A stunning picture of a Scottish hare curled into a perfect ball in a blizzard as ice forms on its fur has won an international picture competition.
The image, named Hare Ball, by Andy Parkinson beat off stiff competition from around the world to land the top prize in the California Academy of Sciences’ BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition 2020.
Mr Parkinson, from Derbyshire, endured weeks of ferocious cold and wind that drove shards of ice into his face at Tomatin, near Inverness.
While some ride out storms in burrows or depressions, this female created her own shelter, tucking herself in to a ball to conserve heat and minimise exposure to the elements.
Mountain hares have been native to Britain since the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago and are a separate species from the more common brown hare.
Despite their fortitude, they are Britain’s fastest-declining mammal, due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss.
Suzi Eszterhas, BigPicture jury chair, said: “Only a highly skilled photographer can present a common subject in an extraordinary way.
“In this photo we see a hare as we’ve never seen it, curled up in a ball and looking rather like a sculpture as it’s bathed in sub-arctic light.
“Andy has created an image that has it all: technical perfection, artistic skill, and behaviour.
“To me this is an image of beauty and resilience that speaks to weathering a storm. An image that I believe the world needs now more than ever.”
The image originally appeared on bioGraphic, an online magazine about science and sustainability and the official media sponsor for the California Academy of Sciences’ BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition.