Kathy McCulloch Wade, of Lake Forest Park, Washington, won first place in the 2021 BirdWatching Photography Awards with this stunning image of a Short-eared Owl facing off against a Northern Harrier, which has its back to the camera. She shot the photo in mid-March 2021 in Skagit County, Washington, a great location for wintering owls and raptors. She said she went to the site to test a new piece of camera gear, and immediately the Short-ear landed in a field near her with a vole in its talons.
“The owl perked up its ears and was very alert, staring in my direction,” she said. “It became clear that it was alert because a Northern Harrier was fast approaching, and this owl wanted to protect its meal. The owl flew up just as the harrier got very close, and this is the resulting image. The owl successfully scared the harrier off its meal this day.”
One of our judges, founding editor Eldon Greij, noted: “I can’t imagine the odds of actually seeing this behavior.”
McCulloch Wade used a Sony Alpha A1 ILCE-1 camera and a 600mm FE f4 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter. The gear sat on a Really Right Stuff tripod with a ProMediaGear Katana Jr. gimbal head.
The photo was one of more than 770 that photographers entered in our contest. Last week, we featured it among the dozen finalists. Check the links below for the second- and third-place images as well as our finalists and honorable mentions.