Photo of the Month Gallery - WiNZ Photography

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Photo of the Month Gallery

The beauty of nature photography is that it can become "surprise photography," capturing some rare and unusual moments that are well-worth sharing. The Photo Of The Month Gallery is an annual collection of images and accounts with like-minded enthusiasts who were kind enough to share their more inspirational moments on the PotM Calendar.
June 2024

Thrush Power by Roger Cox
Roydon Wood, The New Forest, Hampshire
Given their idyllic songs, benign appearance, and skittish behaviour, one might suppose thrushes to be timid, genteel birds with more flight to them than fight. They do take a more aggressive stand in winter to protect hard-to-come-by berry bushes, but if there’s one thrush more capable than most of throwing its weight around to prove a point beyond posturing, it’s the dotted and dapper missel or mistle thrush.
So-called for its supposed liking for mistletoe berries, the mistle thrush is the largest of our thrushes and lives on a seasonal variety of seeds, fruit, and invertebrates. But period-driven food shortages aren’t the only sparks to ignite them into a state of aggression with more weight behind it than a rival might presume.
Another name for them is Stormcock, as they’re said to be undaunted by the weather when singing or defending their nests and young against threats as formidable as sparrowhawks, barn owls, and buzzards. As parents, they show tremendous courage by swiftly executing fierce attacks on raiders, as if to "put the missile" into the missel part of their name. From the very tops of trees, a pair will vigorously and mercilessly dive-bomb an adversary with such ferocity that one such incident recorded by 1Cocker and Mabey, resulted in the death of a trespassing jackdaw – a freak accident perhaps but a blow delivered with enough daring to earn themselves a reputation for being the sort of bird intruders often underestimate to their peril.

1. The Birds Britannica by Mark Cocker and Richard Mabey, where the authors detail how a pair of mistle thrushes defended their nest by “driving away a sparrowhawk and buzzard, knocking a barn owl off its perch and attacking and killing a jackdaw.”

May 2024

The Highlander by Roger Cox
Cats are said to have nine lives, but according to the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species, twenty-one members of the lesser cat family are nearly all down to their last one. Amongst them is Britain’s wildcat, which, despite being listed as “of least concern”, is classified as functionally extinct due to widespread interbreeding with feral cats. At first glance, it’s easy to mistake this beguiling solitary hunter for a stray or regular tabby – but a Jasper, Tiddles, or Tibby, it is not.
 Before the seventeen hundreds, the wildcat was once found all over Britain. But since the advent of gamekeeping, it was purged in earnest throughout England and Wales to live chiefly in the remoteness of the Highlands, where the word “Scottish” was added to its moniker, spawning the nickname highland tiger – and much like those outlaw Jacobites of old:   
a mysterious, elusive, and ill-tempered creature, characterised by a rebellious spirit of independence.
Although all that remains of it in the wild are rampant strands of its DNA, the Scottish wildcat is a distinct variety of the Eurasian wildcat and, therefore, unique. So it falls to us to prevent its bloodline in its purest form disappearing over native soil like a proverbial Scotch mist, which is why this one at the British Wildlife Centre is part of a captive breeding program that hopefully will someday see our “rarest carnivore” once again roaming the wilds of Britain.

April 2024

Magpie by Roger Cox
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, London
Instantly recognisable by their raucous chatter, long tails, and tuxedo-like attire, Eurasian magpies are corvids well-known for their audacity and intelligence. But it’s their acumen, not attitude, that has them living off the leftovers in our towns and cities — a significant contributor to their urban survival, which, in addition to their natural diet of seeds, insects, fledglings, fruit, small mammals, and carrion, has boosted their success across a wide range of habitats in almost every part of the UK.
 After centuries of resentment for their nuisance to seed crops, poultry and game bird eggs, magpies have developed an inherent distrust of artefacts, especially those resembling traps and guns. Famous for their cognitive abilities and episodic memories, they can quickly learn to exploit food sources and pass that knowledge on — an admirable quality for any bird with a talent for mimicry and a curiosity for shiny objects, but their tendency to the mob, rob, and steal from others has won them few friends. Hence, a reluctant appreciation for them as predators, scavengers and pest controllers, as with this unwanted opportunist, craftily captured drinking at this impromptu watering hole in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.
 Still, their peacock-blue wings and green sheen tail feathers are some of their more attractive features. Colours incongruous to their unpopularity, perhaps, but a blend in their plumage that typifies those mixed feelings we have towards them — a reaction much like the magpie that’s not so black and white.

March 2024

Yawn Free by Roger Cox
For male lions, governing a pride means spending most of your waking hours fighting and patrolling miles of territory to protect your resources and offspring from rivals, even amongst your progeny. Yet, despite filial alliances and coalitions between males, these 200 kg family heads hold positions belonging to some of the most battle-scarred big cats in the animal kingdom.*
 At age three, male lions are expelled from their pride to complete their rite of passage from cub to king in a nomadic journey that will test their strength, courage, cunning and resilience. Having more bulk and less stamina, they’ll develop their predatory skills as ambush hunters, fight to steal kills and scavenge whilst avoiding territorial roars, until they’re ready to face the challenge of claiming land and lionesses of their own by partnering with fellow outcasts bound by blood or similar goals and interests.
 When travelling in a pride, alpha males help with hunting but take the lion’s share of everything regardless – a privilege at the price of increasing their rate of mortality! After routine spells of oestrous copulating followed by almost twenty hours of sleep, it’s back to the ferocity of the front lines, where bouts can be brutal and injuries lethal; an undertaking this captive-bred cat living scar-free on whole sides of horse meat every week may well prefer to yawn at rather than roar against – given the harsh realities* of what it costs as a king to be born free.

*Content Warning: link to scenes of severe animal injury and violence that some may find upsetting.

February 2024

A Song of Truth and Resemblance by Roger Cox
The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Until 1897 it was thought that Britain was home to only five kinds of Paridae1 or true tits. Since they all differed in appearance from one another, it was assumed that identifying each species in the wild presented no great challenge – until it was discovered that one of them had a double by way of a close cousin.
 For the keen bird-watcher, spotting a marsh tit in the company of willow tits and vice versa is probably one of the most perplexing and exasperating headaches faced by any British birder. Both species share the same winter and summer diets, and although their habitat preferences are dissimilar, they’re known to coexist where they naturally overlap. Even the more distinguished features like the glossy black cap of the marsh tit can appear as a matt one in fluffy-feathered juveniles, giving the impression of a willow tit, and the tell-tale “pale wing patch” of the willow tit, which is sometimes missing, can create the spitting image of a marsh tit.
 To add to their long list of similarities, both species are now in decline. Yet, for all their small and hidden differences, the best way to tell them apart in the field is by their song. “A willow tit has a zee-zurzur-zur call, whereas a marsh tit sounds like pitchou.” Unfortunately, this suspected marsh tit in The Forest of Dean was silent, which, once again, left some doubt to its true identity, thanks to that infuriating family resemblance to its near-identical cousin.

1. Initially, Britain’s five true tits were the great tit, blue tit, coal tit, crested tit, and marsh tit. The willow tit was the last native breeding bird to be recognised here in 1897, bringing the UK Paridae species count to six.  

January 2024

Lar Lar Land by Roger Cox
The Lake District Wildlife Park, Keswick, Cumbria
In ancient China, when King Chuang-Wang of the Chou dynasty lost his gibbon, he ordered an entire forest to be laid waste to find it. How successful this drastic action was in recovering his favourite pet isn’t clear. But the destruction was to echo a distant warning for many of S.E. Asia’s remarkable forest-dwelling animals like the now-endangered lar gibbon.   
 Lar Gibbons have the most extensive north-south range of all the gibbons, stretching from Northern Indonesia to Thailand – the territorial limit to their resounding hoots and howls, which sadly, are no longer heard across the Thai border with China, where that ancient edict of King Chuang-Wang appears to have transcended the boundaries of time and place to the rain forests of Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar for roads, cattle, agriculture, logging, and palm oil plantations.
 To add to their plight, adult lars are poached for their meat, with any surviving babies taken for the illegal pet trade. Hence, many like this one at The Lake District Wildlife Park end up in zoos, spending much of their time sitting on flat surfaces and walking bipedally with their arms raised above their heads for balance. However, in their native environment, they rarely come to the ground – a dream life for those in captivity, but with much of their habitat now gone, where else can these arboreal primates see themselves howling whilst freely brachiating[i] from tree to tree, except within the blissful realms, of la la land.

[i] locomotion accomplished by swinging the arms from one hold to another.

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