Shorewood resident Joe Viola’s turkey vulture photo won the month of July in the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Preserve the Moment Photo Contest. The contest continues with monthly winners through December. Overall winners will be chosen in January. (Photo courtesy of Joe Viola)

Turkey vultures aren’t known for their beauty.

But that didn’t stop a photo of a vulture at Rock Run Rookery from winning July’s portion of the Forest Preserve District’s Preserve the Moment Photo Contest.

The photo was taken by Joe Viola of Shorewood. His photo won the most votes on Facebook after being chosen as one of five finalist photos by Forest Preserve judges. Judges were impressed with the vulture photo‘s painting-like quality.

Those who voted for the vulture via Facebook appreciated the bird’s stance and the clarity of the photo. “Great angle and detail. He looks as if he is king over his territory,” wrote one voter. Another said, “He shows us how even a turkey vulture can be beautiful.” Other voters said the bird looked “majestic” and even “glamorous” and that the shot was “stunning.”

Honorable mentions were awarded to:

  • Chad Morsch of Romeoville for a great blue heron with fluttering feathers at McKinley Woods. 
  • Ron Hodgen of Morris for a black-crowned night heron surveying its turf at McKinley Woods. 
  • Nancy Mariotti of Plainfield for a hungry cottontail rabbit munching on greenery at McKinley Woods. 
  • Amy Miller of Joliet for a beautiful blue Indigo bunting perched on a branch at Rock Run Preserve. 

Viola also won the first month of the contest in May with a photo of a sleepy raccoon. Five more monthly winners will be chosen through December. Every entrant receives a participation gift, and each monthly winner is awarded a $75 Visa gift card. Once the contest concludes on Dec. 31, the eight monthly winners will vie for overall honors via Facebook voting. The top photos will receive gift cards of $500 for first place, $250 for second place and $150 for third place. All prizes are funded by The Nature Foundation of Will County, WillCountyNature.org.

To view all contest rules and photo upload instructions, visit ReconnectWithNature.org. To view all photo contest entries, visit the District’s Flickr account, Flickr.com/WillCoForests.