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Loved-up squirrels win the Close-up Photographer of the Year competition

Published: 08th February, 2022 at 11:00
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Close-up Photographer of the Year Challenge: Two of a Kind winners announced.

Dutch photographer Alex Pansier has won the 2021 Close-up Photographer of the Year Challenge: Two of a Kind with his heart-warming picture of a pair of European ground squirrels sharing a faded poppy on a lawn in Vienna. These animals are classified as vulnerable, mainly due to habitat loss and changes of land use in agriculture.


"I really enjoyed watching them working together, like father and son," explains Alex. "For me, observing and photographing nature is a great way to unwind and share the beauty that’s all around us."

The challenge runs throughout November, outside the annual competition of Close-up Photographer of the Year, and has a different theme each year. This time the challenge was to photograph two similar things - anything from a pair of animals to flowers.

While Alex took the top spot, British photographer Barry Webb took second place with his image of a pair of slime moulds. "Although these slime moulds are miniscule," said competition co-founder Tracy Calder, "Barry has transformed them into majestic trees making us wonder what else we pass by without noticing."

Two of a kind - Winner

European ground squirrels
European ground squirrels busy eating a faded poppy on a lawn in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Alex Pansier

Dysdercus Concinnus Coitus - Finalist

CUPOTY-© Hugo Camacho-Dysdercus Concinnus Coitus
Cotton bugs of the species Dysdercus concinnus mating in the woods. Photographed at Rajada Stone Reserve, San Antonio del Tequendama, Cundinamarca, Colombia. Photo by Hugo Camacho

Harlequin shrimps - Finalist

Photo by Adriano Morettin
These Harlequin shrimps (Hymenocera picta) are feasting on a blue star (Linckia laevigata) in the Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. Breeding pairs stay close together, remaining active and hunting for starfish during the day. They stand on top of their prey to immobilise it and then flip it over to access its tube feet. Photo by Adriano Morettin

The kiss - Finalist

Photo by Angi Wallace
Unfurling heads of these cyclamen form a wonderful heart shape in this photo taken in a British garden. Photo by Angi Wallace

Eating perch - Finalist

Photo by Luc Rooman
This photo was taken during a night dive in Domein Muisbroek, Antwerp, Belgium. The big perch didn't swallow the smaller perch right away, allowing the photographer enough time to take a series of photos before the smaller fish is eaten. Cannibalism is very common in Eurasian perch. Photo by Luc Rooman

Blue Beauty Morning - Finalist

CUPOTY-© Roelof de Hoog-Blue Beauty Morning
Damselflies are attracted to running water, and these males are no exception, warming themselves up on a nearby leaf in the early morning. Photo by Roelof de Hoog

Sonchus Asper - Finalist

CUPOTY-© Gerd Gunther-Sonchus Asper
This photomicrograph image shows a flower stem from a spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper), a common thistle with wonderful yellow blooms. All over the plant stem, in a high density on the flower stems, these plants have tiny little hairs with red, small tips. Photo by Gerd Gunther

Two toads - Finalist

Accouplement de Crapauds communs (Bufo bufo), dans la rivière de la Buèges (Hérault, Occitanie, France).
Two common toads (Bufo bufo) mating in the Buèges river, France. Photo by Mathieu Foulquié

German Wasps - Finalist

Photo by Alan Clark
German wasps (Vespula germanica) like these are similar in appearance to common wasps, but tend to be larger. They can often be seen gnawing on exposed wood, which they chew and mix with water from puddles which they turn into building materials for their nests. These two were spotted in a garden in Lancashire, UK, and photographed from a hide near their nest. Photo by Alan Clark

The couple - Finalist

Photo by Henrik Spranz
These liverleaves of the buttercup family are early bloomers and one of the first wildflowers to emerge each spring. Photographed in Germany. Photo by Henrik Spranz

Teamwork- Finalist

Two ants work together to carry a dead weevil in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo by Roman Willi

Bee together - Finalist

These lovely Gold-tailed Melitta bees (Melitta haemorrhoidalis) are photographed taking a very cosy nap inside a flower. This European species of ground-nesting bee forages for pollen exclusively from bellflowers. Photo by Joris Vegter

More great image galleries on BBC Science Focus:

Over the mineral world - Finalist

Photo by Carlos Pérez Naval
Two yellow ladybirds (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata) photographed on a wall in Calamocha, Teruel, Spain. The insects sit above mineral precipitations of manganese oxide, which have formed a plant-like pattern. Photo by Carlos Pérez Naval

The pear-fect pair - Finalist

Photo by Heidi Egerman
The pears were grown in the photographer's garden and picked before they reached the peak of ripeness. The photograph has the feel of a still-life painting by the old Dutch Masters. Photo by Heidi Egerman

Hidden treasures - Finalist

Two Zerynthia rumina warning uo with the first rays of sun in the morning. Two flash used to illuminate the background. Photo by Javier Lafuente
Two butterflies of the species Zerynthia rumina warn up with the first rays of sunlight in the morning in Bustarviejo, Madrid, Spain. Photo by Javier Lafuente

Diderma Floriforme - Runner-up

Diderma floriforme. Photo by Barry Webb
These 3mm Diderma floriforme slime moulds were found on the Ashridge Estate in September 2021, on the underside of a large, rotten beech branch on the woodland floor. The peridium has split into delicate petal like structures, giving a flower-like appearance. Photo by Barry Webb

Hey! What's that? - Finalist

Photo by Noelle Bennett
These magnificent birds are New Zealand King shags (Leucocarbo carunculatus), endemic to New Zealand and only occurring in one small area know as Marlborough Sounds. It’s a situation that hasn't changed for more than 240 years. Unfortunately, this type of restricted distribution makes the species incredibly vulnerable. Photo by Noelle Bennett

Toad love - Finalist

Photo by Rob Blanken
Two common toads of the species Bufo bufo come to mate in a small lake in Drenthe, the Netherlands. Here, the male is clutching the female in a tight embrace. When they’re not mating, common toads tend to live away from water, preferring moist, shady places like damp wood piles and deep leaf litter. Photo by Rob Blanken

The fight - Finalist

CUPOTY-© Pal Hermansen-The Fight
Male European stag beetles of the species Lucanus cervus use their large mandibles to impress potential mates and fight off rival males. These two individuals are photographed sparring in southern Sweden, one of only a few locations in Scandinavia where populations can still be found. In early June the males appear in the oak forest, but their arrival is tinged with sadness because this iconic species is now on the IUNC red list. Photo by Pal Hermansen

Mature Comatricha - Finalist

Mature Comatricha. Photo by Barry Webb
These 2mm-tall slime moulds were found on a dead apple branch, from a log pile in a garden in Buckinghamshire, UK. The spores had dispersed, leaving the delicate, thread-like capillitium. Photo by Barry Webb

Leaves of lace - Finalist

Photo by Julia Briggs
The amazing detail and intricate patterns found in leaf skeletons are reminiscent of lace, as seen in this delicate image photographed in a conservatory in the UK. Photo by Julia Briggs

Mushrooms in the spotlight - Finalist

Photo by Ria Bloemendaal
In the background is a seedling of an American oak which is giving shelter to these two little mushrooms at the Wamberg Estate in Berlicum, Netherlands. Photo by Ria Bloemendaal


James CutmorePicture Editor, BBC Science Focus

James Cutmore is the picture editor of BBC Science Focus Magazine, researching striking images for the magazine and on the website. He is also has a passion for taking his own photographs


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