My picks for the most astounding animal videos of 2011 take us on a journey around the globe. They depict diverse animals in natural habitats living their everyday lives - and they are simply stunning. The footage in these videos has been subjected to varying levels of post-production, and the order of winners would be different if I was taking this into account - but I'm not. For this list it's all about the raw footage of some of the most astonishing animal behaviors around. Enjoy!

NUMBER FIVE: This recent video depicts an amazing encounter with a troop of wild mountain gorillas near Bwindi National Park in Uganda. It shows the gorillas curiously inspecting a tourist sitting in some greenery. I can only imagine how fast this guy's heart must have been pounding!

NUMBER FOUR: The mating rituals of the Australian peacock spider were captured for the first time in this stunning footage from Dr. Jurgen Otto. The dance is complicated and the spiders are breathtaking. If males don't impress the (much larger) females, their demise is certain.

NUMBER THREE: The walking octopus video, shot at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in California. The phenomenon of an octopus walking on land isn't entirely uncommon; however, since they are nocturnal it is normally something that we do not witness. The terrestrial travels of this Cephalopod are a far cry from its grace and stealth under the water.

NUMBER TWO: Snakes in a Cave - a short film by Neil Losin and Nathan Dappen at Day's Edge Productions. The filmmakers set out to investigate the unique behavior of Puerto Rican Boa snakes, who dangle in the mouths of deep caves in order to capture exiting bats. Is this merely a rumor or do the massive snakes actually manage to ensnare bats from mid-air in total darkness? Watch and see...

Snakes in a Cave from Day's Edge Productions on Vimeo.


NUMBER ONE: The starling murmuration video by Sophie Windsor Clive depicts the movement patterns of huge flocks moving in perfect unison. Watching the birds create fluid shapes across the sky is a truly surreal experience, you'd swear they aren't real. The footage was captured on Ireland's Shannon River, and the rainy, foggy conditions are the perfect backdrop for this astounding flight. This piece is an absolute privilege to watch.

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.