Art of Birding Challenges: Best of December

Wow – what a year! But we made it to 2021. For the last month of the 2020 challenges, we had some superb entries...

By Gail Kirkelund

We started with the theme of 'ancient'. Gail Kirkelund (Canada) introduced us to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Gail told us that “Millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed this area. Now it is one of the richest dinosaur locations in the world. Over 40 different species of dinosaurs have been found here.”

By Nik Hurring

Nik Hurring (New Zealand) took a different approach to the ancient theme and chose the Milky Way. It’s ancient because it takes many years for the light to reach us. Nik says, “If you look very carefully to the left, you can also see a “very NZ” star formation known as the Galactic Kiwi. Galactic Kiwi was created by the space between other constellations, rather than being identified by specific stars or constellations. This is known as an asterism, rather than a constellation. The Kiwi lies between three official constellations: Scorpius, Ophiucus, and Sagittarius.”

By Sharlaine Marshall

Sharlaine Marshall (New Zealand) showed us a fossil hunter’s dream find in Kiritehere. “The area is rich in fossils because the land is formed from sedimentary rocks more than 200 million years old.” Paul Henare identified the shells as Monotis species.

We then got into the holiday spirit with the next two challenges. The first was to “Let your photos fly free” and gift a photo about something interesting to the Creative Commons.

By Kathy Browne Flynn

Kathy Browne Flynn (Australia) donated a Wollemi Pine photo (which also would have served well for the Ancient challenge!) with a CC-SA license. She explained, “It is one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants dating back to the time of the dinosaurs, with less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the world. They are currently researching and growing this magnificent pine near where I live at Mt Annan Botanical Gardens.”

By Nik Hurring

Nik Hurring went with one of the challenge suggestions and donated a sexy slime mold photo - an octopus stinkhorn – also with a CC-SA license.

The penultimate challenge for 2020 was themed “Celebration.”

By Marian Numan

Marian Numan (New Zealand) posted a quintessential NZ December scene with a blazing red pōhutukawa. She said, “we’re celebrating Christmas holidays in beautiful Waihī Beach, New Zealand, where we can enjoy the beautiful sun, beaches, native trees, our red-flowering pōhutukawa trees, and precious family time.”

By Vandy Pollard

Vandy Pollard (New Zealand) was also inspired by our native pōhutukawa, and snapped this gorgeous yellow specimen. “A variation on our New Zealand Christmas Tree: Native to New Zealand this Yellow Pōhutukawa is thought to have been discovered in 1940 and descended from a pair of trees that grew on Mōtītī Island in the Bay of Plenty. We’re lucky to have a few that grow in the Wellington Region and where I live in Lyall Bay.”

By Judy Jackson

On the other side of the world, Judy Jackson (Canada) came across this bedazzled spruce tree. Judy says, “I used to live in the country but a few years ago moved into the city of Red Deer, Alberta. Although not a big city, I still miss the expanse and the closeness of nature country living has to offer. I was delighted to find a small wooded area close to our home now where I try to walk every day. Recently, I was even more delighted to find that someone had decorated a small spruce tree for Christmas... Thank you whoever you are.”

A huge congratulations to all the participants who made it to Week 52 – what an achievement!! Congratulations too, to everyone who gave even one of our challenges a go in 2020. I don’t expect anyone to be a perfectionist or completionist as there is something to be gained by doing even a few challenges, but I do recognize the commitment it takes to do them all.

The theme for Week 52 was “journey” and participants were asked to reflect back to Week 1 where they were asked to describe a special place where they felt connected (“where I stand” or “tūrangawaewae” – in Te Reo Māori). They were asked to consider if they now saw this place with new eyes. Participants were also challenged as an “extra credit” to work on a project that used photos they were taking throughout the year.

By Karen Miller (week 1)

By Karen Miller (week 52)

In week one, Karen Miller (New Zealand) took a photo of the gorgeous hand-reared kōkako, Kāhurangi, from outside through the wire of her aviary at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, Mt Bruce. Karen says, “Part of my journey this year involved winning a fundraising auction for Pūkaha for a photo workshop with ranger Tara (also, coincidentally, an AoB participant!). In October, we did the workshop and the second photo is of Kāhurangi, this time taken inside her enclosure. It was something that had been on my bucket list. Thanks to this group, and the inspiring photography, my interests have broadened and my bucket list has more things I want to do including fungi hunting in the bush, learning to master sunlight, capturing more of the local beauty etc... My journey isn’t over..... see you in 2021.”

By Paul Henare

Paul Henare (New Zealand) gets to explore many far-flung places in NZ. For week 52 extra credit, he put together a calendar of his favourite photos taken throughout the year to give to friends and family, including these photos of a kea in Fiordland and an alpine “vegetable sheep” on Mt Arthur.

By Kendra Berry Whittenberg

And to close out 2020, I can’t think of any more fitting photos than those from Kendra Berry Whittenberg (USA): a sunrise for week 1 taken on 1 Jan and a sunset for week 52 taken on 31 Dec from the same location. Kendra says “What a journey this year has been! I wanted to end the year where I started it, at one of my favorite hiking spots. 2020 started and ended with beauty and despite the difficulties we all faced, I was even able to find some beauty in between. Here’s to an even more beautiful 2021!”

Thank you to everyone who joined in on the 2020 challenges – it was a joy and privilege to see your beautiful photos and witness your journey.

Judi Lapsley Miller

Art of Birding photo challenge creator

Join us in 2021!

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