It’s been a year many would choose to forget – and one what will never be forgotten. But even amidst a global pandemic, flowers blossomed, birds sang and bees buzzed. Even as our cities fell silent, the voices of nature were as loud as ever in the forests and fields.
At a time when people all over the globe were forced to abandon their travel plans and stay at home, Nature Picture Library photographers chose to ‘grasp the nettle’ and focus their lenses on the places where they live. In the UK, Ann and Steve Toon found solace in their local wildflower meadow. In Melbourne, Doug Gimesy swapped the Australian bush for an inner city apartment, where a trio of rescued baby wombats were being raised. In The Bahamas, watching the ocean through the eyes of a drone helped Shane Gross to breathe through dark and scary times.
The photos are a potent reminder that nature is never too far away, and somewhere we can find refuge in times of uncertainty. What is most striking is the sense of stillness and calm which so many of these images covey, almost as if the photographers were searching for an antidote to these profoundly unsettling times, and wanted to share that feeling with us, too.
We hope these images bring a little bit of light and joy to the end of your year.
Guy Edwardes / Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) landing on Lake Kerkini, Greece
Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals / A mother Eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) and her joey, surrounded by burnt trees. Survivors of a bushfire in Mallacoota, Australia, January 2020. COP26 Countdown Photo Competition 2021 Fina...
Magnus Lundgren / Pelagic blanket octopus (Tremoctopus gracilis) female in full display, off Anilao, Batangas Philippines, Pacific Ocean. Magnus
Tony Wu / Japanese dwarf flying squirrel (Pteromys volans orii) male sitting in tree, portrait. Hokkaido, Japan. March
Andy Sands / Slime mould (Physarum robustum), in mature reproductive phase. Close-up of erupted fruiting bodies (sporangia), bearing thousands of spores. UK. The much smaller fruiting bodies in the bottom of the f...
Alex Mustard / A vibrant Caribbean coral reef with two Reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) and Common sea fans (Gorgonia ventalina) and sea plumes (Pseudopterogorgia sp). Jardines de la Reina, Gardens of the Queen Nat...
Tony Wu / Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus) feeding on icicle formed from sap of Painted maple tree (Acer pictum). Hokkaido, Japan. February.
Guy Edwardes / Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Dorchester, Dorset, England, UK.
Andy Rouse / Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly (Calopteryx virgo), male flying, Wales, UK.
Ole Jorgen Liodden / Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) walking on drifting sea ice. Svalbard, Norway.
Cyril Ruoso / Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) cubs, three sleeping near den. Yonne, France. May.
Magnus Lundgren / Neon flying squid (Ommastrephes bartramii) producing ink, Balayan Bay, off Anilao, Batangas, Philippines, Pacific Ocean. Magnus
Alex Mustard / Split level photo of an American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) beneath red mangrove trees (Rhizophora mangle) above a bed of seagrass (turtlegrass: Thalassia testudinum). Jardines de la Reina, Gardens...
Shane Gross / Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) swimming near surface in halo of light. The Bahamas.
Alex Mustard / Tompot blenny (Parablennius gattorugine) in colourful sea weeds, with fish behind. Swanage, Dorset, England, United Kingdom. British Isles.
Ralph Pace / Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) mother and calf, Maui, Hawaii
Alex Mustard / Sunbeams play through the roots of red mangrove trees (Rhizophora sp.), encrusted with marine life and home to schoolmaster snappers (Lutjanus apodus). Jardines de la Reina, Gardens of the Queen Natio...
Alex Mustard / A Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) swims over a Grooved brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis). Jardines de la Reina, Gardens of the Queen National Park, Cuba. Caribbean Sea.
Magnus Lundgren / Scalloped ribbonfish (Zu cristatus) juvenile,Balayan Bay, Batangas, the Philippines. Magnus
Alex Mustard / Double exposure of a Tompot blenny (Parablennius gattorugine) with underwater sun beams. Swanage, Dorset, England, United Kingdom.
Yashpal Rathore / Schneider's leaf-nosed bats (Hipposideros sperosis) in half submerged old temple ruins. Hampi World UNESCO Heritage Site, Karnataka, India
Tony Wu / Japanese dwarf flying squirrel (Pteromys volans orii) peering out of nest hole in tree trunk. Hokkaido, Japan. March.
Terry Whittaker / Pine marten (Martes martes) running over moss in coniferous forest. Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Scotland, UK. September. Camera trap image.
Emanuele Biggi / European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) peeking out of a snow bank. Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy.
Jen Guyton / A white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), habituated after being fed by locals and tourists, sticks its head into the photographer's car in New Brunswick, Canada.
George Sanker / American Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) on tree trunk drinking in a beaver pond. Acadia National Park, Maine, USA.