Academic’s stunning image of rare owl shortlisted for photographic award

Copyright: Peter Burkill. Not to be used elsewhere without prior permission

Professor Peter Burkill, Professor of Ocean Science at the University of Plymouth, has been shortlisted for a major award after capturing this stunning picture of a rare Blakiston’s fish owl.

The picture was taken in the Shiretoko Peninsular, on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, in temperatures of around minus-20°C.

It is one of 13 images in contention for the Royal Society of Biology’s Photographer of the Year award, with the winners to be announced at the organisation’s Annual Awards Ceremony during Biology Week.

Professor Burkill says the picture, which shows the largest and rarest living species of owl, was taken against the backdrop of “an icy silence punctuated by occasional gurgles from the geothermal pools”. He adds:

“Waiting from 5pm, special strobe lights broke the darkness to give just enough light for photography while not affecting the owl’s behaviour. Midnight approached and I felt frozen when out of the darkness, a huge owl loomed and plunged into a pool searching for fish. I willed my camera’s batteries to work well despite the cold. Two minutes later the owl disappeared with a fish. I continued to wait until 2am but it did not reappear.”

Blakiston’s fish owls weigh around 5kg and live in dense woodland across north-east Asia. In Hokkaido, there are only around 20 breeding pairs.

<p>Copyright: Peter Burkill. Not to be used elsewhere without prior permission</p>