Amazing wildlife on your doorstep

ENVIRONMENT Editor TONY HENDERSON on how to butter up your wildlife subjects for a winning picture.

SNOWED in at his woodland home during the worst of the winter weather, Peter Tapsell still managed to come up with an award-winning wildlife photograph.

Peter, a retired manager who worked in the pharmaceutical industry, lives in Tranwell Woods near Morpeth in Northumberland.

Birds, attracted to his garden by well-stocked feeders, are a constant source of entertainment.

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Peter makes special provision for long-tailed tits – and this paid off by setting the stage for his image which has won the adult section of Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s annual photographic competition.

He left the previous year’s Christmas tree in a pot in the garden to serve as more natural perches picture-wise for the long-tailed tits than the feeding station.

Peter said: “The long-tailed tits have tiny beaks and they have difficulty dealing with peanuts.

“So I cover the branches of the old Christmas tree with peanut butter, and they love it.”

His picture of the birds tucking in during the heavy snow on December 1 proved to be the best of hundreds he has taken of the long-tailed tits in his garden.

“We also get substantial flocks of bullfinches and red squirrels who we feed with hazel nuts,” said Peter.

Second place in the adult category went to retired head teacher Tim Mason, who lives in Amble in Northumberland.

Again the severe winter weather was the backdrop for Tim’s picture of a stoat, partly in its seasonal ermine coat.

He captured the image after witnessing a life-and-death encounter at Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Hauxley reserve near Tim’s home.

Tim said: “I had watched the stoat chasing a rabbit, which it caught, and then the stoat jumped on the rabbit’s back.

“As I tried to get close for a photograph, the stoat saw me and shot down a rabbit hole. The rabbit recovered ... and then ran into the same rabbit hole.”

Tim waited at the hole and was rewarded when the stoat reappeared and peered out.

Shehram Rezai, from Blyth in Northumberland, took third prize with an image which showed that successful shots need not always feature birds and mammals.

He was walking near St Mary’s Island at Whitley Bay when he came across a cluster of ladybirds on a fence, which presented a contrast of textures and colours.

Shehram said: “Wildlife is my passion. Often the obvious choice for pictures is birds but sometimes you have to go for the unusual and this location was a hot spot for ladybirds.”

The winner of a special award was retired roofer Keith Cochrane, also from Blyth, for his December image of a kingfisher taken at Gosforth Park nature reserve in Newcastle, where he often walks.

Keith noticed the bird fishing at the only unfrozen patch of the reserve’s lake, and watched for his opportunity.

He said: “It was a question of sitting and waiting with fingers crossed and I was lucky. I was over the moon with the picture.”

Snapping up their success

A FATHER-and-son double bid for honours in the competition saw nine--year-old Adam Herne come out top.

Adam’s picture of a robin in his grandparents’ garden earned him second place in the under-13s section.

Adam, from Morpeth, became interested in photography after winning a camera in a drawing competition, in which he sketched a swan.

At Christmas Adam was given a better camera as a present.

His father, David, said: "Adam has a natural eye for a photograph.

"I entered three pictures in the Wildlife Trust competition, but I got nowhere."

Jonathan Farooqi, aged 10, from Stobhill Manor in Morpeth, took first and third prizes in the under-13s category, with images from what was a very productive outing to Holy Island in Northumberland.

His first prize picture was of a burnet moth on ragwort and his third-placed photograph was of marsh helleborines on the island.

The winner of the 13-18s category was Jack Bucknall, 15, from Whitley Bay, with his picture of three young swallows waiting to be fed by their parents at Souter Lighthouse in South Tyneside.

Emily Nisbet-Forster, 13, of Morpeth, took second place with her photograph of a shield bug, which she spotted on resting on her family’s car.

A study of a fly earned Daniel McGibbon, 15, of Whitley Bay third placing.

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