Credit: Minghui Yuan

The Hair-net Cocoon was highly commended in the 2019 Invertebrates category

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: there's no place like home

Like many things in the animal kingdom, homes come in all shapes and sizes. 

As the world adapts to spending more time indoors, here is some inspiration from the natural world to show how creatures big and small have found a place to call home.

These images, all from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, demonstrate the adaptability of our animal neighbours. 

 

Canopy Hang-out - Carlos Pérez Naval

This photo, by young photographer Carlos Pérez Naval, shows a brown-throated three-toed sloth at home in a cecropia tree. Sloths live a relatively solitary life, spending most of their time in the canopies of tropical rainforests in South and Central America. 

Credit: Carlos Pérez Naval

Canopy Hang-out was highly commended in the 2019 young competition for 11-14 year olds

Carlos tracked this particular male sloth for several days before getting this perfect shot. The morning fog gives the forest a dreamlike quality as the sloth enjoys his view.

 

Fluff formation - Stefan Christmann

Not all animals live alone - in fact, for emperor penguins, their very survival is often dependent on the presence of their community. 

Credit: Stefan Christmann

Fluff formation was part of  Stefan Christmann's winning Wildlife Photographer Portfolio Award

Stefan Christmann's striking shot shows young penguins huddling in what is known as a crèche while their parents go off to hunt. These early gatherings are formative for the young chicks who must learn to share the warm centre if they are all to survive.

 

Portrait of a Spanish Tarantula - Javier Aznar González de Rueda

Other creatures, like this Spanish tarantula (not a true tarantula but actually a type of wolf spider), rely on their homemaking capabilities for more than just warmth.

Credit: Javier Aznar González de Rueda

Javier's Portrait of the Spanish Tarantula was highly commended in the 2019 Animal Portraits category

The spider's leafy underground lair is knit with finely spun silk. When insects pass by, the tiny vibrations that they create are transmitted along the silk so that the spider can dart out and catch her prey.

An intuitive and quick hunter, this spider blends perfectly into the decaying leaves that make up her home. 

 

The Albatross Cave - Thomas P Peschak 

For Chatham albatrosses, camouflage is less important than shelter. The large cave on the side of Te Tara Koi Koia island, New Zealand, provides the perfect shelter for nest-building and breeding.

Credit: Thomas P. Peschak

Highly commended in the 2019 Animals in their Environment category

This location is so perfect that it's the only place in the world where Chatham albatrosses breed naturally. Wildlife photographer Thomas P Peschak is one of very few people to witness such a moment.

Unfortunately, extreme storms have begun to erode the soil on Te Tara Koi Koia and the vegetation that the albatrosses need for nest-building has declined. Conservationists have recently translocated a new breeding colony onto a nearby island to improve the species' chances of survival.

 

Pondworld – Manuel Plaickner

A changing climate has also affected the habits of the common frog, the subject of Manuel Plaickner's colourful shot. 

Credit: Manuel Plaickner

Winner of the 2019 Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles category

Frogs live a solitary life for most of the year, gathering only to breed in the spring. As spring temperatures get warmer, the frogs are emerging from their winter shelters earlier each year to begin their migration.

Manuel tracked the frogs to a large pond where they had gathered to breed. Clusters of frogspawn can be seen among the pondweed as adult frogs linger nearby.

 

Dinner duty – Tommy Pedersen

Tommy Pedersen's peaceful shot shows a family of great grey owls at dinner time. Tommy photographed the young family for weeks, being careful not to disturb them by hiding under a camouflage net. 

Credit: Tommy Pedersen

Dinner Duty was highly commended in the 2019 Behaviour: Birds category

Great grey owls do not build their own nests - they often reuse the nests of other large birds. This family has made themselves at home in the hollow of a tree. They will stay for a number of weeks while the young chick prepares to fledge, protected by its parents at all times.

 

The Rat Pack – Charlie Hamilton James

Charlie Hamilton James used a remote camera set-up to get this photo of a group of rats emerging from their home under a tree grille.

Credit: Charlie Hamilton James

The Rat Pack won the 2019 Urban Wildlife category

Unlike most animals, rats benefit from the spread of human civilisation. They thrive in places where there is ample food and shelter, like in big cities.

Rats are smart and able to navigate underground systems with ease. They are also strong swimmers and good at burrowing, so they're well adapted to life underground.

 

Lucky Break -Jason Bantle

Racoons are also particularly well adapted to live alongside humans. This resourceful racoon mother has found an ideal den to keep her young cubs safe while she forages for food. 

Credit: Jason Bantle

Highly commendedin the 2019 Urban Wildlife category.

Jason Bantle used a long exposure to get his photo as the mother poked her head out and surveyed her surroundings. 

The doors and windows of the car are shut, leaving the hole in the windshield as the only entrance. Happily, it was just big enough for her but too small for predators such as coyotes. 

The Museum is closed but our work continues

Wildlife Photographer of the Year reminds us all how precious the natural world is, and inspires action to protect it. Every year, the exhibition helps millions of people to connect to some of the world's most endangered species and habitats. It encourages each of us to be an advocate for the planet.

But the Museum is a registered charity and we need your help. With our doors closed, we're losing vital income. So if you could help us with a donation – no matter the size – we'd greatly appreciate it. Thank you.