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  • Little Egret (Image ID 38972)

    Little Egret.   Photographer: Harry Charalambous

  • Eastern Rosella (Image ID 23592)

    Eastern Rosella.   Photographer: Con Boekel

  • Common Starling (Image ID 30731)

    Common Starling.   Photographer: Con Boekel

  • White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Image ID 34726)

    White-bellied Sea-Eagle.   Photographer: Linda Unwin

  • Superb Parrot (Image ID 19930)

    Superb Parrot.   Photographer: Judy Leitch

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This has proved to be a tough assignment for many photographers because of the harsh light and heat haze often encountered in arid regions of the country.  Most of the best images were captured early or late in the day or on cloudy days.  In dry country, water points attract birds so it was not surprising to find over a quarter of the images were captured around water.  There are few ‘action’ shots and I was surprised not to find some outback raptors.  Nevertheless, there are some outstanding images that reflect considerable credit on the photographers. 

The theme for this competition was to submit pictures of birds which are found in Australia's arid areas - and that's a lot of the country!  A map of Australia delineating arid habitats was provided to members for this competition, but it was at the discretion of the moderating panel as to whether the species and location submitted adequately fitted the description of a bird found in an arid habitat.  The moderating panel deliberations were stretched at times but in the end their decisions were sound.

This competition is about a specific type of bird.  Not just any bird, but one that is found in Australia's arid areas.  This means an area where there is the lack of available water. It is a harsh environment where survival is a challenge.

The Small is Splendid competition was held through July and August 2018.  The brief for this competition was to submit pictures of birds whose largest size, given in most field guides, is 20cm or less.  Fifteen photographers submitted a total of 51 entries, each and every entry a high-quality image.  With so many worthy images, selecting the top five images was once again a most difficult task and came down to the smallest of differences.

Small is Splendid, indeed.  To be honest, there were numerous fine images here that would not have been out of place in the Advanced Level competition.  Technically, in terms of sharpness of focus, accurate exposure, and negligible digital noise, a great many were on a similarly high level, which made my final selections task as difficult, and conflicting, as ever.  But there are of course many other elements that contribute to an image’s appeal or impact, and what my final five do have in common is that they are outstanding in their own, individual ways; my sincere congratulations to each of the respective, talented photographers.

It has been a pleasure to review images of the smallest representatives of Australian avifauna.  To photograph these tiny birds at all is a challenge in itself.  Anyone who has tried will know that small birds naturally favour thick foliage, and they either keep to thickets of tangled twigs, leaves and branches, or they feed very close to such cover in order to flee from danger at a moment’s notice.  Others represented here are often among the foliage in the very tops of trees.  To photograph them well therefore, is an additional challenge that has been accepted by those who have entered this competition.

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