Nature photographer hopes to inspire others to see ‘the real Florida’


HASTINGS, Fla. – SnapJAX Stories is back and this week we were blown away by one of our snapper’s pictures. Turns out he’s a nature photographer and he’s been capturing images for almost 50 years.

Joe Myers, better known as “Long Hair Guy” on SnapJAX, truly lives up to his nickname. He has a mane of beautiful blonde hair.

“So it’s natural, all-natural. No plans on cutting it. People ask me about it. I tell them I need what little I got. They go silent every time,” Myers said.

Myers’ pictures might also leave you speechless. The best sunsets, extraordinary cloud formations and dramatic lightning all caught on camera — mostly in Hastings. (Photo gallery above of some of Myers’ shares on SnapJAX)

Myers moved from Ohio some years ago and fell in love with what he calls “the real Florida.” He’s a self-described nature photographer and storm spotter.

“(I like) to show people the cool stuff that’s out here so they can enjoy it and say, ‘Hey, this is a Florida we don’t see.’ You go to Florida, you see Disney, you see all the flying and bling, but you come out here: This to me is the real Florida,” Myers said.

One of his talents is capturing time-lapse video, and he’s not afraid to put himself in the middle of a storm to get amazing footage.

“I actually had a good scare back in April where I had a supercell just explode right on top of me,” Myers said. “Normally when I’m out in a storm, it’s like, ‘Bring it on. Bring it on.’ But this one is like, ‘Am I gonna make it through?’”

But it’s the calm after the storm, the sun setting after a hectic day, birds in flight and spectacular butterflies taking a rest on flowers that have shaped Myers’ life and given him a point of view that only a detailed person with true patience can appreciate.

I asked him what his life motto or mission statement would be.

“I would say, ‘Trust the Creator’ because this is all here for our enjoyment. It’s put here for us not to abuse or destroy it but to enjoy it. Have fun with it because that’s what it’s put here for,” Myers said.

One thing we didn’t see when I met Myers was “the big one.” Myers said there’s a 10-foot gator that lives in a nearby lake and travels over to a smaller body of water every night right around dinner time.

On that note, we left, but not without Myers leaving a lasting impression about his love of nature.

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.


Winners of Friends of Old Woman Creek photo contest announced


Winners of the Friends of Old Woman Creek 2023 photo contest will be on display beginning Sept. 18 at the visitor center at Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve, 2514 Cleveland Road East in Huron, the start of National Estuaries Week, according to a news release.

Emily Green of Sandusky won first-place in the adult category with her photo of a chipmunk in a shaft of light, according to the release.

James Daneker, of Milan, won first place in the teen category. (Submitted)
James Daneker, of Milan, won first place in the teen category. (Submitted)

James Daneker of Milan won first place in teen category with a photo of a monarch butterfly on a flower, the release said.

Green and Daneker will receive $30 each, according to the release.

Retired Plain Dealer photographer Lynn Ischay judged the entries.

“Green’s photo was technically beautiful, in challenging light and the photographer had to be silent and invisible to catch that moment,” Ischay said in the release.

Rob Meyer, of Milan, won second place. (Submitted)
Rob Meyer, of Milan, won second place. (Submitted)

Second place and $20 went to Robert Meyer of Milan according to the release.

“Seeing a third bald eagle landing to join the other adult and juvenile is a stunning opportunity,” Ischay said.

Jennifer Yingling of Sandusky won third place. (Submitted)
Jennifer Yingling of Sandusky won third place. (Submitted)

The shot of a great blue heron among the lotus by Jennifer Yingling of Sandusky won third place and $10.

All winners receive a year’s membership in the Friends of Old Woman Creek, according to the release.

The winning photos will be on display beginning Oct. 5 at the Huron Public Library, 333 Williams St. in Huron, the release said.

Honorable mentions winners were Katie Myer of Sandusky, Robert Myer of Sandusky, Loretta Majoy of Huron and Angela Schindler of Vermilion.


This photo is worth at least 1,000 words: The first and only time Bill Danielson witnessed a ‘parasitic’ cowbird being fed by its ‘adoptive parent’ | Home-garden


We’ve all heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This suggests that if you can simply see something, then you can understand the situation perfectly. In my line of work, however, this is often a gross underestimate of the power of a photo.

Where can you find the gray hairstreak? Look for this beautiful, little butterfly among the clover

In many cases, one of my photos might be worth several thousand words because the photo needs to be explained in several different ways. So I am going to attempt to explain the significance of this week’s photo in 1,000 words or less. Here goes.

It was Aug. 22 and I was returning to my house after another successful visit to my Thinking Chair. During an epic 3-hour session that started at 5:55 a.m., I had managed to accomplish a feat that I had initially thought to be impossible. I had tied the seemingly unbreakable record of observing 64 species in my yard in the month of August. I was absolutely giddy with self-satisfaction.

It was no accident that I had tied the “unbreakable” record. I had certainly put in the time by making 13 visits to the Thinking Chair in 22 days. But time alone is not always going to produce results. You also need a lot of luck and possibly even a smidgen of divine intervention. For this, I rely upon Nikonus and Iso, the photo gods.

Nikonus is the god of timing and he is rather brutal. He will present you with a species, but you have to be quick enough to see it. Iso is the goddess of color and light. Far more compassionate, she dictates the conditions necessary for good photography. Together, they determine if I can take a photograph or not.

So there I was, walking out onto my deck after reaching an amazing milestone when all of a sudden I caught sight of a bird that simply didn’t fit the setting. From the far railing, this bird flies up and I am struck with the simple impression of a gray bird with long wings and a relatively short tail. I would have dismissed it as a mourning dove, but the tail was wrong.

My birder’s brain sent back a reactionary identification after this split second and imperfect view, but I needed to see the bird again to confirm. Nikonus had offered up a challenge, I had been in the right place at the right time and he was so pleased that he gave me an extra moment.

The bird was up in my cottonwood tree and I was able to find it and confirm my initial identification. It was a brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) and it was the species that set a new record. I was elated, but there was also a note of disappointment because of the nature of the species in question. The brown-headed cowbird is a species that is described as a “nest parasite.” This means that female cowbirds will find the nests of other birds and then lay one of their own eggs into the nest of the unfortunate host. If things work out, then the host birds will raise the baby cowbirds as their own. At no point will cowbirds raise their own offspring.

This is often devastating to the host species for two reasons. First, the host loses an egg when the cowbird makes a deposit because the female will physically remove it. Second, the cowbird chick is so much larger than the host species that it crowds out the remaining chicks (causing their deaths) and occupies all of the feeding efforts of the adults. The eastern phoebes that nest by my front door are plagued by cowbirds and sometimes there are very few phoebe chicks to show for months of effort by the parent birds.

So, while delighted that I had broken the unbreakable record, I was also a little disappointed by the identity of the species involved. I went into the house, put down some of my gear and then made the decision to go back out onto the deck to get a photo that would prove that I had seen this particular species at this particular time. This is when the photo gods decided to reward me for my dedication. The cowbird flew down into a large bush just behind my house and perched on an exposed branch. I focused, snapped a few photos and grumbled slightly while doing it. Then I saw the cowbird’s wings begin to flutter in a manner that has a distinct and unmistakable meaning, “Feed me.”

This could only mean that the cowbird’s host parent was nearby and the cowbird expected an imminent delivery of food. Stunned, I kept my eyes peeled on the young bird in anticipation of the arrival of the parent, and I was rewarded for my dedication when a female Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) appeared with a green insect in her beak. She quickly shoved the food into the gaping mouth of the young cowbird and then zipped off to find yet another morsel for “her” baby.

In all of my years of wildlife observation, this was the first (and only) time that I had ever witnessed a parasitized species feeding the offspring of a nest parasite. I had not seen a cowbird in my yard in weeks and the only reason that I saw this particular bird in it that particular moment was the female yellowthroat had wandered up out of the meadow into the tall grasses and forbs of my backyard in search of food for the behemoth that she was trying to feed. The cowbird was following its mother and disappeared soon after. Had I not been in that particular place at that particular time, I would have been totally unaware of the entire event.

As summer comes to a close, our backyard birds are quiet as they prepare for migration or hunker down for winter

Well, that was 870 words and I have only managed to scratch the surface of this story. Unanswered questions are: How did it come to pass that cowbirds developed this breeding strategy? Why do other birds fall for this trick? Are there any species that are not as easily fooled? When did I first detect the presence of Nikonus and Iso? These are all questions that would require other columns to answer, but I am out of space for this week.

I end with the same message that I try to deliver every week. Keep your eyes open and make sure you look out a window from time to time. Amazing things are happening out in nature every day and sometimes they are happening in your very own backyard. If you tear your eyes away from the myriad screens that surround you every day and take a peek outside, then perhaps Nikonus and Iso with reward you with something amazing to see.

Bill Danielson has been a professional writer and nature photographer for 26 years.  He has worked for the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts State Parks and has taught biology and physics at Pittsfield High School for 20 years. For more information, visit his website at 


The Problem of Nature Writing


The Bible is a foundational text in Western literature, ignored at an aspiring writer’s hazard, and when I was younger I had the ambition to read it cover to cover. After breezing through the early stories and slogging through the religious laws, which were at least of sociological interest, I chose to cut myself some slack with Kings and Chronicles, whose lists of patriarchs and their many sons seemed no more necessary to read than a phonebook. With judicious skimming, I made it to the end of Job. But then came the Psalms, and there my ambition foundered. Although a few of the Psalms are memorable (“The Lord is my shepherd”), in the main they’re incredibly repetitive. Again and again the refrain: Life is challenging but God is good. To enjoy the Psalms, to appreciate the nuances of devotion they register, you had to be a believer. You had to love God, which I didn’t. And so I set the book aside.

Only later, when I came to love birds, did I see that my problem with the Psalms hadn’t simply been my lack of belief. A deeper problem was their genre. From the joy I experience, daily, in seeing the goldfinches in my bird bath, or in hearing an agitated wren behind my back fence, I can imagine the joy that a believer finds in God. Joy can be as strong as Everclear or as mild as Coors Light, but it’s never not joy: a blossoming in the heart, a yes to the world, a yes to being alive in it. And so I would expect to be a person on whom a psalm to birds, a written celebration of their glory, has the same kind of effect that a Biblical psalm has on a believer. Both the psalm-writer and I experience the same joy, after all, and other bird-lovers report being delighted by ornithological lyricism; by books like J. A. Baker’s “The Peregrine.” Many people I respect have urged “The Peregrine” on me. But every time I try to read it, I get mired in Baker’s survey of the landscape in which he studied peregrine falcons. Baker himself acknowledges the impediment—“Detailed descriptions of landscape are tedious”—while offering page after page of tediously detailed description. The book later becomes more readable, as Baker extolls the capabilities of peregrines and tries to understand what it’s like to be one. Even then, though, the main effect of his observations is to make me impatient to be outdoors myself, seeing falcons.

Sometimes I consider it a failing, a mark of writerly competition, that I’d so much rather take private joy in birds, and in nature generally, than read another person’s book about them. But I’m also mindful, as a writer, that we live in a world where nature is rapidly receding from everyday life. There’s an urgent need to interest nonbelievers in nature, to push them toward caring about what’s left of the nonhuman world, and I can’t help suspecting that they share my allergy to hymns of devotion. The power of the Bible, as a text, derives from its stories. If I were an evangelist, going door to door, I’d steer well clear of the Psalms. I would start with the facts as I saw them: God created the universe, we humans sin against His laws, and Jesus was dispatched to redeem us, with momentous consequences. Everyone, believer and nonbeliever alike, enjoys a good story. And so it seems to me that the first rule of evangelical nature writing should be: Tell one.

Almost all nature writing tells some kind of story. A writer ventures out to a lovely local wetland or to a pristine forest, experiences the beauty of it, perceives a difference in the way time passes, feels connected to a deeper history or a larger web of life, continues down the trail, sees an eagle, hears a loon: this is, technically, a narrative. If the writer then breaks a leg or is menaced by a grizzly bear with cubs, it may even turn into an interesting story. More typically, though, the narrative remains little more than a formality, an opportunity for reflection and description. A writer who’s moved to joy by nature, and who hopes to spread the joy to others, understandably wishes to convey the particulars of what incited it.

Unfortunately, no matter how felicitous the descriptions may be, the writer is competing with other media that a reader could be turning to instead, audiovisual media that actually show you the eagle or let you hear the loon. Ever since the advent of color photography and sound recording, lengthy descriptions have become problematic in all genres of writing, and they’re especially problematic for the evangelizing nature writer. To describe a scene of nature well, the writer is hard pressed to avoid terminology that’s foreign to readers who haven’t already witnessed a similar sort of scene. Being a birder, I know what a ruby-crowned kinglet sounds like; if you write that a kinglet is chattering in a willow tree, I can hear the sound clearly. The very words “ruby-crowned kinglet” are pregnant and exciting to me. I will avidly read an unadorned list of the species—black-headed grosbeak, lazuli bunting, blue-gray gnatcatcher—that a friend saw on her morning walk. To me, the list is a narrative in itself. To the unconverted reader, though, the list might as well say: Ira the son of Ikkesh of Tekoa, Abiezer of Anathoth, Mebunnai the Hushathite . . .

If birds are the writer’s focus, there do exist good stories about individual birds (the red-tailed hawks of Central Park) and individual species (the non-stop trans-Pacific flight of bar-tailed godwits), and I can tell, from the new-story links that nonbirding friends are forever forwarding to me, that reports of astonishing avian feats can overcome the public’s indifference to birds, at least momentarily. Whether such stories make converts—and I’ll say it here explicitly: my interest is in making converts—is less clear. The science of birds and their conservation should be interesting to anyone with a modicum of intellectual curiosity, but the world abounds with things to be curious about. The bird-science writer is painfully aware that he or she has only a few hundred words with which to hook a lay reader. One tempting approach to this challenge is to begin in medias res, by a campfire at some picturesque or desolate location, and introduce us to the Researcher. He will have a bushy beard and play the mandolin. Or she will have fallen in love with birds on her grandfather’s farm in Kentucky. He or she will be tough and obsessive, sometimes funny, always admirable. The danger with this approach is that, unless the Researcher emerges as the true subject of the piece, we readers may feel bait-and-switched—invited to believe that we’re reading a story about people, when in fact the story is about a bird. In which case, it’s fair to ask why we bothered getting to know the Researcher in the first place.

The paradox of nature writing is that, to succeed as evangelism, it can’t only be about nature. E. O. Wilson may have been correct in adducing biophilia—a love of nature—as a universal trait in human beings. To judge from the state of the planet, however, it’s a trait all too rarely expressed. What most often activates the trait is its display by people in whom it’s already activated. In my experience, if you ask a group of birders what got them into birds, four out of five of them will mention a parent, a teacher, a close friend, someone they had an intense personal connection with. But the faithful are few, the unpersuaded are many. To reach readers who are wholly wrapped up in their humanness, unawakened to the natural world, it’s not enough for writers to simply display their biophilia. The writing also needs to replicate the intensity of a personal relationship.

One of the forms this intensity can take is rhetorical. Speaking for myself, I’m a lot more likely to read an essay that begins “I hate nature” than one that begins “I love nature.” I would hope, of course, the writer doesn’t really hate nature, at least not entirely. But look at what the initial provocation accomplishes. Although it risks alienating the already persuaded, it opens the door to skeptical readers and establishes a connection with them. If the essay then reveals itself to be an argument for nature, the opening salvo also insures that the writing will be dynamic: will move from a point A to a very different point B. Movement like this is pleasurable to a reader. Fierce attitudes are pleasurable, even in the absence of forward movement. Give me the blistering prose of Joy Williams in “The Killing Game,” a jeremiad against hunters and their culture, or “The Case Against Babies,” as ferocious an anti-birth statement as you’ll ever read, in her perfectly titled collection “Ill Nature.” Indifference, not active hostility, is the greatest threat to the natural world, and whether you consider Williams hilarious or unhinged, heroic or unfair, it’s impossible to be indifferent to her work. Or give me Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire,” an account of his years in the Utah desert, in which he fans a simmering Thoreauvian misanthropy into white-hot fire and wields it against American consumer capitalism. Here again, you may not agree with the writer. You may wrinkle your nose at Abbey’s assumptions about “wilderness,” his unacknowledged privilege as a white American. What can’t be denied is the intensity of his attitude. It sharpens his descriptions of the desert landscape and gives them a forensic purpose, a cutting edge.

A good way to achieve a sense of purpose, strong movement from point A toward point B, is by having an argument to make. The very presence of a piece of writing leads us to expect an argument from it, if only an implicit argument for its existence. And, if the reader isn’t also offered an explicit argument, he or she may assign one to the piece, to fill the void. I confess to having had the curmudgeonly thought, while reading an account of someone’s visit to an exotic place like Borneo, that the conclusion to be drawn from it is that the writer has superior sensitivity to nature or superior luck in getting to go to such a place. This was surely not the intended argument. But avoiding the implication of “Admire me” or “Envy me” requires more attention to one’s tone of written voice than one might guess. Unlike the evangelist who rings doorbells and beatifically declares that he’s been saved, the tonally challenged nature writer can’t see the doors being shut in his face. But the doors are there, and unconverted readers are shutting them.

Often, by making an argument, you can sidestep the tonal problem. An essay collection that’s dear to me, “Tropical Nature,” by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata, begins by serving up a set of facts about tropical rain forests. The facts are seemingly neutral, but they add up to a proposition: the rain forest is more varied, less fertile, less consistently rainy, more insidiously hostile, than the drenched and teeming “jungle” of popular imagination. It’s a very simple proposition. And yet, right away, there’s a case to be made in the ensuing essays—further expectations to be upended, new astonishments to be revealed. Wedded to an argument, the scientific facts speak far more compellingly to the glory of tropical nature than lyrical impressionism, and meanwhile Forsyth and Miyata, as neutral bringers of fact, remain immune to the suspicion of seeking admiration. The premise of Jennifer Ackerman’s best-selling “The Genius of Birds” is likewise simple and sturdy: that “bird-brained” ought to be a compliment, not an insult. Richard Prum’s 2017 book, “The Evolution of Beauty,” reached a wide audience by arguing that Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, which mainstream evolutionary biologists ignored or denigrated for more than a century, can explain all sorts of non-adaptive traits and behaviors in animals. Prum’s book has its flaws—the prose is gluey, and Darwin’s theory was perhaps not quite as forgotten as Prum represents it to have been—but the flaws didn’t matter to me. The theory of sexual selection was an eye-opener, and I learned a lot of cool things about a group of tropical birds, the manakins, that I otherwise might never have known. Such is the power of a compelling argument.

For the nature writer who isn’t a polemicist or a scientist, a third avenue to intensity is to tell a story in which the focus is on nature but the dramatic stakes are emphatically human. An exemplary book in this regard is Kenn Kaufman’s “Kingbird Highway.” Kaufman grew up in suburban Kansas in the nineteen-sixties, became an obsessive birder (nicknamed Kingbird), and conceived the ambition, after he dropped out of high school, of breaking the record for the most American bird species seen in a calendar year. The record is quickly established as the dramatic goal, the protagonist’s coördinating desire. And then, immediately, we’re presented with an impediment: the teen-aged Kaufman has no money. To visit every corner of the country at the right time of year, a birder needs to cover huge distances, and Kaufman decides he’ll need to hitchhike. So now, in addition to a goal and an impediment, we have the promise of a classic road adventure. (It’s important to note that, just as we don’t have to be pedophiles to connect with Humbert’s pursuit of Lolita, we don’t need to care much about birds to be curious about what happens to Kaufman. Strong desire of any kind creates a sympathetic desire in the reader.) As Kaufman makes his way around the country, he’s attentive to the birds, of course, but also to the national mood of the early seventies, the social dynamics of bird-watching, the loss and degradation of natural habitat, the oddball characters along the way. And then the book takes a beautiful turn. As life on the road exacts its toll on the narrator, he feels increasingly lost and lonely. Although seemingly a quest narrative, the book reveals itself to have been, all along, a coming-of-age story. Because we care about the teen-aged Kaufman, we stop wondering if he’ll break the record and start asking more universally relatable questions: What’s going to happen to this young man? Is he going to find his way home? What sets “Kingbird Highway” apart from many other “Big Year” narratives is that it ultimately ceases to matter how many species Kaufman sees in a year. It’s only the birds themselves that matter. They come to feel like the home that he’s been yearning for, the home that will never leave him.

Even if we could know what it’s like to be a bird—and, pace J. A. Baker, I don’t think we ever really will—a bird is a creature of instinct, driven by desires that are the opposite of personal, incapable of ethical ambivalence or regret. For a wild animal, the dramatic stakes consist of survival and reproduction, full stop. This can make for fascinating science, but, absent heavy-duty anthropomorphizing or projection, a wild animal simply doesn’t have the particularity of self, defined by its history and its wishes for the future, on which good storytelling depends. With a wild-animal character, there is only ever a point A: the animal is what it is and was and always will be. For there to be a point B, a destination for a dramatic journey, only a human character will suffice. Narrative nature writing, at its most effective, places a person (often the author, writing in first person) in some kind of unresolved relationship with the natural world, provides the character with unanswered questions or an unattained goal, and then deploys universally shared emotions—hope, anger, longing, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment—to engage a reader in the journey. If the writing succeeds, it does so indirectly. We can’t make a reader care about nature. All we can do is tell strong stories of people who do care, and hope that the caring is contagious.

This is drawn from “Spark Birds.”


Check out the breathtaking winning images from Nature inFocus Photography Awards 2023


Winners are chosen in the categories of Animal Behaviour, Animal Portraits, Conservation Focus, Creative Nature Photography and Wildscape & Animals in Their Habitat.

This year’s winners of the NatureinFocus Photography Awards were announced at the Nature inFocus Festival, held at the Jayamahal Palace in Bangalore, India. 


From a heartwarming portrait of a Bonobo nurturing a mongoose pup, to a fierce battle for mating rights among male Nubian Ibexes in Israel’s Zin Desert, these images capture unique moments in natural history and address crucial conservation matters.

The winners were whittled down from a total of 24,000 submitted photographs from 1,500 photographers around the world. 

Below is a stunning collection of some of the winning and highly-commended images from the competition. 

Animal Behaviour winner: Shell I Eat You? by Sankhesh Dedhia

This stunning action shot captures a rarely-seen natural history moment, where the legendary Arrowhead of Ranthambhore fishes out an Indian Softshell Turtle from the lake for lunch. A tiger’s diet in the wild can be very varied as the felid can prey on pretty much everything on its turf, even a turtle, hence proved!

Animal Behaviour winner: A Love Like No Other by Afroj Sheikh

Caught in the crosshairs of a hungry leopard, the vulnerable mother and baby langur had little chance of survival. The hunt and the chase had led the predator and prey up a tree before the mother succumbed to the suffocating hold of the large cat. But in embracing death, the mother was able to save her offspring.

Animal Behaviour winner: A Sappy Alliance by Avinash PC

Symbiotic relationships are plenty in the natural world! But none as sappy and sugary as the mutualistic relationship between ants and aphids. Aphids are tiny, sap-sucking insects that are serious plant pests. They secrete a sugar-rich liquid called honeydew, a favourite food of ants! So much so that the ants protect these insects from other predators and even shepherd them to the healthiest parts of the plant to maintain a steady stream of sweet honeydew!

Conservation Focus winner: Cry Me a River by Hiren Pagi

The Australia Bushfire 2020 had devastating impacts on its wildlife. An estimated three billion animals were killed or displaced in the fires that season. The NGO ‘Vets For Compassion’ actively worked in the Mallacoota, Victoria region to find and rescue Koalas and other animals that were affected by the fires. They made their way past blockades, searching for animals in the most severely affected areas. In this photograph, veterinarian Chris Barton looks for survivors amidst a burned eucalyptus plantation.

Wildscape & Animals in Their Habitat winner: The Things You Do for Love by Amit Eshel

Looks like the set for the next Mission Impossible, but for Nubian Ibexes, the high-altitude rocky terrains are home. The vulnerable ibex species is known for many things–large semi-circular horns, the ability to scale mountains with ease and the territorial fights that males engage in during the rutting season. Displays of dominance begin with showing off their impressive horns. If that doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to escalate by pushing and shoving the opponent and literally locking horns with them. Ibexes also stand on their hind legs as they get ready to strike.

Wildscape & Animals in Their Habitat winner: Worlds Apart by Dileep SS

Think Dubai and the first thing that comes to mind is architectural marvels that make the sky seem at arm’s reach. The tall buildings may be Dubai’s trademark visuals, but another world coexists alongside the dazzle, where wildlife thrives in the desert. The image juxtaposes these two worlds—the towering skyscrapers and the endless sands—a gentle reminder to look beyond the concrete.

Creative Nature Photography winner: All That Glitters Are Spores by Anirban Dutta

The bristles are the brightly-coloured protective hairs of the Slug Moth larvae. The glitter-like effect is because of mushrooms releasing spores. When the photographer found the larvae positioned right next to the sporing mushrooms, he did not want to miss the opportunity to capture the dramatic frame, and dramatic it is!

Creative Nature Photography winner: Symmetry in Mimicry by Arkaprava Ghosh

Mimicry is the highest form of flattery, they say. But in the animal world, it is among the best defence mechanisms. Here, Line-forest Skimmers position themselves aptly on the perennial Phanera vahlii creeper to resemble an inflorescence. Notice how the dragonflies have raised their abdomens in unison? Fooling a predator never looked this intricate.


Animal Portraits winner: The Bonobo and His Pet by Christian Ziegler

The last great ape to be described, the Bonobo, is one of our closest living relatives. Here, a wild Bonobo who caught a mongoose pup is looking after it like a pet. He later released the animal unharmed. This behaviour has only been recorded once before by Prof Barbara Fruth at this site.

Animal Portraits winner: Inspector Booby by Suliman Alatiqi

Brown boobys spend a significant portion of their lives in the open ocean. Their clumsy nature on land earned them their namesake, derived from the Spanish word bobo, which means stupid or daft. They are excellent foragers of the sea and plunge-dive to feed on anything from anchovies and sardines to squid and shrimp. The photographer watched this individual dipping its head underwater at short intervals and got in position to capture a close-up portrait of the bird from the perspective of its fated prey.

Young Photographer winner: Raiders of Hives by Pranav Mahendru

In the dense forests of Satpura, a pair of oriental honey buzzards raid a beehive. These raptors hunt for food in beehives and wasp nests but, unlike what their name suggests, they prefer bee and wasp larvae over actual honey.

Young Photographer winner: Slender in the Night by Arnav Deshpande

Like the spiders they are commonly confused with, opiliones too have eight legs – mostly long and thin in contrast to their bodies. They are living fossils, the original ‘Daddy Longlegs’, having remained unchanged for millions of years. On a rainy night, the young photographer spotted this opilione sheltering in a crevice, raindrops glistening on its limbs.

Wildscape & Animals in Their Habitat special mention: The Land of Stripes by Amit Vyas

If the essence of Ranthambore could be captured in one frame, this would be it. Only once in a blue moon does the landscape become this misty at Ranthambore. And when a tiger chooses the opportune moment to show itself, it almost feels too good to be true. The historical architecture of the landscape, its species and the cerulean backdrop create an image that has magic written all over it. 


Wildscape & Animals in Their Habitat special mention: The Rarest of Them All by Sergey Gorshkov

One of the rarest cats in the world, the Amur leopard certainly makes you earn your sighting. The critically endangered felid faces several threats, including poaching for its fur. While suitable habitats are present across Russia and China, these leopards are threatened by the scarcity of prey animals. 

Animal Behaviour special mention: It’s a Cat-eat-cat World by Karthik Mohan Iyer

It takes a moment before you go, ‘Woah!’. Though tigers and leopards share the same prey base, they tend to be non-confrontational and mostly stay away from one another. But when threatened by competition, tigers can eliminate other predators in their territory, such as leopards. 

Animal Behaviour special mention: Lights Will Guide You Home by Merche Llobera

A pod of spinner dolphins dives back into the beautifully lit waters of the Pacific Ocean, creating this stunning scene of a cetacean avalanche. One of the dolphins can be seen gazing into the camera lens, adding a touch of curiosity and connection to the frame. 

Young Photographer special mention: Gecko’s Garage by Vidyun Hebbar

The Andaman day gecko or the green emerald gecko is a bright-coloured gecko endemic to the Andaman Islands. The young photographer was on vacation when he spotted this shy creature lurking inside a light shade.


Geneva Lake Conservancy Small Nature Photo Contest


Geneva Lake Conservancy/Helen Rohner Children's Fishing Park, 159 Elkhorn Rd. (State Hwy. 67), Williams Bay

The Geneva Lake Conservancy’s Helen Rohner Children’s Fishing Park nature preserve, 159 Elkhorn Rd. (State Hwy. 67) in Williams Bay, adjoins 231-acre Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, 251 Elkhorn Rd. Children can enjoy angling for brown trout in Southwick Creek or explore the preserve’s many amenities, including a boardwalk wetland area and amphibian pond, butterfly garden and native plant garden. The Geneva Lake Conservancy is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of environmentally-sensitive lands, open space and the unique character and quality of life in Walworth County.

Eric Johnson

The Fontana-based Geneva Lake Conservancy is currently hosting its annual Small Nature Photo Contest.

Photos must be unedited and taken in Williams Bay at either Helen Rohner Children’s Fishing Park, 159 Elkhorn Rd. (State Hwy. 67), or the adjacent 251-acre Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy preserve, 251 Elkhorn Rd. (State Hwy. 67). The deadline for contest photo submissions is Thursday, Aug 10 at [email protected]. Entrants can submit up to five photos.

Winners will be announced for each of the following age categories: 4-12, 13-21 and 22-plus. Cash prizes in each age category are $150 for first place, $100 for second and $50 for third.

A reception to honor all contest participants will be held Thursday, Aug. 24 at 5 p.m. at Green Grocer & Deli, 24 W. Geneva St. (State Hwy. 67), Williams Bay.

“The Small Nature Photo Contest is a fantastic way to get all age groups involved with getting outside and appreciating the small species that make up our beautiful ecosystem,” said Geneva Lake Conservancy Community Outreach and Fundraising Manager Tai Thompson. “I love seeing families at Helen Rohner Park exploring and showing each other what they have found before snapping a picture. It’s a great family activity.”

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For more information about Geneva Lake Conservancy and Helen Rohner Children’s Fishing Park, visit or call 262-275-5700.


Trespassers in Xinjiang nature reserve found dead


The Lop Nor Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo/VCG]

Four people who trespassed on the Lop Nor Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have all died according to a report on Saturday from Nanguo Morning News, a news outlet based in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The police department of Ruoqiang county in Xinjiang was informed by peers in Dunhuang, Northwest China’s Gansu province, that four passengers went missing on Wednesday amid an unauthorized drive-through of the reserve by a fleet of cars that started from Dunhuang on July 22, according to a notice issued by the department on Friday.

After a search, three of the missing people were found with no vital signs and one was still absent. The rest of the fleet was sent back to Dunhuang.

As of Saturday, the remaining person was also found dead.

Lop Nor is characterized by vast stretches of sand dunes and desert terrain, and its arid climate and lack of vegetation contribute to its desertification. The harsh and inhospitable conditions make it challenging for people to live in this area.

Despite its harsh environment, it is an important habitat for Bactrian camels, a critically endangered species under first-grade protection in China. The reserve was set up in 2003 in order to better protect the animals.

Tourists are not allowed in the reserve without permission, a worker told the newspaper.

“We welcome tourists to come and visit. But for their own good and for the protection of the animals in the reserve, they are not allowed in the reserve without permission,” the worker said.

Since 2017, the reserve has repeatedly issued notices stating all are strictly prohibited from entering the reserve, and these disobey who will be punished in accordance with the law and may be investigated for criminal responsibility.


Gabon releases tender for Africa’s first ‘debt-for-nature swap’: What is it?


Gabon became the African nation to launch a debt-for-nature swap, on Tuesday (July 25) and plans to buy up at least $450 million of its government debt in exchange for an eco-friendly blue bond, reported Reuters. 

The debt-for-nature swaps have recently gained some popularity among conservation finance, particularly after Ecuador struck the biggest deal of its kind and refinanced $1.6 billion of its commercial debt. 

What are ‘debt-for-nature swaps’?

Debt-for-nature swap is when creditors provide debt relief for developing countries who commit to taking steps towards the conservation of the environment, like decarbonizing the economy, investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, or protecting biodiverse forests or reefs, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

These so-called swaps can be useful for countries that are most vulnerable to climate change and often unable to afford investment to strengthen climate change-related resilience. Typically, a country’s debt, bought up by banks or specialist investors is replaced with cheaper ones with the help of a multilateral development bank “credit guarantee” or “risk insurance”. 

Therefore, these debt-for-nature swaps free up fiscal resources for governments to improve resilience without triggering a fiscal crisis or sacrificing spending on other development priorities, said the IMF. 

The supporters of this concept, which was first ideated by the late “godfather of biodiversity,” Thomas Lovejoy, in the 1980s call it a win-win for financiers, countries and conservationists, as per media reports.

The central African nation’s beaches and coastal waters are home to nearly a third of the global population and the world’s largest population of leatherback turtles, an endangered species. 

Citing a regulatory filing, Reuters reported that Gabon on the London Stock Exchange had “launched invitations to tender for purchase by the Republic for cash its 2025 Notes and 2031 Notes”. 

The filing has since prompted the three Eurobonds that it referred to rise as much as 2.2 cents on the dollar, reported the news agency. Furthermore, the February 2031 maturity rose 2.203 cents to 83.702 cents and the November 2031 maturity jumped 2.129 cents to 83.573 cents. 

While the Gabonese government offered to buy back the bonds for 85 cents per $1 of the bond. Meanwhile, the 2025 maturity rose 1.194 cents to 95.4 cents is also lower than the offer price of 96.75 cents.

A report by Reuters citing industry sources also said that the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) would provide political risk insurance like it has for Ecuador and Belize.

Earlier this year, Ecuador sealed the world’s largest debt-for-nature swap on record amounting to $1.6 billion which has freed up as much as $18 million every year for the next two decades. The amount currently serves as a consistent revenue stream for the conservation of the Galapagos Islands, one of the world’s most precious ecosystems.

(With inputs from agencies) 


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‘Huge increase’ in cuckoos in our garden – Readers’ nature queries – The Irish Times


We live in Rosmuc, Connemara, where we are mostly surrounded by bogland. This year, we have noticed a huge increase in the number of cuckoos, often flying low through our garden and stopping to rest on our pine trees. Noreen Ryan, Co Galway

Welcome news. During May, the National Parks and Wildlife Service linked up with the BTO Cuckoo team in Britain to satellite track four Irish cuckoos – three from Killarney National Park and one from Burren National Park. The first one from Killarney began the migration south on June 13th and flew down through France into northern Italy. The second, also from Killarney, was in Ravenna, Italy, by June 20th. Both stayed in Italy for at least a week and are now on route to Africa. The Clare bird was still around at the end of June. Track them here.

I found this ladybird larva on my lupins. I remembered you said it was a harlequin ladybird – an invasive species – so I squished it. P McLeer, Drogheda

You did your business right. This is indeed the larva of the harlequin ladybird, identifiable by the two inverted L-shaped rows of orange tubercles along each side of the body and its overall very spiky appearance. This invasive species was first recorded here in Cork in 2009 and has now spread to Limerick and Kerry as well as along the south and east of Ireland. Both the larvae and the adults eat our native ladybirds.

What was this caterpillar that was munching on a recently planted oak tree? O Farrell, Greenore

It is the larva of the Hebrew character moth, so-called because of the conspicuous black mark in the centre of each forewing of the adult, which was considered to be a good representation of a letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The caterpillar feeds on birch and aspen as well as oak.

This huge spider emerged from my shopping when I was unpacking. Is it a native species? Louise M, Clones

It is a native species and one of our largest: Eratigena duellica, the large house spider. It can be up to 18mm, which is really big for an Irish spider. It is identifiable by the pale chevrons on its back and usually hides away in dark, undisturbed locations, where it builds triangular cobwebs and waits for flies to become entangled.

We were on a school nature walk in the Phoenix Park when we came across these caterpillars. We are very concerned to know whether this is the dangerous invasive species of caterpillar or not. Alyssa (6) and Heather (5) Nash, Dublin

They are the caterpillars of the peacock butterfly, a colourful native species. They are not the dangerous invasive processionary oak caterpillars. Peacock caterpillars are black with white spots and are covered with spines. They feed in groups on nettles, under a communal web at first. Several different butterfly species can use nettle as a larval food plant.

Spotted this beautiful flower in a local unmowed lawn. Is it a local native species flower or an import? Brian Gilheany, Co Sligo

So too did David Hughes, who has it growing in his front garden in Kimmage in Dublin, as well as David Smullen, who sees lots of them in Dublin’s Tymon Park and whose orchid picture this one it is. It just goes to show how quickly orchids re-establish from seeds in the soil once mowing stops. This is the pyramidal orchid, which grows on calcareous grassland and is commonly pollinated by the day-flying six-spotted burnet moth.

Please submit your nature query, observation, or photo with a location, via


Dannevirke artist’s love of nature prompts painting career


Diane Clayton had always wanted to paint.

In her former career as a counsellor she’d valued the therapeutic effect of painting, but it was when her husband became unwell 12 years ago that she decided to try it herself.

“There were six weeks when I couldn’t go anywhere,” she says.

Now Diane, along with other talented artists in Dannevirke, will be participating in a regional exhibition at Square Edge in Palmerston North.


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The Combined Communities exhibition will run until June 22.

This piece, called threesome, will be at the exhibition at Square Edge.
This piece, called threesome, will be at the exhibition at Square Edge.

Diane is not only contributing her art to the exhibition, she also recently created a piece for the ceremony to name a kiwi chick which was presented to the Polish ambassador at the May 26 event.

Diane created this piece for the naming of the kiwi chick.
Diane created this piece for the naming of the kiwi chick.

She chose to link the two, painting a kiwi on a totara post, including barbed wire to symbolise the struggle through the Second World War.

For Diane, art takes her into the creative side of the brain, but sometimes that means she becomes totally focused on her work to the exclusion of all else.


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One of her pieces, she says, took her 155 hours to do – a piece depicting a scene in Cornwall, England, which included some very fine details.

After 12 years, she still has a passion for what she does and it has come with some good successes.

Diane finds much of her inspiration in nature.

“It’s a place where you can sit quietly, contemplate and process [things].”

The exhibition in Palmerston North is being run for the first time, as artistic director Karen Seccombe was determined to kick something off for the Manawatū-Tararua region to help the local clubs which were currently struggling.

“It’s encouraging and supporting [clubs] to ensure that the arts survive.”