National Geographic

Posted by Ellen

Above, wildebeest cross the Mara River during their annual migration northward from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya. An estimated two million animals, mostly wildebeest but also including hundreds of thousands of Thompson's gazelle, zebra, and eland, make this long trek every year during the dry season, as they seek greener pastures; their navigation techniques are not fully understood, but one strategy they seem to follow is to head toward thunder and lightning.

This photo, by Nicole Cambre, took first place in the "Nature" category of National Geographic's 2014 photo competition, which attracted more than 10,000 entrants from 150 different countries.

Below, ice on a window in Tabasalu, Estonia, propagates in a crystal form that the photographer, Maie Kinmann, calls "Dragon." This photo won honorable mention in the "Nature" category.

Posted by Ellen

During last year's drought, this hummingbird was photographed drinking from a person's open mouth in Rawlins, Wyoming. The photo has been submitted to National Geographic's 2013 Traveler photo competition, which is accepting entries through the month of June.

Heavy rains in March 2013 broke the three-year drought in the Southeast, but extremely dry conditions persist throughout much of the Midwest and especially the West.

Posted by Ellen

Among the finalists for this year's National Geographic photo competition is this shot of a baobab grove near the town of Morondava in western Madagascar. 

Baobabs are unusual trees, with swollen trunks that store water, allowing them to survive long periods of drought. Some species of baobab can grow without soil, drilling their roots directly into bare limestone, and some are so tolerant of salt water they can grow within a few feet of the ocean. 

The trees in this picture are believed to be many thousands of years old, but baobab wood does not produce annual growth rings, making age calculations rather speculative. 

Baobabs produce fruit with a flavor that is described as very tart and grapefruit-like. The fruit pulp is a common ingredient in many regional dishes and is being studied by international food companies as a possible additive to Western-style foods and beverages, such as fruit smoothies. "It brings an interesting and exotic flavor," said PhytoTrade spokesperson Lucy Welford. "Now that we've had a lot of interest in Europe, I think there might be a knock-on effect in the U.S."

Posted by Ellen

"The Storybook Wolf," by Spanish photographer Josi Luis Rodriguez, won National Geographic's 2009 prize for wildlife photography. To get the shot, Rodriguez rigged up a motion sensor that tripped the shutter of his camera, which used an infrared sensor for night vision.

I know this wolf. He eats grandmothers and little pigs and little Russian boys, and I'm sure he's very hungry now.