Stork with golf ball suspended in bill
Juvenile black-necked stork finds a golf ball – ©Tony Neilson

A case of unreasonable disbelief

In the bird world, juveniles are rarely what you would call attractive. But to the photographer, they can be gold.

This young black-necked stork (above), photographed at one of my favourite local swamps, was a case in point.

While its beautifully marked parents made full use of their average 1.3 m height to scan the shallows for anything edible, ‘Junior’ (already taller than the folks) employed a clumsier and more energy-sapping foraging technique.

Aimless plunging

It consisted of rapid strides and dashes, and seemingly aimless plunging of its prodigious bill into the water and ooze below.

I’d chosen a low angle to emphasise the scale of the birds and, probably through lack of experience, the juvenile paid me little attention as it made repeated passes – stabbing and clapping its bill hopefully at the water.

Totally random it might have been, but the technique eventually produced something fairly incredible – a golf ball!

Given that there isn’t a golf course or driving range within cooee of the swamp, the young stork’s find was doubly amazing. But for one so young and inexperienced, the dimpled orb had definite potential as food.

Dangerous prey

As it would eventually learn to do with difficult or dangerous prey, Junior repeatedly tossed its find in the air – perhaps not sure if this really was something it should swallow.

Fortunately, the ball finally slipped once more into the murk, and the young stork strode off to see how Mum and Dad were getting on.

The other side of this little story is the image itself. Although by no means one of the great wildlife captures, and not totally tack sharp, I thought it curious and possibly even unique.

Curt email

So I broke with my usual policy and entered it in a competition. I didn’t expect to win, but was stunned when a curt email arrived basically saying, we don’t accept digitally enhanced images. Obviously reflecting their assumption that I had ‘dropped in’ the golf ball.

Having seen examples of ‘fraudulent’ photography getting past the scrutineers and winning prestigious competitions, it is right that the judges should question the unusual. But in this case, my image was simply dismissed on suspicion.

Pretty disappointing, but if there’s an ad agency creative director out there desperately looking for an original image to promote the world’s best golf ball, here’s my email.

©Natural Images 2017



©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.


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