Australian Birds Shine in First Photo Contest

Australia is home to nearly 900 species of bird still in existence, and 45 percent of them can only found in the Land Down Under. From the weebill (the nation’s smallest bird) all the way up to the emu, many birds thrive in this diverse landscape.

For the first time, BirdLife Australia, the nation’s largest bird conservation, has organized a photo competition to highlight the importance of birds and why more should be done to protect them.

“Our mission is to make a real and positive difference for Australia’s birds,” the organization wrote on its website. “Over the years our conservation work has achieved beneficial results for a wide range of different species. Our experience and specialized knowledge combined with our ability to unite and inspire the bird-loving community means that we can act quickly and decisively at local, state and national levels. It’s not just about saving our precious birds — we all enjoy watching birds as well. This is why we help people learn about birds and conduct a diverse array of activities so that you can get out into nature and appreciate birds with like-minded people.”

The inaugural Australian Bird Photographer of the Year features seven categories, ranging from behavior and fine art to human impact.

The photo above was taken by Gary Meredith, the winner of the Bird Portrait category.

“Australian rainbow bee-eaters are rarely seen in large groups in Australia, so when I happened to find groups of bee-eaters out in a remote part of the Great Sandy Desert in western Australia I almost didn’t believe what I was seeing at first.

“Over a period of a couple of weeks, I woke very early in the mornings as they only seem to sit together for the first hour of sunlight and then disperse after they had warmed up. The bee-eaters tend to sit quite high in the trees so getting anything other than a blue sky background was going to be quite challenging. My only option was to hold my tripod with camera attached as high as I could and use the touchscreen on the Nikon D850 to take the photo!”

You can see the other winning images below. For each one, the photographers describe their image and how they got the shot in their own words.

Birds in the Landscape winner
‘Brolga’s flee fire’. (Photo: Cathryn Vasseleu/BirdLife Australia)

“From the Arnhem Highway near Mamukala wetlands in Kakdu I saw a typical dry season grassfire. Kites were hovering above the flames to snoop down and snatch fleeing prey. What made the scene special was a contrasting element; a green patch of waterlillies where some brolgas were staying well away from the blaze. Being upwind of the billowing smoke I had a clear enough view to capture the dramatically different relationship between the two groups of birds and their fiery environment.” — Carolyn Vasseleu

Special Theme: Black-Cockatoos Winner
‘Shadow Dancer’. (Photo: Lachlan Hall/BirdLife Australia)

“I had spent 6 weeks helping study the drumming and display behaviours of palm cockatoos for ANU the year prior to this, but we were required to be filming the birds whenever they displaced. In this time I fell in love with palm cockatoos or ‘palmies’ as we called them, they’re a species full of character, a funky look to match it and their display behaviours are fascinating and exciting to witness.

“I had dreamed of getting a shot like this of a palmy in the classic ‘wing spread’ display pose, complete with the crest raised and stunning red cheek patch (and tongue!) on full display, but it wasn’t until I returned to the area on holiday the following year that I had my opportunity. This was taken on my first morning back at Iron Range and knowing how difficult it had often been to capture displaying, I couldn’t … believe being woken up by this male performing and calling loudly on this perfect open perch only 100m or so from camp. I was even more delighted when I realised the golden sun had cast a perfect shadow of the birds unique silhouette against its outstretched wing.” — Lachlan Hall

Creative/Fine Art winner
‘Swooping’. (Photo: Sar Nop/BirdLife Australia)

“I regularly go to Akuna Bay to capture pictures of the local raptors as a few pairs of white-bellied sea-eagles and whistling kites nest along the escarpments there. On the morning I took these photos I was on a small fishing boat when a nearby school of fish attracted a whistling kite, which started swooping its potential prey. I grabbed a burst of the action and took a dozen images, afterwards combining them to create this swooping sequence on my computer.” — Sar Nop

Human Impact Winner
‘A tragic end’. (Photo: Danny McCreadie/BirdLife Australia)

“We were driving along a remote dirt road near Burra SA when we noticed an emu foot pointing skyward along a fence line. Investigation revealed the bird had become entangled while attempting to traverse a barbed wire fence. Unable to free itself it was left to die of exposure to the elements. A tragic end.” — Danny McCreadie

Youth Winner
‘Crested Pigeon’. (Photo: Campbell Mole/BirdLife Australia)

“I’ve always had a huge interest in birds since I was really young, and so when I became interested in photography when I was 14 it was sort of natural that I wanted to take photos of birds. I took this particular photo off my grandfather’s back deck in Park Orchards. There was a crested pigeon sitting on a mossy tree branch out the window, and it was lit up really nicely on one side by the early morning sun, which I thought would make a good picture.” — Campbell Mole

Bird Behavior Winner
‘Slight Disagreement’. (Photo: Shelley Pearson/BirdLife Australia)

“Each year the little egrets along with other birds mass feed at a certain time of the year. This is exciting to watch as birds compete for the fish and bad behaviour often occurs. This is something I have wanted to capture on camera and I have pursued passionately over the years. It has a high degree of difficulty due to the behaviour suddenly occurring and is over very quickly as they jump into the air. Technical aspects are hard to achieve as you have no control of direction of behaviour, backgrounds etc. This appeals because I managed to isolate these two from the crowd and expressions on their faces is clearly shown.” — Shelley Pearson

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