Weathering the storm: How this photo of a Scottish hare is the image of our time
● Picture beats off stiff competition to land top award
A stunning picture of a Scottish hare curled into a perfect ball in a blizzard as ice forms on its fur has beaten thousands of entries to scoop the grand prize in an international picture competition.
The image, named ‘Hare Ball’ by Andy Parkinson, beat off stiff competition from around the world to land the top prize in the 2020 California Academy of Sciences’ Bigpicture Natural World Photography Competition.
Other category winners included an amazing shot of a cheetah twisted upside down as it tries to catch an antelope it has just tripped up at 50mph on the Masai Mara, which won Chinese photographer Yi Liu the Terrestrial Wildlife section.
To get his Grand Prize shot of a mountain hare, Mr Parkinson endured weeks of ferocious cold and wind that drove shards of ice into his face at Tomatin, near Inverness.
While some of the hares ride out storms in burrows or depressions, this female created her own shelter, tucking herself in to a ball to conserve heat and minimise exposure to the elements.
Mountain hares have been native to Britain since the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago and are a separate species from the more common brown hare.
Despite their fortitude, they are Britain’s fastest-declining mammal due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss.
Mr Parkinson, from Crich in Derbyshire, said he hoped calling attention to the remarkable animals would convince legislators to protect them.
Bigpicture jury chair Suzi Eszterhas said of the image: “Only a highly skilled photographer can present a common subject in an extraordinary way. In this photo we see a hare as we’ve never seen it, curled up in a ball and looking rather like a sculpture as it’s bathed in sub-arctic light.
“Andy has created an image that has it all: technical perfection, artistic skill, and behaviour. To me this is an image of beauty and resilience that speaks to weathering a storm. An image that I believe the world needs now more than ever.” Frenchman Greg Lecouer’s shot of a group of Antarctic crabeater seals swimming around glaciers taken underwater landed him the Aquatic Life prize.
Some of the more offbeat shots included a haul of dead songbirds killed by pet cats, a pair of mating frogs and an aerial shot of hundreds of hungry hippos trapped in a muddy river. This year’s striking images depict some of the biggest challenges facing the natural world, including poaching, droughts, hunting and crossspecies diseases.
Terrestrial Wildlife finalist Talib Almarri depicted at least 200 hippos that became trapped in the mud of Botswana’s Okavango River.
The herds had gathered to eat, drink, splash, and soak when they became stuck in the drought-stricken delta.
They only managed to survive because Botswana wildlife officials pumped in water to help them escape.
As the climate warms, such droughts may become more frequent across much of Africa, experts have warned.
Winged Life winner Piotr Naskrecki, from America, travelled to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique to capture his amazing picture of a long-fingered bat skimming across the water.
The winner of the Photo Story category shows a reticulated giraffe with the Samburu people of northern Kenya.
“Tomethisisan image of beauty and resilience that speaks to weathering a storm. An image that I believe the world needs now more than ever”
SUZI ESZTERHAS Bigpicture jury chair