The array of wildlife in the North East is matched by the talent of the region’s photographers seeking that special shot. Environment Editor Tony Henderson, who helped judged the North East Wildlife Photography, reports
July is the month Emily Murdoch has been waiting for.
Her photograph of a Highland cow owned by the neighbour of the County Durham farm where she lives is the picture for July on a popular calendar and last Thursday saw the results unveiled at the Great North Museum in Newcastle of the 2014 North East Wildlife Photography competition.
With 1,289 entries, the field was fiercely contested, but Emily came away with a second and third placing in the botanical section.
She did not have to go far for her pictures. Emily, a dental technician who works in Sunderland, lives on her father’s farm at Cornsay.
Her second-placed image of daisies, titled Sun Worshippers, was taken 10ft from her back door. Emily’s commended picture, Fairy Landing Station, featuring porcelain fungus, was captured in woodland on the farm.
“When I walk around the farm I usually take my camera,” says Emily, who grew up on a farm in Lanchester in County Durham.
Retired roofer Keith Cochrane’s commended shot in the Wildlife Portrait category was of a cuckoo in flight at Druridge Bay in Northumberland.
Keith, from Blyth, says: “I was told by friends that there was a cuckoo on the bay and I found it hopping from fence post to fence post, feeding on caterpillars.
“You hear cuckoos but it is not often you see one. But this was a young bird which allowed me to get quite close and I felt privileged to get the shot.”
Overall competition winner Leslie Holburn, from Ebchester in County Durham, also took second place in the Wildlife in Action section with his photograph of a running hare, taken at Castleside, near Consett in County Durham.
He says: “I saw the hare in a field and spent an hour and a half watching it. Eventually it got up and just ran straight towards me.”
While the photographers were watching the wildlife, it seems that the wildlife was also watching them.
The runner-up in the Wildlife in the Landscape category was Ted Ways from Middlesbrough with his image titled The Stare, which shows a cormorant fixing the camera with a piercing look on the Farne Islands.
The aptly-named Terence Stares, also from Middlesbrough, was second in Wildlife Portrait with his image of a multiple-eyed jumping spider, encountered on Teesside and wittily titled I Only Have Eyes For You.
The imperious gaze of a female eider duck was the subject of the picture by Brian Matthews, of Hartlepool, while Sandie Carter from Rowlands Gill captured a seal peering into the camera off the Farne Islands.
The Farne Islands again featured for the commended shot by Tom Pugh of New Hartley, of a puffin in flight.
Also commended was Brian Bolt from Consett for his study of a red grouse “on the edge” at Townfield in Hunstanworth in County Durham.
In the Young Person’s section, Lauren Forster from Guisborough was second with her common blue butterflies and Morpeth’s Jonathan Farooqi was commended for his adder, taken at Branton gravel pits in Northumberland.
There were also striking images from Nick Plunkett from Cornhill on Tweed for his study of swans against an icy winter backdrop and a picture of two foxes, titled Foxtrot, by Peter Matthews from Morpeth.
The competition is organised by the wildlife trusts of Durham, Northumberland and Tees Valley, and the Natural History Society of Northumbria.
A member of council for the society is Prof Jimmy Steel, who is also head of Newcastle University Dental School, and who “compered” the awards ceremony.
He says: “The 1,289 entries represent a phenomenal effort and the quality was staggering. There is such a growing interest in wildlife and wildlife photography.”
Society director James Littlewood says: “We were overwhelmed by the number and quality of the entries in what is now a prestigious event. There has been a marked improvement in standards as digital cameras have improved and come down in price.
“Photographers often spend a lot of time watching and waiting and the more people who watch wildlife, the more we learn about wildlife behaviour.
“Most of the winning images are of species which are not rare - they are quite common throughout the region and can be easily spotted in local parks and back gardens which really does re-enforce the message that wonderful wildlife is on everybody’s doorstep.”
Northumberland based Northern Experience Wildlife Tours donated the prize for the Young Person’s category - a wildlife photography day for the winner and an adult at a location of their choice in the region.
Martin Kitching, wildlife photographer and senior guide with the company and one of this year’s judges, says: “As an organisation, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours thinks it is really important to support young people starting out on the road of wildlife photography.”
Mike Pratt, Northumberland Wildlife Trust chief executive says: “This year’s competition attracted the most entries so far and it is wonderful to think that they reflect the wildlife gems in our region which our organisation works tirelessly to protect.
“I would like to thank all the people who took time to go out and take their photos and enter them and the judges who put time aside to cast their expert eyes over them - not a quick task due to their impressive quality.”
The competition was sponsored by by Nestlé, which has a factory in Fawdon in Newcastle, and an exhibition of the winning pictures is on display at the Great North Museum.