These are images by one talented flock of photographers.
They have all been honoured in the Bird Photographer of the Year 2022 awards, an annual contest celebrating bird life that this year received more than 20,000 submissions from around the world.
An adorable picture of a pair of embracing Atlantic puffins, a jaw-dropping image of a European shag soaring over an enormous wave, and a poignant shot of a little owlet playing in a dumping ground are among the images that impressed the judges.
However, it is a breathtaking picture of a rock ptarmigan in flight over the Tysfjorden fjord in Norway by Erlend Haarberg that reigns supreme overall, earning the Norwegian photographer the £5,000 grand prize and the title of Bird Photographer of the Year.
Commenting on the results, Will Nicholls, Director of Bird Photographer of the Year, says: ‘Once again our talented photographers have cast a light on the incredible diversity of bird life that we share our planet with. But it is also a stark reminder of what we stand to lose if we don’t continue to look after the natural world and fight for its protection from the many threats that exist today.’
Below are the magnificent prizewinners – scroll down to the very bottom to see the picture that takes the top spot.
Two Atlantic puffins appear to embrace in this heartwarming picture, captured in the fishing town of Elliston in Newfoundland, Canada. Snared by Canadian photographer Brad James, the picture earns a silver award in the Best Portrait category. The birds – which are ‘beautifully stationed on a dramatic cliff edge’ – appear to ‘reinforce the intimate bond that exists between them’, James says of the shot, which was captured in the light of the morning
The top prize in the Attention to Detail category has been scooped up by this adorable shot, which shows the ‘brown “teddy bear” plumage’ of a sleeping king penguin chick. The picture was captured on Volunteer Point, a headland in the Falkland Islands, local photographer Andy Pollard reveals
Earning the gold award in the Nine to 13 Years category, this spellbinding shot of a thirsty Anna’s Hummingbird was taken in the Californian city of Fremont by young U.S photographer Parham Pourahmad. ‘In Fremont, there is a water fountain that is a hotspot for hummingbirds. The birds like to bathe in the water, or in this case catch and sip the droplets,’ Pourahmad explains
This spectacular image – the recipient of the bronze award in the Birds in the Environment category – shows a European shag as it flies over a ‘huge wave of about eight metres (26ft) high’ off the west coast of Asturias, a region in northern Spain. Spanish photographer Mario Suarez Porras says: ‘It made me reflect on how lucky the bird was to be free and able to fly with strength and determination in the most difficult conditions’
Showing great talent at a young age, U.S photographer Arjun Jenigiri was behind the lens for this bewitching shot of a barred owlet, which scoops the gold award in the Eight and Under category. It was taken during a hike in the Acadia National Park, Maine. ‘We were just a few minutes into the hike when we heard [the owlets] calling. One landed close by and peered at me from behind a tree trunk in a way that seemed to express curiosity,’ the photographer recalls
The coastal waters of Berwickshire, Scotland, were the setting for this beautiful photograph of a diving common guillemot, captured by UK photographer Henley Spiers. ‘Common guillemots are incredible freedivers – so good, in fact, that studies have shown that of all flying birds, this humble species is the most efficient swimmer. It is bested in the water only by penguins, with which it shares similar stylistic traits. The difference, of course, is that penguins – perhaps descended from the same auk [bird species] family as common guillemots – sacrificed their ability to fly as they adapted to an aquatic existence,’ says Spiers. The image snaps up the silver award in the Bird Behaviour category
Above is another stunning shot by Spiers, this time showing a double-crested cormorant diving in the waters off the coast of Isla del Espiritu Santo, a Mexican island in the Gulf of California. Spiers was positioned 10m (32ft) underwater when he took the image, which earns the gold award in the Black and White category. He recalls: ‘Below, an enormous school of fish covered the bottom as far as I could see. Above, a single double-crested cormorant patrolled the surface, catching its breath and peering down at a potential underwater feast. The cormorant, better designed for swimming than flying, would dive down at speed, aggressively pursuing the fish. The school would move in unison to escape the bird’s sharp beak, making it difficult to isolate a single target. More often than not, the bird returned to the surface empty-billed’
Photographer Laszlo Potozky captured this characterful picture – a recipient of the silver award in the Urban Birds category – of a little owl nesting in an abandoned building in Transylvania in his native Romania. When he visited the site, he spotted the chick under the roof, ‘posing in an odd way and with what looked like an air of resignation’. He says: ‘I could see a resemblance to Gonzo, the famous character from The Muppet Show.’ The picture lands a silver award in the Urban Birds category
British photographer Mark Williams is behind this spellbinding picture of a common starling, taken in the town of Solihull in England’s West Midlands. To lure the bird into the path of his lens, he placed some sunflower seeds in a feeder. Williams says that it appears as though the bird is ‘lurking in the shadow of the night’ in the image
A pair of galah birds fly past a painted mural in the town of Yelarbon in Queensland, Australia, in this evocative shot, which snaps up the gold award in the Birds in Flight category. The mural had been painted onto a grain silo in the town, and the galahs were attracted to the split grain that it held, Australian photographer Raoul Slater explains. He describes the photograph as ‘surreal’
This striking picture of a Eurasian blackbird in the southern Spanish village of Grazalema, captured by young Spanish photographer Andres Luis Dominguez Blanco, earns the silver award in the Nine to 13 Years category
A flamboyance of greater flamingos soars over the skyline of Abu Dhabi in this awe-inspiring image by UAE photographer Ammar Alsayed Ahmed. The picture was taken from a skyscraper rooftop ‘on a morning when fog covered the city and the only signs of the urban landscape were the tops of the buildings emerging from the blanket of mist’. Ahmed recalls: ‘At the time it seemed a bit like a fantasy, a fleeting moment made surreal as the birds unexpectedly flew past.’ Impressing the judges, the picture tops the podium in the Urban Birds category
This picture of a dunlin bird ‘struggling with a small sandstorm’ earns Swiss photographer Levi Fitze the title of Young Bird Photographer of the Year. Fitze says that he could see from the bird’s face ‘how annoyed’ it was ‘by the wind and sand flying everywhere’ during the storm. The image – taken in the German archipelago of Heligoland in the North Sea – also tops the podium in the 14 to 17 Years category of the contest
This poignant picture of a barred owlet was taken in a creek in a Hillsboro, Oregon, park that has become an informal dumping ground. ‘The owlets bathe and play around the creek, which unfortunately is where rubbish is dumped and accumulates,’ U.S photographer Kerry Wu reveals. The photographer continues: ‘While I was watching the scene, one of the owlets even picked up a large rusty screw and “played” with it as if it were a twig. At one point it looked right at me as if to say, “What have you done to my home?”‘ Wu adds: ‘This scene broke my heart.’ The image earns the bronze award in the Urban Birds category
Behold the gold award winner in the Bird Behaviour category, a dynamic picture that shows two sage-grouse birds ‘lekking’ – an ‘elaborate display designed to attract and impress females and show their superiority’ – in Colorado. American photographer Peter Ismert explains: ‘During the spring breeding season, male sage-grouse gather on traditional lekking sites and often engage in short but violent fights.’ Ismert reveals that he set up camp overnight, camouflaged by a hide, to photograph the ritual. ‘At first light, I awoke to booming sounds made by the male grouse and the sight of their unusual display and this particular battle,’ he says
In this dramatic shot – which also depicts the lekking ritual – a sage-grouse bird performs ‘strutting displays in the hope of winning the right to mate’, U.S photographer Ly Dang reveals. The photographer explains: ‘This behaviour is for the benefit of the females, which judge the talent show and select the best genes to pass on to the next generation.’ The image, which was captured in Colorado in springtime, comes top in the Best Portrait category
This startling image is a close-up of a western capercaillie in a forest near Stockholm. It was taken by Swedish photographer Isabella Chowra and lands second place in the Attention to Detail category
A Kentish plover is ‘perfectly placed in the middle of its reflection’ in this eye-catching picture, which was captured on the Khok Kham salt pans near the Thai city of Samut Sakorn. It takes the bronze award in the 14 to 17 Years category, with Thai photographer Thamboon Uyyanonvara explaining that the bird arrived just as the ‘yellowish, pinkish and orange-red’ light of the sunset hit the salt pans
U.S photographer Sue Dougherty captured this transfixing picture in the Cariboo region of Canada’s British Columbia. It shows a great northern diver that emerged from a lake with ‘perfect lines of water droplets adorning its head from beak to neck’. Describing the droplets, Dougherty – who took the picture from a boat – says: ‘They looked like glimmering beads of diamonds framing its ruby-red eye.’ She points out that the reflection in the bird’s eye is a ‘mirror of the trees on the lake shoreline’. The bronze award in the Attention to Detail category has been awarded to the image
Taking the bronze medal in the Nine to 13 Years category is this captivating shot of a plum-headed parakeet in flight in the town of Hosanagara in the Indian state of Karnataka. Indian photographer Achintya Murthy, who was behind the lens, describes the scene as an ‘amazing moment’ to witness
This breathtaking image shows a small flock of lesser and greater flamingos as they fly over Lake Logipi in northern Kenya. Irish photographer Paul Mckenzie, who took the picture from a light aircraft, explains that microscopic algae in the lake bed cause the red colours in the lake, while the yellow and brown tones are from the sediment that has washed in from the Suguta River. There are also salt floes on the lake surface, he reveals. ‘Huge numbers of flamingos regularly gather on this remote lake to feed on the specialist brine invertebrates here, which themselves feed on the algae,’ Mckenzie notes. The shot ranks second in the Birds in the Environment category
Ranking second in the 14 to 17 Years category is this sweet picture by teenage photographer Tamas Koncz-Bisztricz from Hungary. It portrays a pied avocet chick in early summertime in Lake Nagyszeksos, near the Hungarian town of Morahalom
South African photographer Richard Flack snared this uplifting shot of a pair of purple-crested turacos in a small conservancy in the Lower Mpushini area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. ‘Seemingly out of nowhere, this exquisite pair flew out from thick cover and landed a few metres in front of me… the turaco pair seemed much more interested in each other than in me,’ Flack says, adding: ‘It was a dream encounter and I felt privileged to share such an intimate moment with them.’ The picture comes third in the Bird Portrait category
Canadian photographer Simon d’Entremont beautifully captures a Bohemian waxwing ‘devouring’ a berry in this picture, taken in a cluster of berry bushes in the town of Kentville, in Nova Scotia, Canada. Describing the image, which ranks third in the Bird Behaviour category, he says: ‘Not only are they beautiful birds, but the action of them picking berries and often flipping them in the air to eat them is impressive’
This vibrant picture of a Schalow’s turaco – ranked third in the Birds in Flight category – is the work of U.S photographer Aaron Baggenstos. Of the picture, which was taken on safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, he says: ‘Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this individual emerging from the canopy like a bullet and coming diagonally straight towards me… it was a true gem to witness.’ He adds: ‘These stunningly dressed birds spend most of their time high in the dark jungle canopy and are extremely fast in flight – I think of them as “bullet” birds’
Skardsvik beach on the west coast of Iceland was the setting for this atmospheric shot, which bags a silver award in the Black and White category. In the distance, a great cormorant can be seen sitting ‘on a sharp, pointed ridge’ trying to dry its wings after diving into the ocean. Polish photographer Pawel Smolik says: ‘The sight of this cormorant with its black wings spread, combined with the aura of the place and the colour of the sand and rocks – all shades of black – reminded me of The Lord of the Rings movies.’ Thus, he titled the image ‘The Guardian of Mordor’ – in reference to the realm of the villain Sauron as depicted in the fantasy films
Drum roll please… this is the image that has earned Erlend Haarberg the title of Bird Photographer of the Year. The picture, which also takes the top spot in the Birds in the Environment category, depicts a rock ptarmigan – a bird species that look like ‘small white feather balls’, according to Haarberg – flying over Tysfjord fjord in northern Norway. Recalling the day he took the shot, Haarberg says: ‘I spotted some ptarmigan tracks… from behind a rock, a small head appeared, and seconds later it took to the wing with the mountains and fjord landscape in the background, setting the scene perfectly’