Standard image of the new scientist

The picture of herons nesting high in the treetops wins the drone photo award

By Gege Li

Dmitrii Viliunov, Drone Photo Awards

Taken 30 meters in the air, this shot of a gray heron and gray heron in their respective nests also offers a bird’s eye view of Russia’s vast forests, which cover almost half of the country.

Dmitrii Viliunov took the photo near the city of Smolensk with a drone that offered a unique perspective of this forest landscape and a rare glimpse into this aspect of the life of these birds. Viliunov says he was surprised at how “absolutely calm” and unafraid the herons were in front of the drone, and only glanced at it occasionally as they fed their chicks.


Herons are found in bodies of water and wetlands such as rivers and lakes, but sometimes venture into mountains and even deserts in search of food. Although herons often live near water, they never nest in reeds or swamps, but choose trees. Sometimes multiple herons make nests in the same tree, which often leads to fights between close neighbors.

This image, titled “Where Herons Live,” won Viliunov’s first prize in the Wildlife category at the 2020 Drone Photo Awards, a global aerial photography and video competition, and was part of the Siena International Photo Awards.

The image will be shown along with the other Drone Awards winning shots until November 29 at the Above Us Only Sky exhibition at the Natural History Museum of the Accademia dei Fisiocritici in Siena, Italy.