Dazzling exhibitions from Auckland Festival of Photography 2023 speak to fragility and beauty of nature


Innovation, initiative and challenging the status quo. These are principles to live by at any point, but particularly right now. The Auckland Festival of Photography 2023 has launched with a theme of resistance/ātete, and included are dazzling and arresting exhibitions that speak to the fragility and beauty of nature.

Infra Moana - Aquamarine from Cathy Carter's exhibition "Planet Ocean" at Time Out and Novel Bookstores and Spaces, 17th Floor Commercial Bay.
Infra Moana – Aquamarine from Cathy Carter’s exhibition “Planet Ocean” at Time Out and Novel Bookstores and Spaces, 17th Floor Commercial Bay.

Deep Reflection - Irene Middleton from the exhibition "NZ Wildlife Photographers" at Skar Image Lab, 1 New Bond St, Kingsland.
Deep Reflection – Irene Middleton from the exhibition “NZ Wildlife Photographers” at Skar Image Lab, 1 New Bond St, Kingsland.

Is this my good side? - ngirungiru by Kelly Chapman from the exhibition "NZ Wildlife Photographers" at Skar Image Lab, 1 New Bond St, Kingsland.
Is this my good side? – ngirungiru by Kelly Chapman from the exhibition “NZ Wildlife Photographers” at Skar Image Lab, 1 New Bond St, Kingsland.

The Process of Fruit Growth - Masumi Shiohara - in the outdoor lightboxes on Freyberg Place, Auckland CBD.
The Process of Fruit Growth – Masumi Shiohara – in the outdoor lightboxes on Freyberg Place, Auckland CBD.

Flamingoes - Desiree Hirner - from the exhibition "Wild Fuchsia" at Little Rosie, 76 Gladstone Rd,
Flamingoes – Desiree Hirner – from the exhibition “Wild Fuchsia” at Little Rosie, 76 Gladstone Rd,


Bask in a Trio of Nature-Inspired Art Exhibits at Descanso Gardens – NBC Los Angeles


What to Know

  • Three nature-themed art exhibits will open at the La Cañada Flintridge garden in late May and June 2023
  • “Living in a Wildlife Corridor,” on view at the Boddy House from June 3-Oct. 1, will feature spectacular snapshots of regional wildlife, plus other fine artworks
  • “Wild Sighting” and “0 Horizon: Art of the Forest Floor” will also be on view at Descanso Gardens this summer

While Descanso Gardens is celebrated for all sorts of showy blooms, from wintertime camellias to the tall tulips of March, the destination’s oak-lush landscape is also the perfect place for nature-themed art to take root.

Creative expression is always on view at the La Cañada Flintridge garden come autumn and again around the holidays, when whimsical pumpkin displays and illuminated installations capture our attention.

But the property’s historical Boddy House, and other art-oriented locations, have become synonymous with intriguing exhibits.

And three shows, each boasting an authentic connection to the natural world, are set to open around Descanso Gardens in June.

“Living in a Wildlife Corridor,” an exhibit presented in partnership with the Arroyo & Foothills Conservancy, features “up-close breathtaking photography,” images that celebrate the regional fauna and flora of our remarkable region.

“Displays in this impressive exhibition also include artwork and traditional knowledge shared by Tongva Culture Bearers, the latest scientific and research expertise from conservationists, and insights into the specific challenges and opportunities around conservation in the greater Los Angeles area,” shares the garden team.

You’ll want to call upon the Boddy House, beginning on June 3, to connect with this incredible exhibit.

“Wild Sighting,” an art installation by Leslie K. Gray, opens a few days ahead of “Living in a Wildlife Corridor.”

You’ll want to gaze into the loamy landscape of the garden to, just perhaps, find something gazing back at you.

The work is “an exploration of reversing the idea of wildlife ‘sightings’ to consider what humans might see if they were attempting to cross territory claimed by others — if we were considered the intruders.”

And at the Sturt Haaga Gallery? Drawing our attention downward, “0 Horizon: Art of the Forest Floor” considers the complex universes that exist below our feet.

All exhibitions are included with your Descanso Gardens admission or membership. For dates and details, visit the destination’s website now.

Photo: Mother of Lions © Robert Martinez (Living in a Wildlife Corridor)


Speaking of Nature: Hidden gem — The trout lily


It was the Friday of my spring break week and the weather had finally improved. The previous weekend had been beautiful with record-setting high temperatures, but I had been fortunate enough to pick up a case of strep throat from one of my students just before we left school and I had been sidelined as a result. The little slice of June that visited us was quickly replaced by more typical April weather and it wasn’t for almost another week that the nice weather returned, but I was finally ready for it.

I woke up at about 8 a.m. (a real luxury for me) and wandered out into the kitchen. Coffee was made and a slice of toast with some peanut butter was prepared and then I sat down at the little desk by my kitchen window where I keep my journal. The temperature was only 48 degrees, but the sun in the cloudless blue sky promised that things would improve. So, I watched the birds for a while, then headed over to the couch and read my latest copy of Living Bird while I waited for it to warm up a little.

By 10 a.m. the temperature had risen to 58 degrees and that, I thought, was going to be perfect. So, I donned my field clothes, filled a Ziplock bag with birdseed, grabbed my camera and headed down the hill. This was my first visit to the Thinking Chair this year and I was very curious as to what I would find. Along the way I encountered plenty of evidence that we had endured a major snow event that had done a lot of damage, but the conditions were also surprisingly dry. At that point in the month we had only had 1.25 inches of rain and the wet meadow just wasn’t that wet at all. Thus, I arrived at the Thinking Chair with dry feet.

I placed a handful of seed on the small feeding platform that I had installed and almost before I got settled in I saw a bird in the underbrush. I was a little surprised to discover that it was a song sparrow, rather than a chickadee, but surprise was replaced with joy when the little bird went straight to the feeder. It was very clear to me that this was a bird that knew the routine. This bird had disappeared for the winter, but had returned with a full understanding that I was “friendly” and that food was available.

The chickadees did finally arrive and in very short order they were landing on my head, but it also became very clear that it was still only April. There were a few birds around, but not a great deal of activity and after about an hour I found myself getting a little bored. So I got up, turned left and headed down into the woods. The dry conditions were evident as I walked along the stream that flows out of the meadow. The woods were very quiet and it was evident that there wouldn’t be much in the way of birdwatching at that point, so I turned my attention to the forest floor.

Were there any wildflowers blooming among the leaves? I noticed the gorgeous green leaves of Canada mayflowers, but there was no evidence of any flowers at that point. In fact, there just wasn’t a great deal of green on the forest floor at all, but I decided to press on. Surely, I thought, that burst of remarkably warm weather must have encouraged something to grow and only a few steps later I was rewarded for my persistence.

In a slightly damp depression, growing among the dead leaves of the previous summer, I spotted the long, dappled leaves of trout lily plants. And then, growing right next to the stump of a small tree that had died many years ago, I found one of the most perfect examples of the trout lily’s flower that I have seen in many years. Despite the fact that the flower “nods” toward the ground, this particular specimen could not have been better situated for the conditions at the time.

The yellow petals of the flower had curled back on themselves in a very symmetrical fashion. Three of the six petals had curled extensively, while the other three had curled only marginally. This exposed the pistil and stamens beautifully and the six stamens were noticeably covered with pollen grains that were a dark, rusty orange. The plant was pointing in a direction that allowed the morning’s ample sunlight to illuminate the flower in a perfect way and the plant’s juxtaposition with the dead stump made for a very attractive composition. All I had to do was lie down on the ground and rest my camera on the forest floor so that I could capture the image.

There were a few other trout lilies that were blooming, but none of them had the same qualities as the one in today’s photo. Still, it was a thrill to find each one of them. I was also reminded of how small they really are. Each one could have fit inside a Ping-Pong ball and the only reason they stood out was because they were the only hints of any color other than the brown of the dead leaves; little hidden treasures just waiting to be found.

Bill Danielson has been a professional writer and nature photographer for 25 years. He has worked for the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts State Parks and he currently teaches high school biology and physics. For more in formation visit his website at www.speakingofnature.com, or head over to Speaking of Nature on Facebook.


Help Science Help Nature During This Engaging City-Wide ‘Challenge’ – NBC Los Angeles


What to Know

  • The City Nature Challenge, a citizen science initiative, was co-founded by the Natural History Museum of LA County and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 2016 as a friendly city-to-city “competition”
  • Observe the animals, plants, and fungi around LA and share photos of your finding in iNaturalist
  • April 28 through May 1, 2023

Pausing to watch a spunky little lizard scurry along the top of a gate? You so will.

Stopping to admire an iridescent hummer humming around a brilliant red hibiscus? Without question, that’s happening.

Sitting down in order to see the sun dapple through a particularly fetching jacaranda? There go your next 20 minutes, for sure.

You are connected with the world around you, and deriving joy from the flowers, animals, and natural sights around you is something that occurs each day.

But what if you could still engage in those pleasurable activities while also aiding the knowledge of the science community?

That mission is at the helpful heart of the City Nature Challenge, which begins its four-day run on April 28.

Will you need to register to join in?

You will not, and your participation can be as quick as a minute or two or as lengthy as you’d like it to be.

Founded by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 2016, the annual event simply asks nature lovers this: Can you snap a quick pick of a flower, critter, or some fungus and submit it via the iNaturalist app?

That photo, plus the area it was taken and a few other details, will serve researchers who are eager to know more about the wilder realm that weaves through our human existence.

Feel free to explore your yard, your neighborhood, a local hiking trail, or any other place where nature may be found, well, nature-ing.

Cultivated flowers and planted shrubs? Skip these, as lovely as they might be; you’re seeking out the naturally sprouting flora in your area.

Something pretty nifty?

While plenty of observations will “match” other entries — numerous people will spy the same species over the weekend — each City Nature Challenge sees a number of rare animals or plants, the sorts of sightings that make headlines. (By the by, submitting pictures of more common critters or trees is important, too, so go for it.)

Happy nature-loving, nature lovers, and thanks for lending a hand during this important, get-out-in-the-sun fun time, a great way to bask in the fresh air while basking in the knowledge that you are supporting science.


Famed abstract artists capture nature as you’ve never seen it before


Hilma af Klint The Ten Largest, Group IV, No. 9, Old Age, 1907 Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation

Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, Group IV, No. 9, Old Age, 1907.

Hilma af Klint Foundation

AT THE Tate Modern gallery in London, two pioneering artists who never met are finally brought into conversation.

Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian trained as landscape painters in the late 19th century – af Klint in Sweden, Mondrian in the Netherlands. They also died in the same year, 1944, by which time each had developed a unique abstract style.

Both worked in an era coming to terms with huge advances in microscopy, radiography and photography. The world available to the human senses had been revealed as a mere sliver of that accessible to science.

Each artist’s output included what we would now call scientific “visualisation”. Af Klint conveyed insights about how things grow in paintings inspired by botanical illustration, as in No. 9, Old Age from The Ten Largest series (main image).

Piet Mondrian Arum Lily; Blue flower, 1908-1909 Kunstmuseum Den Haag ? bequest Salomon B. Slijper

Arum Lily; Blue flower 1908-1909. Kunstmuseum Den Haag

Bequest Salomon B. Slijper.j

Mondrian’s interest in the mechanics of visual perception saw him break images down to their perceptual units, so that his Arum Lily; Blue flower (pictured above) is an assembly of lines, lozenge shapes and diagonals.

Serie W, Nr 1. Kunskapens tr?d, 1913 Akvarell, gouache, blyerts, metallf?rg och bl?ck p? papper 45,7 ? 29,5 cm HAK133 Hilma af Klint, Tree of Knowledge, The W Series, No. 1, 1913. Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation?

Hilma af Klint, Tree of Knowledge, The W Series, No. 1, 1913.

Hilma af Klint Foundation

Af Klint’s “world tree” paintings grew almost diagrammatic in their effort to express the cosmic connections between all life, as in Tree of Knowledge (pictured above). Her attempts to map her own perceptual associations are more startling still.

Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, nr 19. Svanen, nr 19, 1915 Olja p? duk 148,5 ? 152 cm HAK167 ? Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk Hilma af Klint, The Swan, The SUW Series, Group IX, No. 19, 1914-1915. Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation

Hilma af Klint, The Swan, The SUW Series, Group IX, No. 19, 1914-1915.

Hilma af Klint Foundation

The two works above and below are the culmination of a series that began with an image of two swans. Shown here are The Swan, No. 19 (pictured above) and No. 17 (pictured below), from The SUW Series, Group IX.

Serie SUW/UW, Grupp IX/SUW, nr 17. Svanen, nr 17, 1915 Olja p? duk 150,5 ? 151 cm HAK165 ? Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk Hilma af Klint, The Swan, The SUW Series, Group IX, No. 17, 1914-1915. Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation

The Swan, The SUW Series, Group IX, No. 17, 1914-1915

Hilma af Klint Foundation

Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of life is at the Tate Modern until 3 September.



Speaking of Nature: Eight-minute appearance — A male evening grosbeak 


I am sure that some of you may have looked at today’s photo and thought, “That’s not a plant.” I know that I had made a New Year’s resolution to focus more attention on plants this year, but Nature herself threw me a curveball when this gorgeous male evening grosbeak (Coccothraustesvespertinus) appeared on my deck last week. I promise to make up for this in May with an extra plant column, but I simply could not ignore this amazing sighting.

First off, some context. When I was a boy, growing up in the 1970s, there was a brief moment in time when evening grosbeaks were all over the place. There seemed to be 20-30 of them at the winter feeders on a daily basis and this made such an impression on me that I (reasonably) thought that this was “normal.” I thought evening grosbeaks were regular winter birds that filled the back yard with dazzling color and wonderful activity.

But then, they just vanished. One winter there were grosbeaks all over the place and the next year there wasn’t a single one to be seen. It turns out that the brief period of time when they were so abundant was an extremely rare event and to my knowledge it has not been repeated since. That was 45 years ago and I have kept my eyes and ears open ever since, with little result.

Back when I had just started this column, I lived up in the town of Hawley and there were times when I was able to detect the call of an evening grosbeak as it flew over Hawley Bog. The birds were around, but they were not around in numbers larger than 1-2 birds. At my current home I have only seen evening grosbeaks on two occasions. Once, on November 7, 2007, I saw a female (or juvenile) at my hanging feeder for about five minutes. Then, last week, I saw this male for a total of eight minutes. Both occasions were the result of pure, unadulterated luck.

So what’s going on here? What is the deal with this species? Well, the answer (as in most cases when looking at ecology) is complex. Evening grosbeaks are particularly fond of spruce trees and they tend to stick to the boreal forests of the higher latitudes and altitudes. These sorts of trees will often have “good years” and “bad years” depending on the weather and during the bad years the birds may have to stray out of their normal range in search of food. This pattern of behavior is known as an “irruption” and it is common among the northern “winter” finches such as redpolls and siskins.

So, this explains why we have large flocks of common redpolls that visit every few years, but where have the grosbeaks been? Well, that brings us to some bad news for this species. According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the population of evening grosbeaks has dropped by 74% since 1966. The reasons may include such factors as introduced diseases, habitat loss due to logging, and declines in summer food stocks (spruce budworms are a favorite) due to aerial spraying of pesticide (for the logging industry). Basically, human activity has not been kind to evening grosbeaks.

With just a little room left I want to take a look a the species’ scientific name, Coccothraustesvespertinus. The genus name “Coccothraustes” is a Greek word for the name of an unknown bird mentioned by Hesychius of Alexandria, a Greek grammarian of the 5th Century who assembled a detailed lexicon of Greek words. The name is a mashup of the Greek words “kokkos”, which means “a kernel” and the word “thrauo” which means, “to break, or shatter.” The species identifier “vespertinus” is a Latin word that means, “of the evening.” Thus, a literal translation would be something like, “the seed-breaker of the evening.” That’s a good name, in my opinion.

The word “gross” is a common English word for “large” and one look at the bird makes it easy to understand why this species was called a grosbeak. The massive beak of this species allows it to tackle all sorts of seeds and nuts, including the pits of wild cherries. If you have ever enjoyed a bowl of fresh cherries you have certainly had to deal with the pits. Imagine the prospect of chomping down on a cherry pit with enough force to crack one open. I think that teeth might start cracking before the pits do. It just goes to show that there is an ideal tool for any particular job and the grosbeak has the right tool for opening up seeds.

I’ll tell you to keep your eyes open for an evening grosbeak, but the odds of seeing one are quite small. Local birders may have information on grosbeak sightings, so an inquiry to the Athol Bird Club, or the Hampshire Bird Club might bear fruit. I’m sure that there are occasional sightings during the winter and I seem to remember a report of a few of these birds breeding in the Montague Plains, but that was a while ago. However, the sighting of this bird at my feeders is proof that every time you look out the window you might see something. So look outside, or better yet go outside and keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see.

Bill Danielson has been a professional writer and nature photographer for 25 years. He has worked for the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts State Parks and he currently teaches high school biology and physics. For more in formation visit his website at www.speakingofnature.com, or head over to Speaking of Nature on Facebook.


Seven ladybirds hibernating together on a tree? And other readers’ nature queries – The Irish Times


I have three acres of oaks planted on my small farm and I often see two or three ladybirds together hibernating on the trees. I came across this lovely bunch of seven last week. Interesting that they nearly always use the south-facing side of the trees. Kevin McDonnell, Co Cork

Seven seven-spot ladybirds on the south-facing side of the tree. As they spend the winter in hibernation as adults, they seek out sheltered spots. Naturally, they choose the south-facing side of the tree as this must be the most suitable in your woodland. These are one of our most common and widespread native ladybird species. They will wake up and breed soon with both the adults and their subsequent larvae feeding on a wide variety of aphids, thus lessening the burden on the leaves of your oak trees.

This fungus was seen on a log in Westport House, Co Mayo. What is it? Paddy Demery, Co Wicklow

The same fungus has caught the attention of two other eagle-eyed readers as well: John Byrne while on his morning walk in Laraghbryan, Maynooth, and Cornelius Delahunty in his garden near Naas. It is the scarlet elf cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca), which is common on buried twigs of birch and willow at this time of year and earlier.

This insect was found in our house this week and was gently evicted (twice). We think it might be some sort of beetle. Could you help please? Danann and Ruadh Butler, Co Dublin

It is indeed a beetle – the dreaded lily beetle, which eats the leaves, stem, buds and flowers of lilies. This invasive species was first recorded here in 2009 and has now spread through east Munster and Leinster. I hope you or your neighbours are not growing lilies in the garden.

During lockdown in January 2021, we came across this fish (?) on the river estuary on Lahinch beach in Co Clare. Can you identify for us? Anonymous, Co Clare

Kevin Flannery of Dingle Aquarium tells me that it is not a fish at all but a dolphin. He does not specify the species. Perhaps this was the final resting place of Fungi, who has been missing since October 2020. Or, perhaps not – Fungi was a male bottlenose dolphin.

I found this spider in my car. Wondering what type it is. Michael McCormack, Co Dublin

This is the unmistakable flower crab spider – a female – with a very plump abdomen and two front pairs of legs much larger than the other two. To catch its prey, this spider sits motionless in flowers (usually white or yellow ones) and ambushes insects that visit to feed on nectar. It can even change its colour from white to match the colour of the flower. When the hapless insect sticks in its head, the spider bites it and paralyses it with its venom. It can kill much bigger insects than itself, such as bees and butterflies. Hence its common English name – White Death.

This was found just outside the back door in a housing estate. Pygmy shrew? Was it left by a cat or dropped by bird? No obvious signs of cause of death. Patrick Timmins, Co Kildare

It is certainly a shrew – the long pointy snout is the distinguishing characteristic. But, which one? The white-toothed shrew, first recorded here in 2008, is larger than the pygmy shrew, has white teeth (rather than the pygmy’s red-capped ones) and long white hairs on its tail. Having foul-tasting glands, both species are unpalatable to cats but not to birds of prey. So, I suspect it is an offering from a cat.

Please submit your nature query, observation, or photo with a location, via www.irishtimes.com/eyeonnature.


How to Enjoy the Benefits of Nature Without Ever Leaving Your Home


Why it’s helpful: Whether it’s the sounds of ocean waves crashing, a lake gently lapping on the shore, or a trickling mountain stream, water can provide comfort to us, says Lomas. “The importance of water sounds may relate to the critical role of water for survival, as well as the capacity of continuous water sounds to mask noise,” scientists wrote in the aforementioned Proceedings of the National Academy of Science meta-analysis. Plus, by having a water feature you can see as well as hear, you may be able to tap into additional calming benefits, since research suggests that the simple act of looking at water can decrease blood pressure and heart rate while promoting relaxation. 

6. Collect a basket of nature items. 

Designate a basket or container to hold any nature items you find when you are able to go outside—and challenge yourself to be on the lookout for things that speak to you.  These can be shells, pinecones, rocks, dried flowers, a cool piece of bark—anything, really. When you’re feeling stressed, visit this “treasure chest” of nature items and spend a few minutes exploring the objects with your various senses, noting how they smell, feel, look, and sound, says Kuang. 

Rocks in particular can be super grounding, says Siegfried. That’s why she recommends mindful interaction with them, similar to with the houseplants above. Close your eyes and use your hands to explore the different textures and temperatures of the rock, says Siegfried. Place the rock against your heart or rib cage and note what it feels like to breathe alongside the rock. This exercise may sound hokey, but “people just have the most amazing experiences,” says Siegfried. After you’ve connected with the rock for several days, consider returning it to where you found it or to a new place as a practice in reciprocity, says Siegfried. 

Why it’s helpful: Spending a few minutes mindfully exploring various natural objects can help lower  stress levels and provide a sense of comfort, says Kuang. This activity can also remind you of positive memories of when you were outside in nature, which can be soothing when you’re cooped up indoors. Plus, taking the time to intentionally interact with natural objects can bring you into the present moment and usher in a sense of relaxation.

7. Light candles or use an essential oil diffuser. 

We often experience nature visually, but tapping into the olfactory aspect can be yet another way to connect to the natural world. Consider lighting a nature-scented candle or using an essential oil diffuser to infuse your home with the smells of the outdoors, whether that be the fragrance of a rose, lavender, or pinewood forest. 

Why it’s helpful: Smells associated with nature can boost well-being (including measures of enjoyment and happiness), according to a compilation of research cited in a 2022 study published in the journal Ambio.

8.  Get intentional about texture. 

The next time you shop for a new couch pillow or throw, opt for a natural fabric—think: wool, sheepskin, velvet, cotton, or linen, says Lomas. All of these materials have different textures that can provide a unique experience to explore nature via touch. This can look like: 


A forager’s life: Helen Lehndorf – making connections with nature and community


Helen Lehndorf has written the new book A Forager’s Life: Finding my heart and home in nature. Photo / Anthony Behrens

Helen Lehndorf’s earliest memory of being alone in nature, was at 4 years old, on a motorbike trip with her dad, near their home in rural Taranaki. Keen to head off with his mates further


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See 15 Amazing Wildlife Images From the Sony World Photography Awards | Smart News


From a playful-looking stoat to a mantis shrimp guarding its eggs, the animal subjects in the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards are captivating. This year’s winning photographers captured creatures in Svalbard, Norway; Bangladesh; Brazil and the depths of the Indo-Pacific.

On Tuesday, the World Photography Organization announced the shortlist and winners in the open competition, which allowed submissions from people of all ages and experience levels. Of the 415,000 total entries, which also included images in the youth and professional categories, the open awards received 200,000.

The contest accepted photos that fit under ten wide umbrellas: architecture, creative, landscape, lifestyle, motion, natural world and wildlife, object, portraiture, street photography and travel. From all of these subjects, one winner will be crowned on April 13.

“Finding original and different viewpoints photographically is challenging—but ever more rewarding,” Mike Trow, chair of the jury that judged the entries, said in a statement when the contest’s professional winners were announced. “They covered the profound and ongoing discussions around narrative truth and agency in art, as well as wider environmental, political and societal viewpoints.”

Here are the stunning animal and nature photos commended in the open competition’s natural world and wildlife category. (Standout pictures from all the categories can be seen here.) After viewing these awe-inspiring images, cast a vote for the Reader’s Choice award in Smithsonian magazine’s own annual photo contest.

“Mighty Pair” by Dinorah Graue Obscura, Winner

two birds of prey in black and white on a branch

Two crested caracaras sit on a branch in nearly identical poses.

© Dinorah Graue Obscura, Mexico, Winner, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

Mexican photographer Dinorah Graue Obscura was taking pictures of crested caracaras flying in Texas when she found two of them sitting together on a branch. Here, these carrion-feeding birds in the falcon family were sitting very still and looking in the same direction, as if posing for the camera.

“I think that a good picture does not need color, it just needs to capture the desired moment in time,” writes the photographer in a statement. But in the case of this image, the subjects also made it stand out. “I was amazed by their powerful personalities,” she writes.

“Stoat’s game” by Jose Manuel Grandio

white stoat jumps with its mouth open in the snow

A stoat leaps in a dance in a snow-covered landscape.

© Jose Manuel Grandio, Spain, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

This snow-white stoat in midair is demonstrating a mysterious behavior. Such twisting jumps are fairly common for the ferret-like creatures, but scientists aren’t exactly sure why. Some theorize it’s an involuntary response to infection by parasites, while others suggest it’s part of hunting.

“Sometimes, the dances are performed in front of a rabbit or large bird in an apparent attempt to confuse or distract potential prey,” Spanish photographer Jose Manuel Grandio writes in a statement. “But on other occasions—as here—there is no prey animal in sight.”

“Pandora” by Marcio Esteves Cabral

white ball-like flowers appear to glow under a starry sky

Wildflowers in a field under a sky bright with stars.

© Marcio Esteves Cabral, Brazil, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

To capture these Paepalanthus wildflowers that form balls of tiny blooms, Marcio Esteves Cabral used a lantern to illuminate them. In the background, the Milky Way lights up the sky.

The flowers are “firework-like,” the Brazilian photographer writes in a statement. “It took several attempts, as I needed to capture the flowers without any wind to avoid motion blur during the long exposure.”

“The Captivating Eyes” by Protap Shekhor Mohanto

small owl with yellow eyes peeks out from a hole in a tree

A young owl’s piercing yellow eyes stare into the camera.

© Protap Shekhor Mohanto, Bangladesh, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2023

At the National Botanical Garden of Bangladesh, Protap Shekhor Mohanto concealed himself in order to capture this image of a young owl.

“During the day, these amazing birds tend to hide in nests made in the holes of tree trunks, but they sometimes peep out to observe their surroundings with their captivating yellow eyes,” the photographer from Bangladesh writes in a statement.

“Home Alone” by Pietro Formis

bucket with red and orange frilled creatures on it surrounds a spotlighted brown fish

A fish inside a discarded waste basket.

© Pietro Formis, Italy, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

Italian photographer Pietro Formis found beauty in a piece of trash in the ocean. And this fish, a brown comber, found a place to hide.

The walls of the waste basket are lined with crinoids, plant-like marine animals that have been around since the Paleozoic. They make “beautiful decorations for the wall of this house,” Formis writes in a statement.

“Kingdom of the Parakeet” by Subrata Dey

hundreds of green parakeets obscure the sky

The sky above a rice paddy is filled with parrots.

© Subrata Dey, Bangladesh, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

Thousands of parakeets swarm above a field of rice in the agricultural area of Gumai Bill in Bangladesh. This highly productive field attracts droves of the seed-eating parrots when it is ripe. As Bangladeshi photographer Subrata Dey writes in a statement, “this area could be called a ‘parrot sanctuary.’”

“Puffin at Sunset” by James Hunter

http://www.bing.com/news/puffin on a hillside

A puffin in soft light surrounded by faint raindrops.

© James Hunter, United States, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

As daylight faded, American photographer James Hunter put the sun at his back, hoping to capture a village in the Faroe Islands bathed in a soft golden glow. Then, a duo of puffins showed up.

“As it started to rain, I lay down and photographed this one in the spectacular light,” Hunter writes in a statement.

“Untitled” by Tibor Prisznyák

vegetation in an orange glow with three silhouettes of deer

Three deer in an orange glow.

© Tibor Prisznyák, Hungary, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

Hungarian photographer Tibor Prisznyák snapped this orange-tinted shot of deer in the morning light. A stag with antlers appears through the haze in the center of the image.

“Proud” by Patrick Ems

black and white shot of a goat and a mountain

A goat in front of the Aiguille du Grépon peak in France.

© Patrick Ems, Switzerland, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

To Swiss photographer Patrick Ems, this goat looked to be standing proud and “enjoying the last rays of sunlight,” as he writes in a statement. The animal is standing in front of the peak of an 11,424-foot-tall French mountain known informally as “The Grepon.”

“Frozen Feet” by Alex Pansier

mountains of ice with a penguin on the upper right

A small penguin on an icy landscape.

© Alex Pansier, Netherlands, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

A chinstrap penguin walks amid icy slopes, immortalized by Dutch photographer Alex Pansier.

“Pretty in Pink” by Charly Clérisse

pink bumpy seahorse amid pink bumpy coral

A Bargibant’s Pygmy Seahorse

© Charly Clérisse, France, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

Perfect to blend in with its surroundings, this Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse is covered in small red bumps. The tiny species grows to no more than an inch long and lives in fan corals.

French photographer Charly Clérisse captured its likeness in the Indo-Pacific in Tulamben, Bali. In a statement, Clérisse writes that the seahorse was a “very shy subject.”

“The River Crossing” by Arnfinn Johansen

wildebeest walk down a mountain and leap into a river

Wildebeest descend a dusty slope and cross a river.

© Arnfinn Johansen, Norway, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

In July 2022, Norse photographer Arnfinn Johansen snapped this image of wildebeest crossing the Mara River, a waterway in Tanzania and Kenya. They moved forward even though the water was infested with crocodiles, the photographer writes in a statement.

“Eye on the Prize” by Vince Burton

white owl with talons outstretched, encircled by the tops of grain

A barn owl flies over grain.

© Vince Burton, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

United Kingdom-based photographer Vince Burton captured this photo from below a barn owl swooping down on its prey.

“My precious” by Andrea Michelutti

colorful shrimp with purple eyes stretches its arms over a ball of red eggs

A mantis shrimp sits atop a bundle of its red eggs.

© Andrea Michelutti, Italy, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

This harlequin mantis shrimp (also called a peacock mantis shrimp) was photographed with its eggs in the Lembeh Strait of Indonesia. Italian photographer Andrea Michelutti took this image underwater, using a snoot, or a device that narrows the camera’s flash down to a point. The shrimp is a multicolored species known for its powerful punch.

“This mantis shrimp embraces and protects its treasure: thousands of eggs,” Michelutti writes in a statement. “It takes a few minutes to obtain this visual contact with both eyes, considering they can be moved independently in all directions.”

“Climate Change” by Mark Fitzsimmons

a polar bear surrounded by rocks

A polar bear stands on a rocky ridge.

© Mark Fitzsimmons, Australia, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

In Nordenskjøld Land National Park in the Svalbard archipelago, Norway, a polar bear walks along a rocky landscape.

“A decade ago there was a glacier,” Australian photographer Mark Fitzsimmons writes in a statement. “Despite relatively healthy numbers in the Svalbard region of the Arctic, polar bears face many issues, including increased human/wildlife conflict, warmer summers and receding glaciers.”