Hey friends! The weekend has arrived … finally. It has been a sad and dramatic week in terms of the news, and I am feeling truly washed out and in need of something to make me smile … how about you? The Guardian publishes a weekly series on wildlife called, surprisingly, The Week in Wildlife. A post of animal pictures seemed just about right for today’s Saturday Surprise post. You know how I adore critters, and at the end of a week like this one, I’m ready for some cute (or maybe not so cute) animals to ‘awwww’ over.
Last month when I had Jolly take over the Saturday Surprise one week, he picked pictures from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards … he did a pretty good job, by the way, for an amateur! This first set of pictures today are winners of the 2018 Wildlife of the Year Awards.
The golden couple by Marsel van Oosten, The Netherlands – grand title winner, Animal portraits
Lounging leopard by Skye Meaker, South Africa – grand title winner, 15-17 years
Old Mathoja was dozing when they finally found her, lying along a low branch of a nyala tree in Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve. Mathoja means ‘the one that walks with a limp’ injured when she was a cub, but otherwise she is a healthy, calm eight-year-old. The morning light was poor, leaves kept blowing across her face, and her eyes were only ever open briefly, making it hard for Skye to compose the shot he was after. Finally, a shaft of light gave a glint to her eyes, helping him to create his memorable portrait.
Hellbent by David Herasimtschuk, US – winner, Behaviour: amphibians and reptiles
It was not looking good for the northern water snake, clamped tightly in the jaws of a hungry hellbender, but it was a remarkable find for David. Drifting downstream in Tennessee’s Tellico River, in search of freshwater life (as he had done for countless hours over the past seven years), he was thrilled to spot the mighty amphibian with its struggling prey. The hellbender has declined significantly because of habitat loss and degradation and its presence indicates a healthy freshwater ecosystem.
Mud-rolling mud-dauber by Georgina Steytler, Australia – winner, Behaviour: invertebrates
It was a hot summer day, and the waterhole at Walyormouring Nature Reserve, Western Australia, was buzzing. Georgina had got there early to photograph birds, but her attention was stolen by the industrious mud-dauber wasps. They were females, digging in the soft mud at the water’s edge, then rolling the mud into balls to create egg chambers for their nearby nests. A female builds her external nest completely out of mud, cylindrical chamber by chamber, which cement together as the mud hardens.
Night flight by Michael Patrick O’Neill, US – winner, Underwater
On a night dive over deep water in the Atlantic, far off Florida’s Palm Beach, Michael achieved a long-held goal, to photograph a flying fish so as to convey the speed, motion and beauty of this ‘fantastic creature’. By day, these fish are almost impossible to approach. Living at the surface, they are potential prey for a great many animals, including tuna, marlin and mackerel. At night, they are more approachable, moving slowly as they feed on planktonic animals close to the surface.
Signature tree by Alejandro Prieto, Mexico – from winning photo story Gunning for the Jaguar
A male jaguar sharpens his claws and scratches his signature into a tree on the edge of his mountain territory in the Sierra de Vallejo in Mexico’s western state of Nayarit. The boundary-post has been chosen with care – the tree has soft bark, allowing for deep scratch marks that are a clear warning, backed by pungent scent, not to trespass. Alejandro set up his custom-built camera trap six metres away and after eight months the jaguar eventually returned to refresh his mark.
Mother defender by Javier Aznar González de Rueda, Spain – winner, wildlife photographer portfolio award (from a portfolio of six images)
A large Alchisme treehopper guards her family as the nymphs feed on the stem of a nightshade plant in El Jardín de los Sueños reserve in Ecuador. Unlike many treehoppers, which enlist the help of other insects (mostly ants), this species is guarded by the mother alone. She lays her eggs on the underside of a nightshade leaf, covers them with a thin secretion and then shields the clutch with her tiny frame.
I left a few out because they were either sad or disturbing, but you can visit the page if you like. Now for a few from The Guardian’s regular Week in Wildlife …
The secretive indri ( Indri indri) of Madagascar, the largest living lemur. It is also critically endangered and highly evolutionarily distinct with no close relatives, which makes its branch one of most precarious on the mammal evolutionary tree. In the likely event that the indri goes extinct, we will lose 19m years of unique evolutionary history from the mammal tree of life.
Photograph: Pierre-Yves Babelon/Aarhus University
A chinstrap penguin nesting at Spigot Peak with mountains and glaciers of Orne harbour in the background, at Gerlache Strait in the Antarctic. Greenpeace is conducting scientific research and documenting the Antarctic’s unique wildlife to strengthen the proposal to create the largest protected area on the planet, an Antarctic ocean sanctuary.
Photograph: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace
Researchers examine a bat for body size and fat. Scientists are working across the western US and Canada, capturing and studying thousands of bats to better understand their hibernation habits and which are best suited to survive a deadly plague now decimating bat populations.
Photograph: Wildlife Conservation Society
Pacific walruses rest on an ice flow in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. A lawsuit making its way through federal court in Alaska will decide whether Pacific walruses should be listed as a threatened species, giving them additional protections.
Photograph: SA Sonsthagen/AP
This last one isn’t an animal, but is still considered ‘wildlife’ and I found it a fascinating tree!Nellie’s Tree in Aberford, Leeds, which has been voted England’s tree of the year. The beech tree was grafted into an N-shape to woo a woman called Nellie almost 100 years ago, the Woodland Trust said.
Photograph: Rob Grange/WTML/PA
I hope you enjoyed the photos and that you have a fun and/or relaxing weekend!