A photo of a red-winged blackbird in an Alexandria, Virginia, park has taken the grand prize in the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards.
The photo, shot by Kathrin Swoboda at Huntley Meadows Park, shows the bird creating “smoke rings” as it sings out, perched upon a branch on a chilly spring morning.
Swoboda, who The Washington Post reports is a retired Children’s Hospital physician, said she visits the park on cold mornings to capture photos of the birds singing.
“This particular bird was very vociferous, singing long and hard. I looked to set it against the dark background of the forest, shooting to the east as the sun rose over the trees, backlighting the vapor,” Swoboda said.
Red-winged blackbirds are native to North America and breed in marshes, swamps and hayfields.
This year’s contest challenged photographers to capture an incredible moment featuring a bird and plant native to the location, “in order to highlight the critical role native habitat plays in supporting bird life,” The Audubon Society said in a news release.
The winning entries will be featured at the biennial Audubon Convention in July 2019, in future issues of Audubon magazine and Nature’s Best Photography magazine and in a special traveling Audubon Photography Awards exhibit hosted by Audubon chapters and centers across the U.S.
There were 2,253 entries from all states, D.C. and 10 Canadian provinces and territories. Other winning entries include shots set in Costa Rica, Alaska, Wyoming, Falkland Islands and more.