2024 Beidler Forest's 50th Anniversary Photo Contest Results

An lo, thus hath arrivedeth thine judgement for thine efforts towards championing the 2024 Beidler Forest 50th Anniversary Photo contest. Under the oppressive gaze of our merciless judges some of thoust have stood humbled yet firm, and ye merits shall now be shared to thine peers forthwith.


For this year we offered up new categories while retaining a few of the challenging or less represented ones. We also added a new category, one specifically for children, in the hopes of igniting that spark within flowering egos, to encourage them into appreciating nature, and of course for building character.

Here are the 9 different categories:

  • 1 New Life - A photo that represents new life in some form or fashion
  • 2 Worst Bird - A photo of what the photographer feels is the worst bird, their opinion
  • 3 Ladybirds - Any photo that had the main subject being a female bird
  • 4 Neighbor Birds - A photo of a bird that was taken within a mile of where the photographer lives
  • 5 Alt Text - The photo itself was not the most important factor in this category, but how the photographer described it
  • 6 Analog Memories - Past and/or historical photos of Beidler, can be anything provided it was taken before 2023.
  • 7 Flow - Any photo that attempts to express the idea of something flowing
  • 8 Secret Spot - A photo of someone's secret birding spot without actually telling us where it is
  • 9 Kid's Table - Any photo taken at Beidler as long it was taken by someone 12 or younger

Only the 1st place winner of each category gets a prize, but I have included 2nd place winners so that they may bask in the glory of their betters.


Category 1: New Life

First Place: Kristin Rahn

A leaning snag, a dead tree, has a small hole in it from which a Prothonotary peers out of it sideways at you.
Photo: Kristin Rahn

Overall Score: 85.36

My Comments: Right at the start Kristin comes swooping in like a Prothontary Warbler announcing their ownership of the surrounding territory. Clearly she knew what our judges like, and also how to properly add a subtle vignette. Each year at Beidler we look forward not just for the return of our Prothonotary Warblers but the new life they bring into this world, first by hiding their nests in cavities across the swamp and within 21 days of being laid their children are up and about, exploring the world for the first time. These fledglings will only be with us for a few months before beginning their mind boggling 2,400 mile journey down to Colombia, South America. Not all of them manage to return, but as long as enough do, we’ll always have the joy of looking into an old snag and realizing someone is looking back.

New Life Category Award: 1 Beidler Merch Grab Bag

Second Place: Helen Boehme

A fuzzy caterpillar sits on a leaf, it's lunch, which rests on the handrail.
Photo: Helen Boehme

Overall Score: 81.07

My Comments: I’m going to be honest, I’m surprised this scored as high as it did. Not because of any quality of the photo, which our judges gave high marks, but because of the subject matter. True, a caterpillar is an excellent example of new life, but for the last three years Beidler Forest has been assaulted by swarming Tent Caterpillars, dropping down on people, covering the handrails, getting into the building, etc. In fact this year we were worried it was going to be even worse, but fortunately for 2024 it seems the swarm subsided. Still, for the last three years the effects of the caterpillars eating everything gave the swamp an extra month and a half of sunlight, and grasses, flowers, and other small plants have begun to fill up wide swaths of the forest floor as a result. The canopy itself seems twice as thick, shading the swamp even more than what I’m used to. In a way, the caterpillars eating the forest introduced even more life once they subsided, and fortunately it seems like the mental scarring that was afflicted upon our staff for the last few years is subsiding as well. You walked a fine line, Helen, and came out unscathed, unlike our judges.


Category 2: Worst Bird

I need to preface this category by stating that I knew it was going to be contentious from the very beginning, in fact, I chose it largely because I assumed the outcome would be amusing. There certainly was a trend for submissions of the “worst” bird, and it clashed wildly against the opinions of our judges. There was much gnashing of teeth and smashing of keyboards, but overall it was good energy to get out.


No one submitted a photo of a Canada Goose. And for that I am left wanting.

First Place: Helen Boehme

A Brown-headed Cowbird faces you, its feet touching lightly upon the metal handrail beneath it.
Photo: Helen Boehme
"This bird is plotting murder and they're not even a crow."

Overall Score: 79

My Comments: While with her last photo Helen risked to broach upon the emotional instability of our still-recovering judges, this time her tone struck true. Brown-headed Cowbirds, while looking innocent, are actually obligate brood parasites. This means they lay their eggs in the nest of other birds and let those hapless parents do all the work, often at the expense of their own young. They’ll even lay their eggs in hummingbird nests if they get the chance. Can you imagine a hummingbird trying to feed a bird over ten times their mass? Those little zoomers barely even get a chance to rest themselves before they run out of energy and have to get more sugar. While your average bird might lay 3-12 eggs in a season (some birds nest multiple times if they can), cowbirds will lay as much as 40 eggs in the same timeframe, all of them dumped on someone else. There was no hesitation from the judges, readers, and sure, it’s not like the Brown-headed Cowbird has a choice in what it does, but this category isn’t about facts or logic.

It’s about pure feelings.

Worst Bird Category Award: One 8"x8" watercolor and acrylic painting of your most disliked bird by a local artist.

That means I have to paint one of these little blighters for you, Helen.

Thanks, I guess.

Second Place: Tom Reeve

A Northern Mockingbird sits on a small branch facing slightly away from you. It is, for once, not singing.
Photo: Tom Reeve

"These birds are despicable and my reasoning is as follows:

They are dishonest. Trying to fool others into believing they are a different, and less despicable species, by imitating their song.

They are annoying. Staying up all hours of the night caterwauling outside the bedroom windows of people trying to get a restful night's sleep.

They are exceptionally violent. I had one residing in my front hedge that would mercilessly attack me every time I left my house through the front door.

In summary; this bird may look cute and cuddly, but if you see one in the wild be aware that they are the scourge of the animal kingdom.

Thank you for allowing me to get this off of my chest.


Tom Reeve"

Overall Score: 77.71

My Comments: Tom’s rambling diatribe against an innocent woodland creature was not a deterrent for our judges, in fact this entry’s overall score came in at a close second. Mockingbirds are mimics, and they learn a wide array of other bird calls. I’ve heard one do a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Cardinal, a Blue Jay, a Carolina Wren, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo all in succession. And it’s true, Mockingbirds will sing all night long without a pause, causing much ire.

But before I continue I want to levy with all of you, perhaps to build up some compassion for those night singers. For you see, Mockingbirds mate for life, and when a male loses his mate, he will sing endlessly in search of her. Despite his feelings there is never any response in the darkness, and yet he is compelled to sing in the hopes that she will return, but of course she never wi- I’M JUST KIDDING THEY SING AT NIGHT BECAUSE THEY’RE JERKS. THEY’RE JUST PLAIN JERKS.


Category 3: Ladybirds

I included this category again this year because last year it only got 4 entries. Well, this year it only got 3 entries. So what’s the deal here? Do people not take photos of female birds, or are they just too hard to find? Either way it doesn’t really matter, this category was supposed to be a challenge and not many people answered the call… And well, for those that did…

First Place: Steve Smith

Hidden under the fronds of palmettos is a Hooded Warbler sitting on her circular nest, which is sort of like the shape of a small tea cup.
Photo: Steve Smith

Overall Score: 85

My Comments: This year we had a Hooded Warbler build a nest that was right next to the boardwalk, and was very popular among those who knew to look for her. Hooded Warbler females will often stay on the nest until they absolutely have to escape, and this one was no exception. She was very tolerant of people walking by her, in fact most of our guests never even knew she was there. I worried that her presence near the boardwalk would make her a target for raccoons, who path the boardwalk all night looking for a not-yet-despoiled part to poop on. These nests are also prime targets for Brown-headed Cowbirds, for reasons already mentioned previously. The chicks fledged last week, and now the delicate, intricate nest hangs empty. Did she make the right choice by being so close to the boardwalk? Looks like she did.

Lady Birds Category Award: 1 Beidler Membership for June 2024 to June 2025

Second Place: NO ONE.







But I digress.

I will be including this category again for 2025 if we decide to host another photo contest.


Category 4: Neighbor Birds

First Place: Kristin Rahn

An adult Eastern Bluebird perched on a wooden ledge passes a hapless mole cricket to one of its offspring.
Photo: Kristin Rahn

Overall Score: 88.57

My Comments: Kristin comes in to scoop up another victory like a hawk that just grabbed a hapless Bluebir-… What? Bluebirds are common neighbors of South Carolinians. Here at Beidler it’s not uncommon for us to get calls regarding Bluebirds, such as asking how to build nest boxes for them, or why are they rejecting one’s hospitality, etc etc. Bluebirds are highly social and pleasant to look at, and they’re a great bridge for introducing the idea of backyard habitats to people. They allow people to develop a sense of ownership over conservation in their local area (just as long as they, like, don’t get weird with it). In fact bluebirds have a history of conservation efforts going back to 1934, when a man named Thomas Musselman organized the use of bluebird boxes. They have charisma and are all around pleasant, who wouldn’t want them as a neighbor?

Oh, and Kristin, congratulations, this was the highest scoring photo during the entire contest. There’s no additional award for that or anything, but, hey, you can still brag about it at least.

Neighbor Birds Category Award: 4 invites to witness a wild bird banding session with Audubon staff (we’ll be in touch).

Second Place: Christine Jones

A Turkey Vulture in all of its glory glances at you from the side, it's smooth, featherless head in stark contrast with its feathery body.
Photo: Christine Jones

Overall Score: 75

My Comments: Christine didn’t know it but she struck a goldmine by submitting a photo of a vulture, whom many of our judges hold in high regard. In fact, if someone submitted a photo of a vulture, to say, the Worst Bird category instead, they probably ruffled a great deal of feathers. But think about having a vulture for a neighbor, it’s like having your own personal janitor. Vultures are quiet and try to keep to themselves, don’t do property damage, and prevent the buildup of rotting dead carcasses and diseases around where you live. People don’t like them merely because they think they’re ugly or gross. Well they are. But that’s what makes them perfect. They also have big puppy dog eyes. Vultures provide a free and valuable service to you and I, especially since we continue to insist on hitting animals with our vehicles. Be happy if you have a vulture for a neighbor!


Category 5: Alt Text

I brought this category back to give people another shot at it, and I have to say, a lot of people managed to keep their character count below the minimum this time. As for the quality of that content, well, I’ll leave that up to the judges.

Alt Text is metadata attached to images so that people with visual disabilities can still access the content through apps that will read out whatever text has been attached to an image. For this category, most of the points were awarded to how well participants described their photo, which is a totally different skillset and mindset from photography. A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you only have 250 characters to describe said photo. If you'd like to learn more about alt text check out this website.

First Place: Michelle Helferich

Thin, bare branches form a triangular frame around a lone male prothonotary warbler perched on the lower branch contemplating life, or looking for a next meal. The bright golden-yellow plumage stands out in a grayish-white deadwood forest.
Photo: Michelle Helferich
"Thin, bare branches form a triangular frame around a lone male prothonotary warbler perched on the lower branch contemplating life, or looking for a next meal. The bright golden-yellow plumage stands out in a grayish-white deadwood forest"

Overall Score: 83.96

My Comments: Another photo of a Prothonotary Warbler wins a category? Wow. What a surprise, judges. But if I’m being honest, this category awards the most points to the written component, and you know what, Michelle’s wordsmithing isn’t half bad. Not even one quarter bad. She did well with descriptive elements and kept it at 239 characters. Our judges appreciated her efforts and it shows. The photo is alright, too. Even if they only award minimum points, Michelle got high marks in all of the other categories (such as lighting, composition, etc) too. Nice work!

Alt Text Category Award: 4 tickets to one of our upcoming Firefly Nights programs

Second Place: Linda LeFave

A thick vine rises out of the roots of this tree which grows, along with the palmettos, in rusty colored swamp sediment. Grasping hairy tendrils, it winds up the right, then left and snakes around back, anaconda-like.
Photo: Linda LeFave
"A thick vine rises out of the roots of this tree which grows, along with the palmettos, in rusty colored swamp sediment. Grasping hairy tendrils, it winds up the right, then left and snakes around back, anaconda-like."

Overall Score: 77.21

My Comments: If I recall Linda won 2nd Place for the Alt Text category last year, too, only last year hers was so long she made an amendment to it after I mentioned its length. This year she kept it nice and short, at 216 characters. Although if I have any real criticism, which I always do, there’s something very specific about this vine that, if I were writing a description for this photo I’d want to mention for those who are sight impaired. People who, not to be insensitive mind you, often rely on their sense of touch more than the average person when interpreting the world around them.

This vine is poison ivy. Old growth poison ivy.

Don’t touch it.


Category 6: Analog Memories

First Place: NO ONE.

Overall Score: NONE. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.

My Comments: Not a single person submitted a photo to this category. Not a single one. All you had to do was submit a photo taken at Beidler Forest that was taken before the year 2023. The oldest photo pretty much would have won. It could have been the blurriest, most embarrassing photo of one of your children during their blunder years and as long as they were on the boardwalk at the time it would have won the category and been posted online for everyone to see much to your now-adult child’s misery. But for some reason no one tried. Since this was our 50th year anniversary I thought it’d be a fun way for people to show their past experiences here at Beidler, but, I guess such things are merely dust in the wind…

Analog Memories Category Award: 2 Guest Family Passes + a pack of 2 Disposable Cameras (I guess I’ll take the cameras on my next vacation!)


Category 7: Flow

First Place: Victor Boudolf

Fallen trees rest at an angle surrounded by the thick trunks of tall cypress, water flowing all around them.
Photo: Victor Boudolf

Overall Score: 87.86

My Comments: Now this is a great photo, and like Kristin, Victor also used a subtle vignette with lovely effect. And there is a sense of flow, not just with the water but also with the direction of the fallen trees. The lighting is wonderful, the composition is super interesting, and the focus is solid. The reflections play well and the entire image is a delight to explore with the eyes. My only criticism is that there aren’t any Virginia Opossums in it, and I know that wasn’t a component of this category or any category, it’s just that I like opossums a lot, but I understand that I can’t have everything. Anyways, judges loved this photo, it was the 2nd highest scoring photo and very close on the long, pink and hairless prehensile tail of the photo that scored the highest.

And it’s not without irony that the winning photo heavily involves cypress, because the reward for this category does, too.

Flow Category Award: 2 handmade Cypress Bracelets made from Beidler Forest cypress cones.

 Second Place: Linda LeFave

A cypress knee rises out of flowing water, near it floats cypress oil, which would be otherwise undetectable except for the colorful sheen it has on the surface of the water. Well, maybe not entirely undetectable. Maybe it could be tasted. We've never tri
Photo: Linda LaFave

Overall Score: 85.43

My Comments: Linda once more comes in 2nd in a category this year, although this one was a much tighter race. Just like last year she incorporated her wavy-shadow-reflection effect that anyone here of any worth of character knows is a signature of her style and identity as a whole by now. This is personally one of my favorite submitted photos this year. It captures some of that rainbow sheen that photographers are always desperate to call us and ask about. What is it really, you ask? It’s not pollution, but it is oil. Tree oil, to be precise, from Bald Cypress. Their cones are loaded with sap, and we’re not sure what it would do to you as an essential oil other than make you orange and sticky, but when a sunken cone finally breaks apart it releases a lot of oil into the water, creating that colorful effect on top. Very cool!


Category 8: Secret Spot

I just want to say that the goal of this category was to take a photo of your secret birding spot, and yet everyone submitted photos of birds with nary a whisper of a secret, undisclosed landscape. Well, I decided to let it slide, since people probably are concerned that their secret location would be recognized by others. But don’t worry. We already know where these places are.

We were there when you took the photo.

First Place: Steve Smith

A Turkey Vulture stands on the beach, surrounded by large shells. In front of it lies the body of a dead armadillo, a seaside lunch for our lucky vulture. Hope it has some suncreen for its bald head!
Photo: Steve Smith

Overall Score: 84.17

My Comments: Okay Steve, look. I can’t help but feel like this photo was specifically tailored for this contest considering the rules specifically state that we’ll allow a picture of a dead animal if vultures are involved. And this is a beach somewhere so it can’t be *that* secret, but still, our judges found it to be the most favorable. Why? Well, not because there’s a dead armadillo, who I’m sure many would celebrate (personally I find them cute), but no, it’s because many of our judges this year just so happened to hold vultures in their hearts. And I can’t believe that people would know this when submitting photos to this contest, but by chance there were FOUR vulture photos submitted across the categories, topped only by five Prothonotary Warbler photos. Anyways, congratulations on your win Steve. It’s a pretty great photo that highlights the usefulness of vultures. As for armadillos, yes, they can swim, but let’s just say their range is… Limited.

Secret Spot Category Award: 1 Ivory-billed Woodpecker aluminum John James Audubon bird print (19 5/8" x 24")

 Second Place: Kristin Rahn

A Carolina Wren perches on a dead trunk, facing left and downward, its tail raised in typical Carolina Wren imprudent fashion.
Photo: Kristin Rahn

Overall Score: 82.08

My Comments: I’d definitely give this photo the coolest background award if there was one. There isn’t. The bird itself is in great focus, good lighting, and the composition is interesting, so overall this photo gets high points in the technical aspects of this category, however, it is not a vulture, so it really had no chance. Still, it came in at a pretty close second which means the judges did at least with some heavy concessions recognize the overwhelming merit and quality of this image, despite it not being a vulture. This is one of my favorite photos among all the submissions, so great job on another banger, Kristin.


Category 9: Kid's Table

First Place: NO ONE

Again, there were no submissions for this category. Your kid could have submitted a photo of raccoon poop on the boardwalk for all I could care and it would have won. Or is this proof that the younger generation is truly lost? I thought kids were addicted to smart devices, putting photos and videos on Tik Tok or whatever. Is this somehow a reflection on kids? Or their parents? Or society as a whole? Or the conundrum of what am I going to do with this bag of Beidler kid goodies that I’ve been meticulously assembling for the last few months in the hopes of rewarding honest hard work and bootstrap-related effort? Do I put the blame on this kids for this one?


I blame the parents. There. I said it. Last year we had kids submit photos, only they had to go up against adults, the big dogs. They all lost, like, immediately, of course, but still. This year I had hoped to pit kid against kid, just like in the good ole’ days. But oh well, I’ll just have to hold onto these gifts for next year in the hopes of doing a 2025 photo contest. Maybe I’ll make it so that ONLY kids can submit photos. How do you like that, parents? Look what you made me do. Well, guess what, I learned it from watching you! Now excuse me while I run up the stairs and slam the door to my room.

Overall Score: F-

Honorable Mention: Because Given Power I Flaunt It

This year there were a few other submissions that I felt deserved attention if not anything actually worthwhile.

Honorable Mention: Helen Boehme

A leaf, its five tendrils curling upwards as it dries, lies on the handrail of the boardwalk.
Photo: Helen Boehme

Overall Score: 69.29

My Comments: So this photo was submitted for the Flow category, and I think the judges just couldn’t see the relation. Personally I can kind of see it, there is a sense of flowing among the parts of the leaf. But, only one of our judges truly appreciated the concept, even though it wasn’t a picture of a vulture. Personally, I think it’s just an awesome photo. It’s mysterious, monolithic, and another word that starts with M… Uh… Macabre! Oh! Nice one. Yes. That. In fact I like this photo so much that I think next year (assuming we do a 2025 photo contest) I will have a macro shot category, just for you, Helen.

And no, you can’t submit this photo for next year.

Honorable Mention: Kristin Rahn

A Turkey Vulture is high in the sky, flying towards you. Good thing you're not dead.
Photo: Kristin Rahn

Overall Score: 45

My Comments: So I don’t know if I’d call this an honorable mention, considering out of all the photos submitted this photo scored the least amount of points. In fact, out of all of the photos submitted to last year’s photo contest only one of them was scored lower than this one. And yet, this photo has incredible focus with detail, wonderful lighting, the sunlight passing through the translucent feathers and the shadows not obscuring texture, even the composition is interesting. Plus, it’s of a vulture! So why then would such a great photo get scored so low? Because this photo was submitted into the Worst Bird category, and while I know Kristin had no idea what she was getting into when she submitted it our judges did not hold back with their bias. In the Worst Bird category it was opinion verses opinion, in fact that accounted for 70% of the total points in the category, so despite the technical marvel and skill that this photo represents only ONE of our judges scored it relatively high for whether they agreed or not with Kristin’s submission. Kristin had walked into a minefield with this one.

But don’t feel bad, Kristin, after all, it IS a great photo, and think of it this way, your submissions got both the highest and lowest score out of all the submissions this year, and that’s special, probably. You’ve had a lot of success overall so clearly that suggests personal merit despite your callous and brusque disregard for what I’m guessing is now Beidler staffs’ most sacred animal.

Honorable Mention: Linda LeFave

A cat has been photoshopped in front of a row of dark trees as if it was flying. Cats do not normally fly.
Photo: Linda LeFave

Overall Score: 66.43

My Comments: This photo was also submitted to the Worst Bird category and clearly Linda knows me, because it would not have made it past the chopping block for any other photo contest out there. But you know, I was also sort of curious as to how our judges would react to it, so I let it slide. A few judges loved it and gave it high marks, and… some didn’t. But honestly, the judge who scored this the lowest still gave it a score higher than average, and higher than Kristin’s slapdash work in the same category, so some of that charm must have still found a way through. Now I’m not going to use this as an opportunity to tell you readers about how terrible and devastating feral cats are for birds and other wildlife, or bother to mention about how they can spread diseases and are generally neglected for the vast majority of their lives, or anything like that, because this is clearly not a feral cat. So I won’t mention any of that. Nope. Anyways, nice try Linda, I know I personally enjoyed it, and some of our judges did, too. This is just one step down from Dalí Atomicus.

How you can help, right now