WPY 2011

Photograph Details

Winner 2011

Behaviour: Birds

Steve Mills, UK

The assassin

A severe freeze in December 2010 caused major problems for British birds, especially those needing to feed in mud. Even secretive birds were forced into the open. Knowing any snow-free area was a precious resource, Steve located a tiny patch of exposed grass near where he lives in Whitby, North Yorkshire, and waited. Eventually a snipe emerged and began feeding frantically. 'I was only a few metres away,' says Steve. 'In normal conditions, a snipe would be more cautious.' Within a few moments, though, it had paid the ultimate price. A merlin swooped in fast and low and grabbed it in a flurry of snow. The struggle was short. The merlin pinioned the snipe, stared briefly at Steve and then killed its prey with a series of rapid blows to the head. 'The attack was so unexpected, so dramatic and so close,' says Steve, 'that I was overjoyed to find I had captured the moment, but I also felt great sympathy for the loser.'

Technical specification

Canon EOS 50D + 500mm f4 lens; 1/500 sec at f5 (+1.7 e/v); ISO 400.


Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK: latitude 54.4863, longitude -0.613347 Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK: latitude 54.4863, longitude -0.613347

Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK

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Steve Mills, UK