In the tradition of one of the largest nature photo contests ever undertaken, more than 10,000 images were submitted for the "Wild Wonders of Europe" competition, but only two won the grand prize.
Hobbyists, semi-pro and professional photographers from 27 countries captured pictures of European animals in the wild between August 2010 and November 2011, and the jury chose their favorites this month.
The first-place image in the adult category came from Spaniard José Luis Rodríguez, who managed to photograph nine European Bee-eaters nestled onto a single branch together on a rainy May day. First place in the "Young Crew" youth category, went to 17-year-old Frenchman Quentin Martinez, who went underwater for a unique perspective of a marsh frog paddling along the surface.
"Both images are so colorful and have such an exotic look to them -- they could have been taken in Africa or Asia. But no, they are shining examples of the beauty of our natural heritage here in Europe," said the project's Media Director Bridget Wijnberg in a statement.
Both have been awarded a trip to the Norway's Svalbard archipelago this August, where they will be able to photograph polar bears, walrus, seals and birds in their native Arctic habitat.
The Wild Wonders of Europe project claims to be the world's biggest nature photography-based conservation initiative. It began with sending 69 of Europe's best wildlife photographers to all of Europe's 48 countries between May 2008 and 2009 to capture images of its diverse natural beauty. It has been followed by annual online photography competitions focused on nature, plants and wildlife since then.