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These photographers captured beautifully candid moments between animals

“One Toy, Three Dogs”
“One Toy, Three Dogs”
Image: Bence Mate
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Nature photography is a difficult pursuit. Photographers often spend days or even weeks stalking wildlife in the hopes of spotting one animal in its natural habitat.

The shortlisted photographs for the UK Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition show animals at their most undisturbed: deep in concentration while hunting, or engaged in moments of affection and playfulness. All of these selections, and others, are eligible for the contest’s People’s Choice Award (voting ends of Feb. 5).

Take a look at some of the shortlisted images below, with captions from the competition.

Family Portrait

A great grey owl and her chicks sit in their nest in the broken top of a Douglas fir tree in Kamloops, Canada. They looked towards Connor only twice as he watched them during the nesting season from a tree hide 50 feet (15 metres) up.

“Family Portrait”
“Family Portrait”
Image: Connor Stefanison

Bond of Brothers

These two adult males, probably brothers, greeted and rubbed faces for 30 seconds before settling down. Most people never have the opportunity to witness such animal sentience, and David was honoured to have experienced and captured such a moment.

“Bond of Brothers”
“Bond of Brothers”
Image: David Lloyd

Ambush

On a hot morning at the Chitake Springs, in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, Federico watched as an old lioness descended from the top of the riverbank. She’d been lying in wait to ambush any passing animals visiting a nearby waterhole further along the riverbed.

“Ambush”
“Ambush”
Image: Federico Veronesi

Teenager

Franco was free diving off Dominica in the Caribbean Sea when he witnessed this young male sperm whale trying to copulate with a female. Unfortunately for him her calf was always in the way and the frisky male had to continually chase off the troublesome calf.

Teenager
Teenager
Image: Franco Banfi

The Extraction

Every winter, hundreds of Steller’s sea eagles migrate from Russia, to the relatively ice-free northeastern coast of Hokkaido, Japan. They hunt for fish among the ices floes and also scavenge, following the fishing boats to feed on any discards. Konstantin took his image from a boat as the eagles retrieved a dead fish thrown onto the ice.

“The Extraction”
“The Extraction”
Image: Konstantin Shatenev

Red, Silver and Black

Tin was fortunate enough to be told about a fox den in Washington State, North America, which was home to a family of red, black, and silver foxes. After days of waiting for good weather he was finally rewarded with this touching moment.

“Red, Silver and Black”
“Red, Silver and Black”
Image: Tin Man Lee

Three Kings

Wim came across these king penguins on a beach in the Falkland Islands just as the sun was rising. They were caught up in a fascinating mating behaviour – the two males were constantly moving around the female using their flippers to fend the other off.

“Three Kings”
“Three Kings”
Image: Wim Van Den Heever

One Toy, Three Dogs

While adult African wild dogs are merciless killers, their pups are extremely cute and play all day long. Bence photographed these brothers in Mkuze, South Africa – they all wanted to play with the leg of an impala and were trying to drag it in three different directions!

“One Toy, Three Dogs”
“One Toy, Three Dogs”
Image: Bence Mate