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.'
Canon EOS 50D + 500mm f4 lens; 1/500 sec at f5 (+1.7 e/v); ISO 400.
Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK