Bobcat Image Named Winner of Wildlife Photo of the Year Contest

Santa Clara resident Shravan Sundaram’s photograph of a young bobcat descending a tree in Livermore’s Sycamore Grove Park earned the 2017 grand prize in the California Wildlife Photo of the Year contest. The intense gaze of the cat as it stared into the camera’s lens elevated it in the yearlong contest presented by California Watchable Wildlife and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s magazine, Outdoor California and sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Alpine Optics.

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Sundaram’s photograph captured the young bobcat as it played with siblings along a ravine next to a hiking path. The photographer said once the animals noticed him on the trail, they grew cautious – except for the largest. He continued to scamper up the backside of a tree.

Sundaram remained poised, with his camera aimed at the spot where he anticipated the cat would emerge. “When he headed down along my side of the tree, I just took a whole series of shots,” Sundaram said.

CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham selected the grand prize winner from the contest finalists. “This photo of the young bobcat is cool,” Bonham said. “There is a certain look in its eye that I can’t quite identify—discovery, apprehension, excitement. Whatever it may be, this animal is focused on its future, just like the department.”

This week, the top eight images from the contest will hang as part of a display at the Capitol outside the Governor’s Office. The photographs include all of the year’s top finishers and special honorable mentions selected by representatives from Sierra Nevada Conservancy and California Watchable Wildlife. In addition to Sundaram’s bobcat photograph, the photos on display include:

  • Snow geese migrating (Dale Val)
  • Feeding time for Anna’s hummingbirds (Beth Savidge)
  • Blue grosbek in flight (Gary Kunkel)
  • California sea lion dives through kelp forest (Ken Howard)
  • Long-horned bee on a sunflower (Beth Savidge)
  • Eared grebe at June Lake in Sierra Nevada (Hayley Crews)
  • Spiny brittle stars along ocean floor at Channel Islands National Park (Ken Howard)

On Thursday, Sundaram will join Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), on the floor of the Legislature, where he will receive a certificate honoring his photograph.

Sundaram is studying wildlife biology at the University of California, Davis. After graduation, he hopes to follow a career path that provide the opportunity for field work and research relating to birds — particularly birds of prey. Even though he is a 10-year veteran wildlife and nature photographer, Sundaram still considers himself “aspiring.” His camera’s lens serves as his tool in trade and the digital screen his canvas. “My main subjects are birds, although I do photograph mammals, invertebrates, insects, reptiles and landscapes as well.”

In 2011, Outdoor California and California Watchable Wildlife launched the annual contest to acknowledge photographs that illustrate the state’s diverse wildlife and the viewing experiences found throughout its natural and wild lands. California Watchable Wildlife celebrates the state’s wildlife and diverse habitats by promoting the value of wildlife viewing to individuals, families, communities and industries while fostering awareness of and support for conservation and protection efforts. After a successful first year, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy joined as a contest sponsor to encourage more representation from a region rich with a diversity of wildlife. The other contest sponsor, Alpine Optics, presents the winner with a high-powered spotting scope.

Media Contacts:
Troy Swauger, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8932
Barbara Steinberg, Outreach Coordinator, California Watchable Wildlife, (916) 335-1522

Registration Is Open for Sandhill Crane Tours: New Requirement in Late Fall

The online registration period is now open for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) popular Sandhill Crane Wetland Tours at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve near Lodi in San Joaquin County.

Online registration is required to participate in these late-afternoon guided tours, which start in October and run through February. The tours take place the first through third Saturdays and Sundays of each month for five months during the cranes’ fall and winter stay in California’s Central Valley. Online registration is available up to eight weeks in advance. Registration opened in mid-August for October tour dates and in mid-September for November dates. More information about the tours is available at

After Nov. 13, 2017, those 16 and older attending the tours will be required to purchase and possess a CDFW lands pass in order to participate. Visitors carrying a valid hunting or fishing license will be exempt from this new requirement. Signs will be posted at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve notifying visitors of the need for a lands pass, and tour docents will be checking for lands passes or licenses at the start of each tour.  A daily lands pass costs $4.32 and an annual lands pass costs $24.33.  Lands passes may be purchased online at, by phone at (800) 565-1458, and in-person wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold (locations at Lands pass fees will be used for the management of this and other CDFW lands. For more information about lands passes, please visit

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, northeast of Lodi, is a popular spot for viewing the Pacific Flyway’s greater and lesser sandhill cranes returning to California’s Central Valley. The reserve is also known as the Isenberg Crane Reserve, named after former Congressman Phil Isenberg, who was instrumental in conserving the land.

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is also accessible to the public at any time for self-guided tours. A series of informative interpretive panels at the reserve’s south unit at 11154 W. Woodbridge Road in Lodi offers good visitor support. Staying until sundown is recommended for witnessing the sights and sounds associated with “fly-over” and the cranes’ return to their evening roosting spots.

CDFW is also proud to co-sponsor the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival scheduled for Nov. 3-5. Information about festival tours and activities is available at

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communication, (916) 322-8908
David Moore, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 766-8380

Legislature Honors Sebastopol Photographer for Wildlife Photo of the Year

The California Legislature yesterday honored wildlife photographer Joshua Asel of Sebastopol with a resolution declaring his image of the life-or-death battle involving three species as the California Wildlife Photo of the Year. The photograph, presented on the Senate floor, captures the death-grip of a great blue heron as it clenches a garter snake, and the snake’s last-ditch diversion of releasing a shrew that it had just taken moments before.

The fascinating image took the grand prize of the annual contest, presented by Outdoor California magazine and California Watchable Wildlife, and sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. Senator Mike McGuire (Second Senatorial District), chairman of the joint committee on fisheries and aquaculture, and Assemblyman Marc Levine (10th Assembly District) jointly authored the resolution. The announcement on the floor of the Senate marked a high point in the week as seven photographs from the contest hung in the Capitol outside the Governor’s Office.

The resolution commends Asel for founding and serving as director for Wild Expectations, a wildlife conservation group that strives to “ensure a positive future for California’s ecosystems by sharing its wildlife through multimedia driven resources for public education.” In addition to Outdoor California, magazines such as Defenders of Wildlife, National Geographic Education and National Geographic have published his works.

“The photography of Joshua Asel illustrates the beauty and vital importance of California’s wildlife and natural environments, and he serves as a worthy model for all aspiring environmental stewards,” the resolution states.

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the competition, but Asel said 2016 was the first time he’d entered. He learned of the competition after seeing a copy of Outdoor California at a local wildlife area. On the day he took his photograph, Asel had no particular subject in mind. He was strolling along a beach near Bodega Head at Bodega Bay when he turned and found the scene unfolding before him.

“I’d spotted the garter snake in the field a couple minutes earlier so when I focused on the great blue heron I knew exactly what was going to happen,” Asel said. He took a series of shots that has the heron whipping the snake around before the snake pitched the shrew away. He believes the snake tried to confuse the bird, to offer it something else and perhaps to get the heron to release it. “I didn’t know I had the exact shot with the shrew in the snake’s mouth until I was home where I could take a closer look.”


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Media Contact:
Troy Swauger, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8932


DFG Director Bonham Selects Wildlife Photograph of the Year

Media Contacts:
Troy Swauger, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8932
Karen Killebrew, California Watchable Wildlife, (530) 878-1330

The grand prize winner has been announced in the California Wildlife Photograph of the Year competition. Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Director Chuck Bonham chose Kelseyville photographer Lyle Madeson’s dynamic image of two raptors fighting for a hitch as the best photograph submitted in the yearlong contest. Madeson’s photo, along with 11 other monthly winners, will be displayed for the next week outside the Governor’s Office at the Capitol.

“What I especially like about this photograph is how it represents action, which is a real attribute of wildlife,” Bonham said as he announced the winner at a press conference on the Capitol steps. “The shot reflects the nature of wildlife, in that with all of the tribulations facing wildlife in our great state, our fish and animal resources are often caught in the middle of a rock and a hard place—or in this case, a raptor’s talon or another raptor’s talon.”

Co-sponsored by California Watchable Wildlife and DFG’s Outdoor California magazine, the Wildlife Photograph of the Year contest attracted more than 200 photographers who submitted nearly 800 images. The top three monthly winning entries appeared on the pages of the magazine and on the California Watchable Wildlife website ( The first-place winners were then submitted to the Director, who chose the grand prize winner.

Madeson recalled how he captured the ultimate struggle between bird and fish and bird last spring during a nature photography trip to Clear Lake State Park. He watched the osprey pluck a Central Valley native hitch from the mouth of Kelsey Creek and fly off to a nearby post. Apparently threatened by other raptors in the area, the osprey launched off with its catch firmly in its talons.

“It was coming straight at me and I had it in my viewfinder when it all happened,” Madeson said. “I was shooting at 10-frames-per-second and I wasn’t sure what happened until I looked at the display screen on the back of my camera when I saw the red-tailed hawk. I hadn’t even seen it come in.”

For taking top honors, Madeson received a cash prize, a pair of Nikon binoculars and a California State Parks membership. California Watchable Wildlife, known by the iconic binoculars on brown background, sponsored all of the prizes.

For the monthly contest, a panel of judges critiqued each photograph based on creativity, technical excellence, overall impact and artistic merit. Judges included professional photographer David Rosen, original Watchable Wildlife steering committee member Bob Garrison and Outdoor California editor Troy Swauger. Grand prize selection was based on the same criteria.