Audubon Awards

Each year the Audubon Society selects the Top 100 Bird Photographs of the Year. Peter Cavanagh’s images, shown below, have been awarded Top 100 honors in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2017 Award Winning Image

The Story behind the Shot:     A big part of the story of this shot was just getting there. Porto Jofre stands on the Cuiabá River at the southern end of a heavily rutted 150 km dirt road through the Pantanal called the Transpantaneira. The bone-rattling ride was more than compensated for by incredibly rich bird life along the way and a chance to see Jaguars on the river bank. This early morning shot was taken after I had been photographing toucans moving around in the tree tops. It was fortunate that I had the camera on a tripod when this bird came down to feed near ground level in low light. It had just tossed a piece of fruit back into its throat and was contemplating its next move. The residue of fruit is visible on the black bill patch. I moved the large tripod and rig around slowly and carefully until the bird was framed by a blazing backdrop of foliage that seems cloned from its own colors. The wide aperture and long focal length blurred the background nicely. For me, the Toco Toucan has always been an iconic bird, but one that, before this day, I had never had an opportunity to photograph.

Canon ESO-1D Mk IV; EF500mm f/4L; 1/320 @ f/4.5; ISO 1250

See all the wining 2017 Entires here

2016 Award Winning Image

The Story Behind the Shot

The Ballestas Islands, off the southern coast of Peru, are sometimes called the poor-person’s Galapagos because of the diversity of the wildlife present yet the ease with which the islands can be reached by only a 20-minute boat ride from the Peruvian coastal town of Paracas.

My visit to the Islands was the first time I had ever seen this captivating cormorant. The beautiful dotted eye ring, the dash of white on the neck, the spectacular scarlet legs and bill, and the white tipped wing feathers make this an unforgettable bird. This courting pair was performing ballet moves on a rocky stage. I also like the sheer geometry of the bills that form a triangle, as the one bird appears to measure the other up.

The challenge of the shot was to secure a stable sharp image of the birds and the texture of the rock while standing in a small boat navigating rough seas on a rather overcast morning. This was solved by pushing the ISO and compromising slightly on shutter speed.

Canon EOS-1DX; EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM at 234mm; 1/800 sec at f/7.1; ISO 2500

See all the wining 2016 Entires here

2015 Award Winning Image

The Story Behind the Shot

The snow had been blowing so hard on this February day that all of the roads in and out of the small village of Tsurui in Hokkaido, Japan were closed. Fortunately, the lodge where I was staying was within walking distance of a field where a large group Japanese Red-crowned Cranes had decided to spend the morning. From a distant vantage point, I had a good view of the territorial displays of these revered birds.

Canon EOS-1DX; EF500mm f/4L IS USM. 1/1000 sec at f/4; ISO 1600

See all the wining 2015 Entires here