A photo of hugging squirrels received the most love online to win the Forest Preserve District’s 2018 Preserve the Moment photo contest.
The picture of a mother squirrel embracing her kit was snapped in September by Channahon resident Barbara Parisi at McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove.
Photo contest fans went nuts over the photo and the fuzzy duo had the highest vote total on the Forest Preserve’s Facebook page with more “likes” and comments than any of the other seven monthly finalists' photos. Almost 1,500 votes were cast to select the top three photos.
When she won in September, Parisi said she had been in the preserve only a minute when she saw the mother squirrel with her babies. “You could see the mother was really interacting with her babies, and it was just very cute to watch."
Parisi said it wasn't long before the mother embraced one of her babies, but she missed the shot. However, a short time later the two squirrels "hugged" again, and Parisi was able to capture the adorable image.
An avid birder and amateur photographer, Parisi said she spends as much time as possible in the Channahon preserve. "Every time I have a chance, I'm there," she said, explaining that she is always able to find a good bird shot in this preserve. "If I could bird-watch and take photos of nature for the rest of my life, I would."
After she was notified of her win, Parisi said she was happy so many people liked the photo.
"I hope it made more people appreciative of the small sentient animals that live around us," she said in an email. " ... I also hope it will bring some light on how important conservation is and how fragile the balance between man and nature has become."
Second place in the contest went to Naperville resident Nancy Havener for a soothing sunset photo taken at Whalon Lake in December. And third place was nabbed by Romeoville resident Mark Hanna for his July photo of a green heron sporting a funky Elvis-like hairstyle at McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove.
Parisi receives a $500 gift card for her first-place win. Havener and Hanna receive $250 and $150 gift cards for second and third place, respectively. In a random drawing, three photo contest participants also won $75 gift cards. They were: Karen Krahn of Plainfield, Josh Link of Peotone and Leslie Bolin of Homer Glen. Contest prizes were made possible through the generous support of The Nature Foundation of Will County.
This year's photo contest, the third annual, began May 1 and ended December 31. Almost 1,000 photos were entered, compared to 704 in 2016 and 724 in 2017. Winners were chosen each month, and the eight monthly finalists competed for overall contest honors via online voting in January.
VIEW ALL OF THE MONTHLY ENTRIES
The other photo contest finalists were:
May: Joliet resident Joe Traina’s photo of two cedar waxwings playing tug of war with a piece of vegetation at Rock Run Preserve in Joliet.
June: Lemont resident Mike Daley’s photo of a moist mink perched on a half-submerged log along Centennial Trail in Romeoville.
August: Frankfort resident Michael Fagan’s close-up of a carnivorous cannibalfly at Hickory Creek Preserve in New Lenox.
October: Lockport resident Lisa Dinges’ snapshot of a snake slithering through silvery bridge slats on the I&M Canal Trail in Lockport.
November: Lowell, Ind. resident Mandy Bellamy’s photo of shelf fungi hanging around at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve in Crete Township.