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2021 BirdWatching Photography Awards finalists

This past spring, we conducted our latest photo contest, the 2021 BirdWatching Photography Awards, here on our website. We received more than 770 entries — images of owls, eagles, hummingbirds, cranes, and passerines, among others — from hundreds of photographers. Thanks to everyone who entered! The selection of images was stellar, as all of our previous contests have been. The judges had a challenging task! Today we are proud to present the finalist photos, featured in the following slideshow. 

Each caption tells the story behind the photo, from the photographers themselves, and it lists the camera gear they used. 

We’ll announce the three winning images here on our website on Tuesday, August 10, and they’ll be featured in our September/October 2021 issue. Enjoy! 

Barred Owls by Steve Rushing

Barred Owls by Steve Rushing

This is a Barred Owl pair that nests in a huge oak in my neighbor’s yard. They are frequent hunters in our yard because it is a certified Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary and attracts a large population of chipmunks, voles, squirrels, and rats. I know it sounds cruel, but they keep the small mammal population in check. An important role in completing the ecosystem. It also makes for some interesting circle-of-life shots.

They usually come separately, and I have several shots of them individually in the trees (before being discovered by the Blue Jays) as part of my #BirdingFromHome project (in response to pandemic sheltering in place). In this case, they were together on a limb right above our back door. They were courtship preening: a bonding ritual between a mated pair. I also like to think they were on a parent’s night out date and enjoying some intimate time bonding before “getting back to work feeding the kids”. Pretty anthropomorphic I know, but having shared parenting with the love of my life, I can relate and was thrilled to capture this moment.

Gear: Olympus OM-D E-M1X with Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 TC 1.25x. Handheld.

Many thanks to our panel of guest judges: our Founding Editor and “Amazing Birds” columnist Eldon Greij; author, radio host, and Contributing Editor Laura EricksonOutdoor Photographer Editor Wes Pitts; and Imaging Resource Editor William Brawley. 

View the 2021 BirdWatching Photography Awards honorable mentions

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