Thursday, October 22, 2009

American photographers win in international contest

Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition 2009 revealed its winners in London yesterday, and three American photographers earned honors in the 46th annual contest. This year's competition drew more than 43,000 entries.

Rob Palmer from Colorado won the Behaviour: Birds category with an image of a juvenile Bald Eagle chasing a Red-winged Blackbird.

In January 2009, something strange happened at a cattle feedlot in Colorado. Rob noticed a group of bald eagles sittings in a large tree nearby. Usually, bald eagles hunt near water and eat fish, but they are also opportunists. These ones had gathered to feed on starlings and red-winged blackbirds and would launch themselves out of the trees and chase the small birds up into the sky. In this case, the eagle (a juvenile) was successful, but often the small birds would out-fly their attackers. Strangely, some of the birds would suddenly fly up in an erratic way, making themselves easy targets for their prey. Rob suspects that the cattle feed may have been treated with an avicide (bird poison) that affected the birds’ nervous systems. After two weeks, the odd behaviour of the small birds stopped and within days, the bald eagles left.

Thomas Haney from Texas won the One Earth Award, while Kevin Schafer from Washington earned top honors in the Behaviour: Mammals category. The images will appear at London's Natural History Museum until April 2010 in an exhibition that showcases all winning photos plus runners-up and commended images. The competition is organized by London’s Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine.

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