trip to the Virginia coast, Fraser rose early and carried her camera to the beach in hopes of photographing one of the terns she suspected were in the area. She struck out the first day, so on day two she hiked farther along the beach until she saw diving specks in the distance. Inching closer to the action, she snapped this photo of a laser-focused Least Tern diving for a fish.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Bobby R. Harrison
Species: Snowy Egret
Location: St. Augustine Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Harrison spent four mornings photographing this Snowy Egret as it performed a mating dance on a shrub near its nest. For a few minutes each day, the rising sun bathed the bird in light without illuminating the background foliage and cluttering the image. Luckily, the cooperative egret proudly displayed its aigrette plumes during that brief window, giving Harrison just the shot he was aiming for.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Scott Suriano
Species: Roseate Spoonbill and Willets
Location: J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, FL
Story Behind the Shot: A rather drab scene on Florida’s Sanibel Island got a lot more colorful when a Roseate Spoonbill landed among a group of Willets. As the sun set, Suriano was in the right place to photograph the spoonbill preening its cotton-candy feathers, which stand in almost cartoonish contrast to the muted tones of the surrounding shorebirds.



Audubon is a nonprofit dedicated to saving birds and the places they need today and tomorrow. You can support our conservation work by donating.

Category: Youth
Photographer: Carolina Fraser
Species: Marbled Godwit and Willet
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Teenage photographer Fraser did a very un-teenager thing while vacationing with her family on the California coast: She got up early. Fraser strolled the beach, hoping to get a good look at some shorebirds. She hit the jackpot when these Marbled Godwits and Willets landed nearby and ran right in front of her.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Kevin Vande Vusse
Species: Red Knot
Location: Cape May, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: A visit to New Jersey’s famously birdy Cape May during spring migration was the first time Vande Vusse ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds around him. The sun was just right—low, at his back—and Red Knots, his main photographic target, swarmed around him, feasting on horseshoe crab eggs. But there were so many birds that Vande Vusse struggled to compose a photo. Eventually he picked one individual to focus on, and snapped this image as the bird looked up from the crowd.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Kim Davidson
Species: Sandhill Crane
Location: Cross Creek, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Nearly every day for a full nesting season, Davidson visited a pair of Sandhill Cranes as they took turns caring for their two eggs at a farm in Cross Creek, Florida. Sadly, both chicks were lost to a predator just days after they hatched, demonstrating the harsh realities of life for these birds. Still, Davidson is thankful for her season with the cranes, and for this photograph to help her remember that special time.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Ray Hennessy
Species: American Oystercatcher
Location: Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Minutes before sunset, Hennessy was hoping to photograph an American Oystercatcher chick glowing in the light. While waiting, he saw the chick’s parent approaching with a meal in its bill. He snapped this photo just after the adult dropped a live sand crab for its chick to eat, capturing a tender scene that was further visually enhanced when a gust of wind kicked up sand that sparkled in the golden sunlight.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Hoatzin
Location: Napo Wildlife Center, Ecuador
Story Behind the Shot: Having only seen the Hoatzin in photographs, Gertsman was eager to see one of the eye-catching tropical birds in real life during a workshop for young conservation photographers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It didn’t take long to see the odd, prehistoric-looking species known for pungent belches (a characteristic that has earned it the nickname “stinkbird”). Gertsman quickly grew accustomed to its loud squawking along rivers and lagoons, and snapped this photo of a Hoatzin family while out for a walk in the rainforest early one morning.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Corey Nimmer
Species: Green Heron
Location: Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, Falmouth, ME
Story Behind the Shot: At first, Nimmer didn’t notice this well-camouflaged Green Heron. He was too busy photographing other pond life, including turtles, bullfrogs, and a Belted Kingfisher. Then the heron dove into the water and pulled out a minnow. For the next half hour, Nimmer sprawled on a dock, shooting this expert hunter at work. With plenty of light, he was able to stop down his aperture for greater depth of field, bringing a dragonfly into focus as it zoomed over the heron’s head.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Pete Volkmar
Species: White-eyed Vireo
Location: Burlington County, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: Volkmar’s photo may look like a peaceful nature scene, but don’t be fooled: This White-eyed Vireo is giving the stink eye to a Prothonotary Warbler perched a few branches above the frame. After the vireo’s calls drew his attention to the forest canopy, Volkmar watched as the two birds waged a territorial dispute, zipping past one another and having mid-air confrontations. Finally the vireo landed, offering him this unobstructed shot of the seething bird on its momentary perch.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Cameron Darnell
Species: Piping Plover
Location: Eastham, MA
Story Behind the Shot: Darnell was photographing Piping Plovers on the Cape Cod National Seashore when he noticed a lone individual preening on a mound of sand. He crawled carefully toward the small shorebird and peeked his lens over a nearby mound. The oblivious-seeming plover continued preening as Darnell snapped away. “I felt fortunate to be able to have such an intimate moment with one of these fragile and vulnerable birds,” the young photographer says.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Gary Zahm
Species: Sandhill Crane
Location: Merced National Wildlife Refuge, Merced, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Zahm was about to pack his equipment after spending three pleasant hours photographing Sandhill Cranes in early October—the vanguard of the vast flocks that would soon arrive to winter in California’s San Joaquin Valley. But then he noticed black smoke and orange flames rising on the horizon from a prescribed burn to improve habitat. Soon the sky was filled with cranes and waterfowl flushed from their mid-day roosts. Zahm stayed long enough to photograph this squadron of cranes against the smoky autumn sky.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Christina Renée McCormick
Species: Atlantic Puffin
Location: Grímsey Island, Iceland
Story Behind the Shot: McCormick spent a full week on Iceland’s Grímsey Island in summer, which provided enough time to take some photographic risks. She walked the island’s cliffs each evening, making the most of the extended daylight, looking for an opportunity to take a more artistic approach to photographing Atlantic Puffins. When she saw this pair huddled in a dark nook in the cliff face, but lit by rays from the setting sun, she knew right away that she had found just the scene she’d been looking for.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Buff-tailed Coronet
Location: Mindo, Ecuador
Story Behind the Shot: Buff-tailed Coronets are the bullies of the hummingbird world in Ecuador’s cloud forests, says Gertsman, regularly chasing other species away from feeders and flowers. At some lodges, the birds are brave enough to drink sugar water from a visitor’s hand. Gertsman wanted to capture the iridescence in coronet feathers, so he used a macro lens to photograph the birds in detail as they drank from a bowl of sugar water at a lodge.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Short-eared Owl
Location: Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Gertsman brought his photography gear along for a band performance in Richmond, about 20 minutes from Vancouver. He ducked out during lunchtime and spent an hour in a nearby salt marsh photographing a Short-eared Owl, returning just in time for his performance. Gertsman says he hopes this photo of a species that winters in the surrounding Fraser River Delta shows city dwellers the incredible wildlife that thrives in and around urban environments.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Ray Hennessy
Species: Hooded Merganser
Location: Clementon, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: Hennessy arrived well before sunrise at a private pond in New Jersey, donned waders and a camouflaged drape, got in the water, and waited. A few Hooded Mergansers arrived soon after. Hennessy dipped low, with his camera just inches above the surface, and snapped this picture of a drake merganser drying out its wings. The rising sun illuminated airborne water droplets and turned bubbles on the water into a sparkling foreground.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Gary Robinette
Species: Palm Warbler
Location: Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Woodbridge, VA
Story Behind the Shot: With some 240 recorded bird species, the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers an excellent variety of bird life not far from Washington, D.C. Robinette visits often enough to know that Palm Warblers frequently congregate in a particular field during fall migration. As expected, he found a small flock of them there and snapped this shot of one perched briefly on a plant stem.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Cameron Tescher
Species: Anna’s Hummingbird
Location: Medea Creek Trail, Oak Park, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Walking along a trail near home, Tescher noticed this female Anna’s Hummingbird feeding from a creekside flower. Tescher aligned shot to highlight the bird’s green back and the plant’s vibrant colors against the muted background. With a high shutter speed, Tescher brought the hummer and the flower into sharp focus and clearly conveyed just how tiny the bird is.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Sam Wilson
Species: Northern Hawk Owl
Location: Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Story Behind the Shot: When the male Northern Hawk Owl he’d been observing flew out of sight and the June rain started falling harder in Denali National Park, Wilson was about to call it a day. But just then a female alighted nearby, and the male soon returned with a gruesome gift. A decapitated rodent may not sound romantic, but it was an intimate moment when—standing atop a spruce tree in a steady rain—the female tenderly accepted this lemming from her mate.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Peter Brannon
Species: Magnificent Frigatebird
Location: St. Petersburg, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Each summer Magnificent Frigatebirds roost on small islands just off the coast of St. Petersburg. Brannon went out on a pontoon boat one hot August day to photograph the spectacle as the swirling, soaring birds—which never swim—swooped down for the occasional drink. Brannon watched this thirsty frigatebird as it descended near the boat, capturing the moment when its bill broke the water’s surface.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Keith Kennedy
Species: Gentoo Penguin
Location: Yankee Harbor, Antarctica
Story Behind the Shot: Shortly after Kennedy’s group arrived at this spot on the Antarctic Peninsula to photograph Gentoo Penguins, conditions began to deteriorate. The wind picked up. The snowfall intensified. Temperatures dropped into the teens. Before long—with cameras buffeted by 30-mile-per-hour gales, shaken by shivering photographers, and nearly whited-out by snow—putting the birds in focus became a real challenge. But as Kennedy’s sharp shot of a lone Gentoo shows, sometimes tough conditions yield the most dramatic images.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Ly Dang
Species: Black-browed Albatross
Location: Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
Story Behind the Shot: Black-browed Albatross chicks were just-hatched and bashful during Dang’s December trip to the Falklands. Even surrounded by dense colonies, he couldn’t get a single shot of a baby bird on his first day because they were all hiding in nests. But on day two, he spotted this slightly older chick at the back of a colony, begging for food. With so many other birds around, Dang had to crop the photo to achieve this composition, an intimate portrait of the bond between parent and chick.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Joel DuBois
Species: Long-eared Owl
Location: Melrose Migrant Trap, Melrose, NM
Story Behind the Shot: An island of cottonwood trees in a sea of dry grasslands, New Mexico’s Melrose Migrant Trap boasts a huge variety of birds in a tiny area. Photographer and owl enthusiast Joel DuBois had already seen his first-ever Northern Saw-whet Owl and loads of other good birds when a Long-eared Owl appeared just a stone’s throw away—his second lifer owl species, marking two in one day. Astonished by his luck, DuBois backed up slowly, pointed the bird out to the rest of his group, and snapped this photo through the trees.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Eugene Huryn
Species: White-tailed Ptarmigan
Location: Jasper National Park, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: When he learned that Whistlers Mountain in Jasper National Park was a hotspot for photographing White-tailed Ptarmigan in late October, Huryn headed out from his nearby Alberta home to see for himself. Despite their brilliant snow-colored camouflage, Huryn laid eyes on a dozen of the birds, including this one that let him approach to within just a few feet. He snapped this photograph as the ptarmigan paused and stared straight at him.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Nate Chappell
Species: Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
Location: Tarcoles River, Tarcoles, Costa Rica
Story Behind the Shot: Chappell had just landed on a sandbar along the Tarcoles River, where he was intending to shoot a group of scavenging Yellow-headed Caracaras, when this Bare-throated Tiger-Heron flew in. As it began strutting along the bank in an effort to chase off the other birds, Chappell dropped to the ground and began photographing. He snapped this picture moments after a Common Black Hawk arrived to scavenge a meal; the heron ruffled its feathers and stood up tall to intimidate the new arrival.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Carolina Fraser
Species: Northern Harrier
Location: Valley Forge National Historical Park, King of Prussia, PA
Story Behind the Shot: While watching several Northern Harriers hunting in a Pennsylvania field, Fraser noticed that the birds preferred to scan the area from certain perching sites. By closely observing the raptors’ behavior, Fraser was able to put herself in the right position to capture this moment as two harriers fought over a favorite perch.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Chris Saladin
Species: Peregrine Falcon and Rock Pigeon
Location: Cleveland, OH
Story Behind the Shot: Saladin and her husband, close observers of Peregrine Falcons in and around Cleveland, noticed that one pair frequently hunted at a grain plant where pigeons fed the morsels that spilled from railcars during unloading. When Cooper’s Hawks darted in low, the opportunistic falcons would swoop down from above at the fleeing pigeons. Saladin snapped this photo as a Peregrine flew into a flock, grasped at a pigeon, and came away with only a clump of feathers.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Derek Diehl
Species: Snowy Owl
Location: Terrell’s Island, Omro, WI
Story Behind the Shot: It isn’t unusual for Diehl to see a Snowy Owl in winter along a three-mile breakwater and hiking trail that protects waterfowl nesting sites on Wisconsin’s Lake Butte des Morts. On the day he took this photo, Diehl saw not one but four of the majestic white birds at the site, thanks to a major southward irruption of the birds. He photographed this individual just after the sun rose above the breakwall and began to melt the icicles that had formed due to high winds splashing waves against the shore.



Love birds but haven't mastered identifying them? Download our free Audubon bird guide app to learn more than 800 North American species.

Category: Youth
Photographer: August Davidson-Onsgard
Species: Black Oystercatcher
Location: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: On a family camping trip on British Columbia’s Pacific coast, Davidson-Onsgard was excited to find a Black Oystercatcher feeding on the shore. The young photographer loves to incorporate waves into shorebird photos. Getting this shot required going the extra step, however: To keep the sun at his back, he had to wade into the surf. Davidson-Onsgard had only a split second to snap the photo before jumping to keep the wave from soaking his camera. He got dirty in the process, but he got the shot—and kept his camera dry.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Cindy Goeddel
Species: Sandhill Crane
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, San Antonio, NM
Story Behind the Shot: The Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico is a major migration corridor and overwintering site for Sandhill Cranes. One the most popular sites for birders is Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, where resource managers plant corn and other grains to sustain thousands of cranes through winter. The graceful birds are a favorite subject for Goeddel, who photographed this trio in the middle of a winter day as they flew to nearby cornfields.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Christina Sautter
Species: Dalmatian Pelican
Location: Lake Kerkini, Greece
Story Behind the Shot: It was Sautter’s longtime dream to photograph Dalmatian Pelicans on Lake Kerkini, in northern Greece. When she at last made her way to the spot, she was determined to convey both the birds’ delicate beauty and their impressive power. On her final morning there, with just minutes before mauve sunrise transformed into harsh daylight, Sautter noticed this bird flying near her boat and knew it was the moment she’d been waiting for. She took this image just as the softly lit pelican landed with a pose Sautter compares to a confident gymnast sticking a dismount.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Daniel R. Wakefield
Species: Anhinga
Location: Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, FL
Story Behind the Shot: On the first warm morning after a January cold snap, Wakefield visited Wakodahatchee Wetlands, a popular boardwalk not far from his home. Although the park’s Wood Stork colony hadn’t yet arrived, Wakefield photographed a variety of other species enjoying the change in weather. Among them was this Anhinga pair in breeding plumage, crossing their bills like fencers in apparent courtship. It was a reminder, Wakefield says, of the beauty and elegance of the nature we can find in our own backyards.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Tom Reichert
Species: Boat-tailed Grackle
Location: Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Reichert tries to stop by Green Cay Wetlands, a birding hotspot in Palm Beach County, whenever he’s in Florida. He failed to find the American Bittern he was hoping to catch on this trip, but Boat-tailed Grackles performing their courtship rituals caught his eye, including this pair of males trying to outshine one another. The macho birds bobbed their heads for 10 minutes or more, and Reichert fired off several 15-shot bursts before continuing down the boardwalk.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Ian Harland
Species: American Dipper
Location: Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: American Dippers are choosey about their aquatic habitat, preferring the kinds of swift, rocky-bottomed streams with cold, clear water found tumbling out of mountains. But when Harland took a stroll through Kelowna, he found this dipper taking refuge in a heated, manmade stream. Most nearby waters were frozen over, Harland says, so this resourceful bird adapted to its surroundings.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Callie Broaddus
Species: Piping Plover
Location: Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, Barnegat Light, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: When a Piping Plover scampered across the sand right in front of Broaddus, she dropped to her stomach and snapped a few shots of the bird framed by dunes, ocean, and sky. Not quite satisfied with the result, she brought the frame in tighter, highlighting the wavelike formations the wind had made from thousands of clam shells. This micro landscape shows the world as a plover might see it, a revealing glimpse into the bird’s-eye view.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Scott Suriano
Species: Barred Owl and Cooper’s Hawk
Location: Baltimore, MD
Story Behind the Shot: Heading into the Baltimore woods one morning, Suriano found himself positioned between two Barred Owls calling to one another. He stood motionless, waiting for more calls to help him home in on the birds. Suddenly, a shriek pierced the stillness, and Suriano looked up to find a feathery commotion barreling out of the trees and headed right for him. Somehow he was able to act quickly enough to bring this territorial dispute into focus as a Cooper’s Hawk—talons reared, ready to strike—lunged at a seemingly terrified Barred Owl.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Gail Bisson
Species: Song Sparrow
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: In search of flashy subjects along Vancouver’s Boundary Bay, several photographers in Bisson’s group walked right past this puffed-up Song Sparrow warming itself in the just-risen sun. But the bird’s simple perch and the mellow color palette charmed Bisson. The photo is a reminder that all birds are beautiful, she says, and that great images are everywhere if we take the time to see them.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Will Hilscher
Species: Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Location: Pflugerville, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Typical of its species, this Ruby-crowned Kinglet was flitting around tree branches searching for insects when Hilscher approached. Fortunately for the young photographer, the bird was in a tree just a few feet taller than he is, allowing him to easily track it near eye level. Mid-day sun isn’t often a photographer’s friend, but the almost harsh light allowed Hilscher to crank up his shutter speed enough to freeze the frenetic kinglet.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Melissa James
Species: Long-billed Dowitcher
Location: Myakka River State Park, Sarasota, FL
Story Behind the Shot: There were a lot of smaller sandpipers in the shallows at Florida’s Myakka River State Park, but James was drawn to a cranky pair of Long-billed Dowitchers. Normally found in large flocks, these two birds seemed to think the park was only big enough for one of them. James focused her attention on the tussling pair, increasing her camera’s depth of field and shutter speed to freeze the action. Both birds left unharmed, she says, aside from possibly bruised egos.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Judy Lynn Malloch
Species: Green Jay
Location: Santa Clara Ranch, McCook, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Malloch photographed this stunning Green Jay at Santa Clara Ranch, a 300-acre wildlife sanctuary in the bird-rich Lower Rio Grande Valley. The colorful tropical birds, found primarily in Mexico and South America, approached the watering hole at the ranch with caution, landing in nearby trees or shrubs to make sure it was safe before flying in for a drink.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Melissa James
Species: Roseate Spoonbill
Location: Myakka River State Park, Sarasota, FL
Story Behind the Shot: James likes to arrive early for the calm atmosphere and warm light at Florida’s Myakka River State Park, where more than 250 bird species have been identified. Both of those qualities infuse this photo. James found this Roseate Spoonbill preening its feathers as a light mist hovered over the water. She got down low, positioning herself at eye level, and captured a frame with the last bit of feather still in the bird’s beak.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Gail Bisson
Species: Barn Owl
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: The light was perfect, but it was running out. With less than five minutes before the sun sank below the horizon, Bisson needed a bird—any bird. She got a Barn Owl, a species she’d never photographed, let alone in flight. Bisson barely kept her cool as she shot the owl hunting. When she saw this incredible photo on her camera’s LCD screen, however, any pretense of nonchalance went out the window. The whole encounter lasted only about 20 seconds, Bisson says, but it’s one she’ll never forget.
Category: Youth
Photographer: Tobias Yoder
Species: Northern Cardinal
Location: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Yoder was captivated by the stark contrast between the strong morning light striking a tree branch and the deep shadow cast by a canopy of leaves and vines. He had this shot composed for days—he just needed the right bird to come along. At last, just after sunup on the final day of his trip to the Rio Grande Valley, this Northern Cardinal alighted at the perfect spot. Yoder’s photo accentuates the contrast, yielding an image like something from a Dutch master.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Sunil Singh
Species: Gentoo Penguin
Location: Cuverville Island, Antarctica
Story Behind the Shot: Cuverville Island boasts the Antarctic Peninsula’s largest Gentoo Penguin colony—and that was exactly the problem. Singh was drawn to this young penguin pair taking shelter from the day’s stiff winds in their parent’s lee, but there was too much Gentoo traffic in the background to allow an uncluttered shot. When the crowd thinned out, Singh cranked up the shutter speed and ISO to combat low light and lens-shaking gusts, and made this photo of the nuzzling trio.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Kevan Sunderland
Species: Canvasback
Location: Cambridge, MD
Story Behind the Shot: Sunderland was driving along the Maryland coast on a chilly, gray day when he spotted rafts of Canvasbacks near the shoreline. He pulled over and hauled his gear down to the water’s edge. He soon noticed that, after every few dives, this drake Canvasback would stretch and flap its wings—a behavior pattern that helped Sunderland anticipate the ideal moment to shoot. The still surface and cloud-filtered light conspired to erase the boundary between water and sky, lending the image a touch of mystery.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Carol Grenier
Species: Western Grebe
Location: Pyramid Lake, Washoe County, NV
Story Behind the Shot: When a wet winter recharged an often dry section of Pyramid Lake, Grenier got word that Clark’s and Western Grebes were nesting in the newly inundated area. She set out at 4 a.m. on several spring mornings to capture the birds’ brief, captivating courtship ritual. Two Western Grebes would dive underwater and emerge with beaks full of aquatic grass. They’d stretch their necks, cross their bills, and slowly rotate around one another. After a few seconds, they’d drop the grass and resume swimming.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Scott Joshua Dere
Species: Northern Harrier
Location: Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, Wallkill, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Male Northern Harriers, white underneath with slate feathers on top, are often called “gray ghosts.” Photographers prize this species for the stark difference in plumage between the sexes, and because the swift, low-flying males can be challenging to shoot. Dere observed this harrier carefully enough to discern a pattern to its flights around Shawangunk Grasslands, enabling him to sneak close enough to show the bird’s distinct yellow eyes.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Scott Suriano
Species: Barred Owl
Location: Baltimore, MD
Story Behind the Shot: During a heavy snowstorm, Suriano trudged through the whitening woods toward one of his favorite local wildlife photography spots in Baltimore. Along the way he came upon a Barred Owl sitting motionless atop a dense pile of brush and tree limbs. Suriano positioned himself quietly for an unobstructed view of the bird, and was thrilled to capture the moment when it shook off the snow piling up on its head.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Carol Grenier
Species: Black-browed Albatross
Location: Falkland Islands
Story Behind the Shot: Grenier found hundreds of Black-browed Albatrosses nesting and courting during a November visit to the Falklands. It was a rowdy scene as the birds clacked their beaks and called loudly. Amid the commotion, Grenier was drawn to this quiet moment—a pair of albatrosses preening one another as rain fell gently—between birds that can live up to 70 years and often mate for life.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Judy Lynn Malloch
Species: Curve-billed Thrasher
Location: Santa Clara Ranch, McCook, TX
Story Behind the Shot: A watering hole at the Santa Clara Ranch in the Lower Rio Grande Valley proved to be a wellspring of opportunities for Malloch. Among the species she photographed at the site was this Curve-billed Thrasher, whose piercing orange-yellow eyes mesmerized her. The bird perched a moment near some wildflowers before swooping in for a drink, giving Malloch time to snag this colorful image.
Category: Professional
Photographer: Scott Joshua Dere
Species: Snail Kite
Location: Lake Kissimmee, Kenansville, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Dere traveled from his Long Island home to Florida’s Lake Kissimmee specifically to photograph Snail Kites. It wasn’t long into his airboat ride through the shallows that this kite captured an apple snail, its chief food source, right beside him. Dere lay down in the boat to net this intimate photo as the kite landed nearby and prepared to dig in, gripping the snail in one claw and its perch on the other, and using its wings for balance.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Chris Reecer
Species: American Wigeon
Location: Trinity Park, Fort Worth, TX
Story Behind the Shot: With their beautiful colors and unusual calls, American Wigeons are among Reecer’s favorite birds and photographic subjects. Lucky for Reecer, Trinity Park, in his hometown of Fort Worth, hosts plenty of waterfowl in winter, wigeons included. He found this male taking a mid-morning nap one December day, and was drawn to its reflection in the mirror-like water.
Category: Amateur
Photographer: Johann Schumacher
Species: Great Egret
Location: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, New York, NY
Story Behind the Shot: It was a moody April day with strong northwest winds blowing across Jamaica Bay when Schumacher spotted a Great Egret stalking prey in the shallows. He snapped this photo from a blind at Big John’s Pond, one of his favorite spots in a refuge he’s been visiting for more than 40 years. “A powerful gust had just swept up the egret’s breeding plumes,” Schumacher says, “wrapping the dazzling white bird in an exquisite filigreed silver shawl.”
 
“The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”