Joanna Lentini of Warwick is the Grand Prize Winner of the 2020 Audubon Photography Awards for her awe-inspiring image of a Double-crested Cormorant fishing underwater, taken in Los Islotes, Mexico. The award carries a $5,000 prize.
The eleventh year of the contest honored images that evoke the ingenuity, resilience and beauty of birds small and large, terrestrial and aquatic across four divisions: Professional, Amateur, Youth and Plants for Birds.
Joanna Lentini on story behind the shot
“I’ve spent many hours underwater at this California sea lion rookery in the Bay of La Paz, but I had never before encountered diving cormorants there. Shifting my focus from the playful sea lions, I watched in awe as the cormorants plunged beak-first into the sea to snap at the sardines swimming by. Although I spent a long time admiring these birds, I didn’t see a single one catch a fish. Adding insult to injury, curious sea lion pups would zip by the hunting birds and nip at them from behind.”
Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X 107 DX AF Fisheye lens; 1/640 second at f/6.3; ISO 320
Cormorants are superb divers, well adapted to rapid pursuit of fish underwater. Their bodies are heavy but streamlined, with dense plumage. When they dive, they hold their wings tightly to their sides, propelling themselves with their powerful legs and webbed feet, steering through the water with their tails. Some cormorants may be capable of diving more than 300 feet below the surface, but most of their hunting is done at shallower depths.
The Double-crested Cormorant also is a powerful symbol for the health of New York’s marine coastal areas and the shores and islands of the Hudson River, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, Oneida Lake and other larger inland water bodies, where it migrates and breeds in the spring and summer months when the inland waterways are free of ice. Legislation like the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, if passed, could safeguard wetlands and coastal areas this bird depends on.