Winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year

While we certainly cannot take credit for these photos, we thought that they were so outstanding that it would be worth sharing with you all.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, founded in 1965, is an annual international showcase of the best nature photography.

So sit back, relax and remember how important it is to save our planet.

The Embrace

Grand Title Winner and Animals in their Environment Winner: A tigress hugs an ancient Manchurian fir, rubbing her cheek against the bark to leave secretions from her scent glands. She is an Amur, or Siberian, tiger, in Russia's Land of the Leopard National Park. Hunted almost to extinction in the past century, the population is still threatened by poaching and logging, which also impact their prey—mostly deer and wild boar.

A Tale of Two Wasps

Behavior Winner: This remarkable simultaneous framing of a red-banded sand wasp (left) and a cuckoo wasp about to enter next-door nest holes is the result of painstaking preparation. The female cuckoo wasp—just 6 millimeters long—parasitizes the nests of certain solitary digger wasps, laying her eggs in her hosts’ burrows so that her larvae can feast on their eggs or larvae. The much larger red-banded sand wasp lays her eggs in her own burrow, which she provisions with caterpillars, one for each of her young to eat when they emerge. Frank Deschandol's original aim was to photograph the vibrant cuckoo wasp. In a sandy bank on a brownfield site near his home in Normandy, France, he located tiny digger wasp burrows suitable for a cuckoo wasp to use. He then set up an infrared beam that, when broken by a wasp, would trigger the super-fast shutter system he had built. Despite the extremely narrow depth of field and tiny subjects, he captured not only the cuckoo wasp but also the sand wasp.

A Fox for All Seasons

Animal Portraits Highly Commended: As it hunts along the snow-covered valley, an American red fox is hit side on by a gust of wind, parting its thick winter coat to reveal the fine fur underlayer. Undeterred, it kept listening intently for any sound of a vole or mouse scurrying beneath the snow. It would then tilt its head from side to side and pounce through. On a freezing February afternoon in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, John Blumenkamp watched the fox for hours, weathering the wind and sudden drops in temperature to take this stark image of a winter survivor.

A Mean Mouthful

11-14 Years Old Winner: On a diving holiday in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sam Sloss stopped to watch the behavior of a group of clownfish as they swam with hectic and repeated patterns in and out and around their home, a magnificent anemone. He was intrigued by the expression of one fish, its mouth being constantly open, holding something. Rather than following the moving fish in his viewfinder, Sloss positioned himself where he knew it would come back into the frame. It was only when he downloaded the photos that he saw tiny eyes peeping out of its mouth. It was a "tongue-eating louse," a parasitic isopod that swims in through the gills as a male, changes sex, grows legs, and attaches itself to the base of the tongue, sucking blood.

Watching You Watching Them

Urban Wildlife Winner: What a treat for a biologist—the species you want to study chooses to nest right outside your window. The Cordilleran flycatcher is declining across western North America as the changing climate causes shrinkage of the riparian habitats (i.e. river and other freshwater corridors) along its migratory routes and on its wintering grounds in Mexico. In Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, it typically nests in crevices and on canyon shelves. But one pair picked this remote research cabin instead, perhaps to avoid predation. The nest was built on the head of a window frame by the female. Both parents were feeding the nestlings, flying out to snatch insects in mid-air or hovering to pick them off leaves. So as not to disturb the birds or attract predators to the nest, Alex Badyaev hid his camera behind a large piece of bark on an ancient spruce tree leaning against the cabin. He directed a flash toward the trunk, so the scene would be illuminated by reflection, and operated the setup remotely from the cabin. He captured his shot as the female paused to check on her four nestlings. At 12 days old, they will probably fledge in a few days. Behind her—the cabin serving as a conveniently spacious hide—the biologist recorded his observations.

When Mother Says Run

Behavior Mammals Winner: This rare picture of a family of Pallas’s cats, or manuls, on the remote steppes of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau in northwest China is the result of six years’ work at high altitude. These small cats are normally solitary, hard to find, and mostly active at dawn and dusk. Through long-term observation, Shanyuan Li knew his best chance to photograph them in daylight would be in August and September, when the kittens were a few months old and the mothers bolder and intent on caring for them. He tracked the family as they descended to about 12,500 feet in search of their favorite food–pikas (small, rabbit‑like mammals)—and set up his hide on the hill opposite their lair, an old marmot hole. Hours of patience were rewarded when the three kittens came out to play, while their mother kept her eye on a Tibetan fox lurking nearby. Li caught their expressions in a rarely seen moment of family life, when their mother had issued a warning to hurry back to the safety of the lair.

The Golden Moment

Under Water Winner: A tiny diamondback squid paralarva flits below in the blackness, stops hunting for an instant when caught in the light beam, gilds itself in shimmering gold and then moves gracefully out of the light. The beam was Songda Cai’s, on a night‑dive over deep water, far off the coast of Anilao, in the Philippines.

The Pose

Animal Portraits Winner: A young male proboscis monkey cocks his head slightly and closes his eyes. Unexpected pale blue eyelids now complement his immaculately groomed auburn hair. He poses for a few seconds as if in meditation. He is a wild visitor to the feeding station at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary in Sabah, Borneo—"the most laid-back character," said Mogens Trolle, who has been photographing primates worldwide for the past five years.

The Last Bite

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio Award Winner: These two ferocious predators don’t often meet. The giant riverine tiger beetle pursues prey on the ground, while weaver ants stay mostly in the trees—but if they do meet, both need to be wary. When an ant colony went hunting small insects on a dry river bed in the Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, India, a tiger beetle began to pick off some of the ants. In the heat of the midday sun, Ripan Biswas lay on the sand and edged closer. At more than 12 millimeters-long, the beetle dwarfed the weaver ants. In defense, one bit into the beetle’s slender hind leg. The beetle swiftly turned and, with its large, curved mandibles, snipped the ant in two, but the ant’s head and upper body remained firmly attached

Making Belugas Play Ball

Wildlife Photojournalism Single Image Highly Commended: These belugas are performing in an inflatable pool inside a circus tent in a parking lot. They belong to a traveling dolphinarium, one of 12 known to travel in Russia today. The belugas do the same acts many times a day. Then, when the show packs up, they are put back in tanks and hoisted onto a truck to be taken to the next town. These two whales would have been caught in Russian waters. They now live in small, saltwater tanks and are carted from town to town, presumably until they die. There are no laws in Russia specifically regulating the treatment of marine mammals in captivity, and in 2020, belugas could still be legally caught for scientific and education purposes. The educational claim for this show is to bring native animals in front of a Russian audience.

When the Rain Came Rolling In

Earth's Environments Highly Commended: It was the first day of Zack Clothier's honeymoon. Having set up camp the night before in Colorado’s Uncompahgre National Forest, his wife and he woke early to hike to a small lake to watch the sun rise over the San Juan Mountains. They arrived to find the lake shrunk to half its normal size, surrounded by massive tiles of dried mud. It had barely rained for six months, and the region was experiencing an exceptional drought coupled with unusual warmth. But as the sun rose, a huge raincloud appeared riding fast over the distant Rockies. Rather than concentrating on the sunlit vista, he chose to photograph the drama of contrasts between the great plain of baked mud, with its dramatic pattern of fissures and cracks, and the giant soft curtain of rain spreading over the sky just as the sun lit up the quaking aspens and turned them to gold.

Late Delivery

Behavior Birds Highly Commended: With a beak full of krill, an Atlantic puffin comes in to land on Grimsey Island in northern Iceland. Most of the colony had already settled for the night, and Catherine Dobbins d'Alessio tracked the puffin as it circled in on the wind, lit by the evening sun, giving her a glance as it shot past. The food was for its chick, in a burrow down the cliffside.

The Fox that Got the Goose

Young Grand Title Winner and 15-17 Years Old Winner: It was on a summer holiday in Helsinki that Liina Heikkinen, then 13, heard about a large fox family living in the city suburbs on the Finnish island of Lehtisaari. The island has both wooded areas and fox-friendly citizens, and the foxes are relatively unafraid of humans. So Heikkinen and her father spent one long July day, without a hide, watching the two adults and their six large cubs, which were almost the size of their parents, though slimmer and lankier. In another month, the cubs would be able to fend for themselves, but in July they were only catching insects and earthworms and a few rodents, and the parents were still bringing larger prey to them. On this evening, the vixen arrived with a barnacle goose. Feathers flew as the cubs began fighting over it. One finally gained ownership—urinating on it in its excitement. Dragging the goose into a crevice, the cub attempted to eat its prize while blocking access to the others.

Great Crested Sunrise

Behavior Birds Winner: After several hours up to his chest in water in a lagoon near Brozas, in the west of Spain, Jose Luis Ruiz Jiménez captured this intimate moment of a great crested grebe family. The grebes build a nest of aquatic plant material, often among reeds at the edge of shallow water. To avoid predators, their chicks leave the nest within a few hours of hatching, hitching a snug ride on a parent’s back. Here the backlings will live for the next two to three weeks, being fed as fast as their parents can manage. Even when a youngster has grown enough to be able to swim properly, it will still be fed, for many more weeks, until it fledges. This morning, the parent on breakfast duty—after chasing fish and invertebrates under water—emerged with damp feathers and a tasty meal, and the stripy-headed chick stretched out of its sanctuary, open‑beaked, to claim the fish

Life in the Balance

Behavior Amphibians and Reptiles Winner: A Manduriacu glass frog snacks on a spider in the foothills of the Andes, in northwestern Ecuador. As big consumers of invertebrates, glass frogs play a key part in maintaining balanced ecosystems. That night, Jaime Culebras's determination to share his passion for them had driven him to walk for four hours, in heavy rain, through the forest to reach the frogs’ streams in the Manduriacu Reserve. But the frogs were elusive and the downpour was growing heavier and heavier. As he turned back, he was thrilled to spot one small frog clinging to a branch, its eyes shimmering like mosaics.

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