2019 BirdWatching Photography Awards finalists

In addition to the three winning photos from the 2019 BirdWatching Photography Awards, we’re thrilled to present this gallery of 22 finalists: 

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Photographer: Michael Despines

Location and date: Skagit County, Washington, April 29, 2018.

Description: On my first visit to the tulip fields, I came armed with my tripod and a selection of wide-angle lenses prepared for a typical landscape shoot. While walking in a field I saw a Savannah Sparrow perched on top of a flower calling out to proclaim his territory. I suddenly realized that a very different, but potentially very special, shot might be possible. The next week I returned with my 600mm lens and began to study the sparrow. He usually became active by midmorning and would follow a fairly regular circuit around his territory. Over time, I identified his preferred flowers -- they were usually the tallest tulips in the area to maximize the effect of his song. Each bird stayed in his territory so he could provide only one hue of background. I moved from one field to the next to study a new bird and a new tulip color. This fellow offered "Savannah in Red." Other sparrows offered Savannah in...pink, purple, yellow, and orange. I came looking for distant landscapes, but in the end I came away with a fanciful, magical perhaps, Technicolor birdscape unlike anything I ever could have imagined.

Gear and settings: Nikon D500; AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens; 1.4x tele-extender; 1/1000 sec at f/5.6; ISO 400, Gitzo GM554 Monopod.

Thanks to our judges: Matt Mendenhall, editor of BirdWatching; Wes Pitts, editor of Outdoor Photographer; Marie Read, an award-winning nature photographer based near Ithaca, New York; and Brian E. Small, a professional nature photographer based in Los Angeles whose photos illustrate our “ID Tips” column.

View the 2019 BirdWatching Photography Awards winners