Grand Prize Winner. Great Blue Heron. Viera Wetlands, Viera, FL
"These wetlands have an area of 12- to 14-foot cabbage palms where great blue herons build their nests," says Micael Libbe. "They also use the palms for their courtship rituals, including stretching their necks to be as tall as they can. One heron was facing me directly as he reached for the sky. I was too close to get his entire body in the frame, so I focused on the neck and head. I was able to catch this one just at the apex of his stretch."
Photograph by Michael Libbe
Amateur Winner. Purple Gallinule. Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, FL
"Purple gallinules are a wonder with their brilliant colors and amazingly oversized feet. In summer they climb the long, limber flowering stalks of the fire flag, gathering nearby stems as they go for support until they can reach their reward: tasty purple flowers or plump green seeds," says Susan Faulkner Davis. "I always stop to watch and capture their work when I am lucky enough to spot them. The gray background here, a reflection of the overcast sky, was a great setting for the jewel-like colors of the gallinule."
Photograph by Susan Faulkner Davis
Professional Winner. Short-eared Owl. Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, UT
"After I relocated to Salt Lake City, capturing the area's wildlife with my camera became a passion," says John Blumenkamp. "Each winter I explore northern Utah, looking for raptors to photograph. Some years I'm lucky to see a fair amount of owl activity. With colder-than-usual weather in late December 2012, a handful of short-eared owls were active during the day, hunting for voles. This particular owl would fly among the reeds and cattails, staring and listening for its prey."
Photograph by John Blumenkamp
Youth Winner. Common Tern. Eastern Egg Rock, ME
"This photo was taken on a trip with the Hog Island Audubon Camp's Coastal Maine Bird Studies for Teens group. I was able to attend thanks to a full scholarship from the Wyncote Audubon Society," explains Nathaniel Sharp. "I was with a group of teens and researchers helping to survey a tern colony. The terns obviously were unhappy with us being this close to the nests, and were churning in a mass above our heads. These two common terns chased each other around in a territorial fight."
Photograph by Nathaniel Sharp
Ross's Goose, Snow Goose. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM
"This shot was taken in mid-afternoon, as I was walking along a road at the refuge," says Bradley Bush. "Large flocks of Ross's and snow geese were foraging in the nearby fields. I shot this image when one flock broke through the trees on their way to another grain field. Although this was spectacular to see, what I remember most were the sounds, in particular the sounds of a thousand wing beats when a large flock lifted off. It's an amazing experience--something everyone should witness."
Photograph by Bradley Bush
Northern Gannet. Bonaventure Island, off the Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec
"Bonaventure Island has become the largest northern gannet breeding colony in the world. The nests are very densely packed, and when adults return from sea to feed their chicks, they have to do whatever they can to slow themselves down and make a pinpoint landing," says Micael Milicia. "This gave me the opportunity to capture many interesting images with dramatic wing positions."
Photograph by Michael Milicia
Black-winged Stilt. Ban Pak Thale, Petchaburi Province, Thailand
"My wife and I were completing a 10-day birding excursion through western Thailand with an early morning stop at the salt pans of Pak Thale," says Christopher Adler. "We had observed a spoon-billed sandpiper in the salt pans the previous two mornings, and had hoped for one last look. While slogging along muddy embankments I was struck by the serene pose of this sole black-winged stilt, reflected in the glassy salt water."