Wings outstretched, the immaculate white bird soars into the void in the middle of the snow-capped peaks of Norway. Here is a worthy successor to the geocuckoo facing the border wall between Mexico and the United States and to the Dalmatian pelican immortalized in full “dance” in Greece, awarded the Bird Photographer of the Year in 2021 and 2020 respectively.
Created by the British organization Birds on the Brink, this prestigious photographic competition aims to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the world of birds, as well as the performance of modern imaging systems. And the winner of the 2022 edition – the sixth – delivers another remarkable example.
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This year, the jury therefore chose to award its grand prize to photographer Erlend Haarberg for this photo of a rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) taking flight in the middle of the mountains of the Tysfjord region in northern Norway. “That day, I was on my way to the top of Tysfjorden to photograph the landscapes“, said the photographer.
“I had almost reached the top when I identified some criss-crossing ptarmigan tracks among the rocks, where the wind had uncovered some vegetation. A small head appeared from behind a rock, and seconds later it took off with the mountains and the fjord in the background, setting the perfect backdrop“, he continued.
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As its name suggests, the rock ptarmigan is accustomed to high altitude environments with harsh conditions. It is used on mountain slopes and in the tundras, mainly in Northern Europe and North America, where it sports a completely white coat in winter (except for a few dark feathers).
Highlighting species that are often overlooked, as well as their sometimes threatened habitat, is also the objective of the Bird Photographer of the Year. In addition to the grand prize, Erlend Haarberg also won first place in the category “Birds in their environment”. But the rest of the list, selected from more than 20,000 applications, also fulfills its mission to perfection.
Sandpiper in the middle of a storm, sleeping penguin and fisherman cormorant
On the youth side, 17-year-old Swiss Levi Fitze won the grand prize for his photo of a dunlin (Calidris alpina) facing a small sandstorm on an island in the Heligoland archipelago in Germany. “I could really see on his head how bothered he was by the wind and the sand flying everywhere“, he recounted.
Eight other photos were rewarded in the different categories of the competition. Among them, a young king penguin in the middle of a siesta in the Falkland Islands, a sage grouse in the middle of a courtship dance in Colorado, pink flamingos flying over skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi or even a double-crested cormorant launched in a fishing fish in Mexico.
“Once again, our talented photographers shine a light on the incredible diversity of birds with which we share our planet“, rejoiced Will Nicholls, director of the BPOTY. “But it’s also a sad reminder of what we stand to lose if we don’t continue to protect the natural world and fight for its protection in the face of the many threats that exist today.“.
>> Discover all the photos awarded by the 2022 edition of the Bird Photographer of the Year contest. All the shots are together in a book available on the site of the BPOTY.
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