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Ball of cuteness and other winning nature photos

Donna Coutts, May 14, 2020 7:00PM Kids News

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Hippopotamus herd stuck in the mud in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Picture: Talib Almarri media_cameraHippopotamus herd stuck in the mud in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Picture: Talib Almarri


Reading level: green

A photo of a mountain hare tucked into a ball to stay warm in a snowstorm has won this year’s BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition.

It took just a fraction* of a second to take the winning photograph, yet to be in the right place at the right time, photographer Andy Parkinson spent weeks sitting in below-zero temperatures in Scotland having ice flung into his face by fierce wind.

The BigPicture Photography Competition is a worldwide annual search for incredible photos of life on Earth.

Finalists include a photo of a fight to the death between a cheetah and an impala on the African savanna and a view from above of a herd of more than 200 hippotamuses trapped in mud in Botswana in 2019 during severe drought.

The competition is run by the California Academy of Sciences and aims to highlight Earth’s biodiversity* and show the many threats that our planet faces. Each photo, in its own way, inspires viewers to protect and conserve the remarkable diversity of life on Earth.

Here are the category winners plus a couple of our favourite finalists.

Mountain Hare Lepus timidus A confiding adult, high in the Cairngorms mountains, forms the shape of a ball as it grooms Cairngorms National Park, Scotland, UK media_cameraGrand-prize winner titled “Shelter in Place” of a mountain hare, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland, UK. Picture: Andy Parkinson
Lecpeur seals BigPicture photo media_cameraWinner of the Aquatic Life category, showing seals around a chunk of ice off the Antarctic Peninsula. Picture: Greg Lecoeur
toads BigPicture photo comp media_cameraToads floating in the Lez River, France, a finalist in the aquatic life category. Picture: Mathieu Foulquié
Wonderly birds caught by the cat media_cameraThe winning photo in the Human/Nature category of birds caught by cats at the WildCare Wildlife Hospital, San Rafael, US. Picture: Jak Wonderly
Vitale giraffe hugging man photo media_cameraTaken in Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Kenya, this photo won the Photo Story: Coexistence category. Picture: Ami Vitale
cheetah and impala savannah Africa media_cameraA cheetah dives for a fleeing impala in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, winner of the Terrestrial Wildlife category. Picture: Yi Liu
Mozambican long-fingered bat (Miniopterus mossambicus) taking a sip of water in one of the last remaining watering holes at the end of the dry season in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. media_cameraA Mozambican long-fingered bat taking a sip of water in one of the last remaining watering holes at the end of the dry season in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, winner of the Winged Life category. Picture: Piotr Naskrecki
Sundew; Drosera intermedia; They lure their prey with temptations such as delicious scents, striking colors and nectar. To then capture them very ingeniously via traps, drowning and sticky substances and then digest them. We are talking about carnivorous plants. There are more than 600 species of plants - spread over 5 families - that have focused on catching prey. A genus of carnivorous plants - consisting of almost 200 species of which three also occur in the Netherlands - is sundew (Drosera). The leaves are strewn with glandular hairs with many drops that sparkle beautifully when the sunlight falls on the plant. But there is also a danger in these glandular hairs because there is a sticky substance with which they catch all kinds of small animals. There are three species in the Netherlands: the small, round and long sundew. They are irresistible to insects! The small sundew is the most common species. They are small plants that you quickly pass by during a walk in a fen area. From a distance they often only stand out as small red polls among the vegetation. But it's worth taking a closer look. Lying on the ground and looking at the plant in the backlight, it looks like you're watching a fireworks show. media_cameraSundew on the Hatertse Vennen Nature Reserve, Netherlands, winning entry in the Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora category. This plant lures it prey with scents, colours and nectar. Picture: Edwin Giesbers
snow Rio Tinto media_cameraA break in the snow at Rio Tinto, Spain, winner of the Art of Nature category. Picture: Juan Jesús González Ahumada

Images originally appeared on bioGraphic, an online magazine about science and sustainability and sponsor for the California Academy of Sciences’ BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition.


  • fraction: tiny part of something
  • biodiversity: the range of living things in a habitat or on Earth


World’s wonderful wildlife on show

Incredible nature photos are a call to action

Australia’s most incredible weather photos


  1. Describe the weather when Andy Parkinson took the winning photo.
  2. Why were the birds at the wildlife hospital?
  3. What African country is Maasai Mara National Reserve in?
  4. Which three ways does sundew attract prey?
  5. What country is Rio Tinto in?


1. Pick Your Winner
Choose the photos that you think should win first, second and third place in the competition. For each photo, write down the reasons why you chose them for each place.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts

2. Extension
Choose three photos and write a story that includes what is happening or what is shown in each photograph.

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

Paint it With Words
Choose one of these pictures and create a descriptive opening sentence. Think about how you can add detail by using figurative language (metaphor, simile, alliteration, etc).

Share it with a partner to see what they wrote about.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What in nature would you like most to photograph?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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