Photography

Ruby-eyed frog, baby flamingos make Wildlife Photographer of the Year shortlist

A range of stunning photographs have been submitted to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year - People’s Choice Award competition. Members of the public can choose their favorite image from a selection including a playful polar bear cub, a family of golden snub-nosed monkeys and a beautiful snow leopard.

Photographs were chosen from 38,575 entries across 93 countries, and the public can vote via the Natural History Museums website.

World of the snow leopard by Sascha Fonseca, Germany

Against a backdrop of the spectacular mountains of Ladakh in northern India, a snow leopard has been caught in a perfect pose by Sascha’s carefully positioned camera trap. Thick snow blankets the ground, but the big cat’s dense coat and furry footpads keep it warm. Sascha captured this image during a three-year bait-free camera-trap project high up in the Indian Himalayas. He has always been fascinated by snow leopards, not only because of their incredible stealth but also because of their remote environment, making them one of the most difficult large cats to photograph in the wild.

Wasp attack by Roberto García-Roa, Spain

The frenzied combat between the pompilid wasp and the ornate Ctenus spider suddenly stopped. An intense calm invaded the scene, said Roberto, who had been watching the battle unfold in the Peruvian jungle of Tambopata. The image shows the wasp checking the spider to confirm if its sting has paralyzed the dangerous prey, before dragging it back to its brood nest. Wasps of the Pompilidae family are called spider wasps because the females specialize in hunting spiders, which are used as living food for their offspring.

Hyena highway by Sam Rowley, UK

Spotted hyenas are intelligent and opportunistic animals. On the outskirts of cities such as Harar in Ethiopia, they take advantage of what humans leave behind, including bones and rotting meat. In so doing, the hyenas keep disease at bay, and in exchange the Harar locals tolerate them, even leaving them butcher’s scraps. These hyenas are from the family group known as the Highway Clan. To photograph them, Sam set up a remote camera by a roadkill carcass. He captured the lowest-ranking member of the clan after the dominant members, visible in the background, had sauntered off.

That’s the spot! By Richard Flack, South Africa

In South Africa’s Kruger National Park, in the vicinity of a rest camp, Richard discovered a flock of crested guineafowl that were not as flighty as normal and allowed him to follow them as they foraged. One of the guineafowl started to scratch another’s head and ear, and the recipient stood there motionless for a few moments with its mouth open and eyes wide, as if to say ‘that’s the spot, keep going’. Richard muses, ‘It’s not often you get to capture emotion in the faces of birds . . . but there was no doubt – that was one satisfied guineafowl!’

A tight grip by Nicholas More, UK

This male Bargibant’s seahorse, gripping tightly with his prehensile tail to a pink sea fan, looks almost ready to pop. He will gestate for a period of approximately two weeks before giving birth to miniature live young. Nicholas had the help of a guide who knew exactly where off the coast of Bali and on which sea fans to find Bargibant’s seahorses. This individual was one of three on the same sea-fan. Bargibant’s seahorses are barely visible due to their tiny size (1–2 centimetres tall – ¼ to ¾ inch) and tend to stay very still. Their ability to mimic their host’s colours and knobbly texture is only revealed in detail under high magnification.

Head to head by Miquel Angel Artús Illana, Spain

The spectacle of two female muskoxen attacking each other surprised Miquel. For four days, he had been following a muskox family in Norway’s Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park – a male, a female and three calves. On a beautiful high plateau, another similar-sized family of muskox appeared. Expecting a male head-to-head (it was September and the females were in heat), he was disappointed when the two males came to an immediate understanding and the weaker one backed off. It was then that the two females began their short but intense fight, the action of which he caught on camera.

A golden huddle by Minqiang Lu, China

Two females and a male golden snub-nosed monkey huddle together to keep warm in the extreme winter cold. Threatened mainly by forest loss and fragmentation, this endangered species is confined to central China. Restricted to living high up in the temperate forests, these monkeys – here in the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi province – feed mostly in the trees, on leaves, bark, buds and lichen. Minqiang knew the area where a troop of monkeys often rested and, in heavy wind and snow, he walked up the mountain for almost an hour carrying his photographic equipment. Photographing from a slope opposite the tree in which the group was huddled, he stayed put for half an hour in temperatures of -10°C (14°F) before he was able to achieve this eye-level composition.

Caught by the cat by Michał Michlewicz, Poland

Michał had noticed a lot of animals were visiting this abandoned barn in Radolinek, a small village in western Poland, probably following the scent of rodent prey. With the use of his trail cam, Michał logged a badger, a fox and a marten, but also a lot of cat activity. Setting up a camera trap just inside the barn, facing the entrance, he waited to see what would trigger it. Luckily, though not for this chaffinch, a domestic cat arrived with its fresh kill. Michał is keen his image is used to illustrate the impact domestic cats can have on a local ecosystem.

Among the flowers by Martin Gregus, Canada

Martin watched this polar bear cub playing in a mass of fireweed on the coast of Hudson Bay, Canada. Every so often the cub would take a break from its fun, stand on its hind legs and poke its head up above the high flowers to look for its mother. Wanting to capture the world from the cub’s angle, Martin placed his camera – in an underwater housing, for protection against investigating bears – at ground level among the fireweed. He then waited patiently a safe distance away with a remote trigger. Not being able to see exactly what was happening, Martin had to judge just the right moment when the bear would pop up in the camera frame.

Heads or tails? by Jodi Frediani, USA

The unusually clear, flat sea in Monterey Bay, California, provided a beautiful turquoise backdrop for the glossy bodies of three northern right whale dolphins. But it was only thanks to a thoughtful stranger that Jodi got her special shot of two adult heads and the silvery tail of a juvenile. Seeing Jodi’s interest and camera, the young woman gave up her place at the bow of the boat below which the dolphins were enjoying riding the bow wave. These dolphins are atypical in appearance, with short, pointy beaks, sloping foreheads and no dorsal fins. They are quick and extremely athletic, often flying high out of the water in graceful leaps.

The frog with the ruby eyes by Jaime Culebras, Spain

The calls of the male Mindo glass frogs could be heard all around this female, who was sitting quietly on a leaf. These frogs are confident around humans, and if you don’t disturb them, you can set up your equipment nearby. Jaime thought this frog had the most beautiful ‘ruby’ eyes, so he carefully moved his camera, tripod and flashes to be close enough to capture a portrait that would highlight them. Only found in northwest Ecuador, in the Río Manduriacu Reserve in the foothills of the Andes, these frogs are endangered by habitat loss associated with mining and logging.

Holding on by Igor Altuna, Spain

This leopardess had killed a Kinda baboon in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. The baboon’s baby was still alive and clinging to its mother. Igor watched as the predator walked calmly back to her own baby. Her cub played with the baby baboon for more than an hour before killing it, almost as if it had been given live prey as a hunting lesson.

Life and art by Eduardo Blanco Mendizabal, Spain

Walking down a street in his hometown of Corella in northern Spain, Eduardo came across a wall with a graffiti cat, complete with shadow. Knowing that common wall geckos emerge on hot summer nights to look for mosquitoes and other insects, Eduardo came back with his camera and waited patiently for the perfect picture – the hunter becoming prey to the trompe l’oeil cat.

Red and yellow by Chloé Bès, France

Near Rausu port, on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, several hundred glaucous-winged gulls waited for the return of fishermen. It was the beginning of March and freezing, and the air was full of the raucous calls of the gulls overhead. Some of the birds began to settle, keeping their eyes on the horizon. Focussing on one bird, Chloé composed a minimalist portrait, highlighting the eye and the beak. The red spot on the beak develops when gulls are adult and is in part a reflection of their health. It is also an essential aid for the young: when chicks peck the spot, it triggers a regurgitation reaction from the parent.

Caribbean crèche by Claudio Contreras Koob, Mexico

Claudio was lying down on the mud a safe distance from a breeding colony of Caribbean, or American, flamingos, in Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, on the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. It was June and the flamingo chicks had already left their nests and were in crèches. These crèches are always guarded by adult birds, so when the chicks began to approach Claudio, the adults surrounded them and gently headed them back into the colony. Although flamingo population numbers are stable, they are highly sensitive to changes in the environment, such as flooding of their nesting sites, and it is unclear how they will cope with the effects of climate change.

Covid litter by Auke-Florian Hiemstra, Netherlands

A young perch was found trapped in the thumb of this surgical glove discarded in a canal in The Netherlands. Since the onslaught of Covid-19, gloves and face masks have littered land and sea. This perch was found by citizen scientists on a weekly canal clean-up in Leiden. The spines on its back prevented the fish from escaping by backing out – the torn thumb probably the sign of its final struggle. The glove formed the basis of a scientific study that has documented the range of animals impacted by Covid-19 waste during the pandemic – in this case, it’s the material that helped protect us that has proved to be a danger to wildlife.

Coastline wolf by Bertie Gregory, UK

While out in his dinghy looking for black bears, Bertie spotted this female grey wolf trotting along the shoreline on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada. Taking a big wide arch, he looped around ahead of where he expected her to go. He then set up his remote camera, before getting back in the dinghy and backing off. The wolf was patrolling her eel-grass-covered mudflat territory at low tide, and walked right past the camera, allowing Bertie to take this shot with the remote trigger. Sadly, this Vancouver Island wolf was later killed by a man who claimed to be protecting people’s pets.

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