As a civilisation we've had a good run, but now might be a convenient time to hand the reigns over to the animals for a crack at it. Beautiful, family-focused and, most importantly, not on Twitter, they'd probably do a half-decent job of uniting the planet behind one honest cause. Loosely related, The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opens at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, October 17, with tickets on sale now. Here's just a few of the most spectacular shots and how they came about. I for one welcome our largely thumbless new overlords.
Head start by Dhritiman Mukherjee, India
Ever watchful, a large male gharial — at least 13 feet long — provides solid support for his offspring. It is breeding season in the National Chambal Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, and this usually shy reptile now exudes confidence. Though numbers might have once exceeded 20,000, spread across South Asia, the past century saw drastic declines. The species is now critically endangered — an estimated 650 adults are left, about 500 of them living in the sanctuary. A male will mate with seven or more females, who nest close together, their hatchlings aggregating into one large crèche. This male was left in sole charge of his month-old offspring, but both sexes are known to care for their young. So as not to disturb the gharials, Dhritiman spent many days quietly watching from the riverbank. His picture encapsulates at once the tenderness of a protective father and its ‘don’t mess with my offspring’ attitude.
The rat game by Matthew Maran, UK
With a determined stare, a young fox holds tight to her trophy – a dead brown rat – as her brother attempts to take it off her. For the past four years, Matthew has been photographing the foxes that live on a North London allotment. Like all foxes, they are opportunistic, taking advantage of all available food, whether human or pet food discarded or put out by fox-lovers, fruit, mice, voles, worms and even birdfood. On this August evening, as Matthew lay prone watching the youngsters at play, one of them exploded out of the bushes with a dead rat in its mouth. The other three then began squabbling over it and a tug-of-war developed. It is rare for foxes to catch rats. More likely, it had been found dead — adult rats are formidable fighters, capable of inflicting serious injury to a fox’s face and eyes.
Eye of the drought by Jose Fragozo, Portugal
An eye blinks open in the mud pool as a hippopotamus emerges to take a breath – one every three to five minutes. The challenge for Jose, watching in his vehicle, was to catch the moment an eye opened. For several years, Jose has been watching hippos in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve – here in a remnant of the drought-stricken Mara River. Hippos spend the day submerged to keep their temperature constant. Throughout their sub-Saharan African range, hippos are vulnerable to the combined effects of increasing water extraction and climate change. They are vital grassland and aquatic ecosystem engineers, and their dung provides important nutrients for fish, algae and insects. But when rivers run dry, a concentration of dung depletes the oxygen and kills the aquatic life.
Surprise! by Makoto Ando, Japan
A red squirrel bounds away from its surprise discovery – a pair of Ural owls, very much awake. In forest near his village on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, Makoto had spent three hours, in freezing conditions, hiding behind a nearby tree hoping that the owl couple would pose or perform. Suddenly, a squirrel appeared from the treetops. "It was extraordinary to see them all in the same tree," says Makoto. Ural owls prey mainly on small mammals, including red squirrels. Rather than fleeing, the curious squirrel approached and peered into the owls’ hole, first from the top, then from the side. "I thought it was going to be caught right in front of me, but the owls just stared back." The squirrel, as if suddenly realising its mistake, leapt onto the nearest branch and sped away.
The perfect catch by Hannah Vijayan, Canada
A brown bear pulls a salmon from the shallows of a river in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. The huge park contains Pacific coastline, mountains, lakes, rivers and an estimated 2,200 brown bears. In spring, when bears emerge from hibernation in their mountain dens, many of them head down to feed on sedges in open meadows and forage for clams on the mudflats. Then they feast on the vast numbers of nutrient-rich sockeye salmon, gathering in the estuaries before heading upstream to spawn. The presence of the salmon through until autumn ensures the bears’ survival through the winter. Alaskan brown bears are among the world’s largest. Males may eat 30 salmon a day and weigh more than 450 kilograms.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year runs October 17 to February 7. Adult tickets are £7.50, children and students are £3
B-SIDE GOES INSIDE
The Hippodrome’s annual Hip-Hop and street art hurrah, B-Side Festival, is back to celebrate its fifth year, tomorrow (September 25) to Sunday (September 27). Like most festivals the mainstay of this year's dance and DJ doings have gone online, streaming live from a Brum studio, via their Facebook page. Pick of the events might well be Sunday's performance of Between Us by world champion Dutch dancers The Ruggeds. The crew featured in Justin Bieber’s music vid Where Are U Now, but don't hold that against them. Friday night, meanwhile, sees a live audience and socially-distanced evening showcasing the Black Empowerment of Hip-Hop at Millennium Point. Hosted by Sir Swifty and Break Mission, the evening features films and performance showcases by Young Geniuses, Tarju Le' Sano and Brum's own Lady Sanity. Feature film Kiwewe Nyeusi — created by Kashmir D Leese is screened, followed by an interview and Q&A session. The evening also includes talks from prominent figures in the current Hip-Hop scene — tickets are limited. More
Venue: Dishoom, One Chamberlain Square, B3 3AX; Website Choice: Pau Bhaji (£5.70) Chooser: Pedro (front of house)
Apparently Sunday Times food columnist Marina O'Loughlin visits every restaurant twice before she's willing to review it. Thus, surely, my four visits to Dishoom before putting quill to parchment makes me a far more professionaler writerer than her, no? Since its launch back in March (nothing like being quick to publish, eh?) I've covered pretty much the entire menu and this, blessed reader, is the ultimate order. Drinks: Everything is pretty terrible right now but for the duration of your East India Gimlet (£8.90) — London dry gin with lime and a touch of celery bitters — you'll float above the world's problems like a levitating Pepe Le Pew following a black cat that's somehow had a white stripe painted down its back. A mighty foil to the gimlet comes in the shape of the Viceroy's Old-Fashioned — a bottle-aged muddle of Woodford Reserve bourbon, bayleaf reduction and green tea (£10.50), it's a fine potion that'll coat your mush in smoke and heat. Food: Masala prawns are an absolute standout, while the black daal cooked over 24 hours has featured on all four of my visits. Long story short, it's an August wedding. Heavier dishes worth consideration, although maybe don't plum for all of these, include the chilli chicken (hotter than most), the lamb chop special that's exclusive to Birmingtown and the chicken murgh malai. Brace yourself, though, because the first name on your team sheet, like Paul Scholes in the early Noughties, should be the pau bhaji — a bowl of mashed vegetables with hot, buttered, home-made buns. At £5.70 this is an absolute steal. And if you do over-order, you can bag it up. Menu
Birmingham Wine Weekend's Staycation includes a night in the Rotunda and online wine workshops for £150 per person. Details —
Jerk Festival brings jerk and Caribbean dishes to Digbeth alongside reggae, R&B and rum. October 3 and 4, from £6.97
Sampad South Asian Arts and Heritage have launched My City, My Home, an international writing competition for women and girls from diverse communities in Birmingham, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It will reach out to emerging female writers from all three locations resulting in a publication of selected works with live readings. More
BOM's latest exhibition is called Mathare Futurism and is an evolving showcase of developing work created by artist activists in Mathare (Nairobi, Kenya). The works are presented through different mediums; music, moving image, photography and at least one colossal graffiti mural.
Kuula Poké are offering 'buy one, get one free' until September 30, on Uber Eats. See?
And Ort Gallery has reopened with their exhibition, Bald Black Girls, which centres on the experiences of bald and low shaven black women in the UK. Pre-booking essential.
"Hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they're in the game."
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