They may be the wildlife world’s neighbours from hell, but for photographer Leslie Holburn they were heaven-sent.
Leslie’s image of two pairs of coots fighting on Sled Lane pond in Crawcrook in Gateshead made him the overall winner of the 2014 North East Wildlife Photography competition.
Semi-retired jeweller Leslie’s gem of a shot also won him the Wildlife in Action category of the competition at the awards ceremony at the Great North Museum in Newcastle.
The competition, run by the wildlife trusts of Northumberland, Durham and Tees Valley, and the Natural History Society of Northumbria, attracted 1,289 entries.
Coots are known for their aggressive and feisty attitude in the breeding season.
Leslie, who lives in Ebchester in County Durham, said: “I took the picture in the spring at Sled Lane pond and the coots were kicking off again. They are so unsociable.
“They are the neighbours from hell. They chase everything.
“On the visit to the pond the coots were edgy as usual. To get four coots in the shot as if they were synchronised was a bonus.
“It showed their typical confrontational behaviour.”
Coots were the focus of attention again when a more sedate shot of a mother and chick, taken at WWT Washington Wetland Centre by Max Eve, who lives near Bardon Mill in Northumberland, won the Young Person’s section.
The Art in Nature award went to Stuart Proud, of Humshaugh in Northumberland, for his study of the structure of a decayed leaf he found while walking near Riding Mill.
NHS worker Stuart said: “I took it home and photographed it in a makeshift studio, using a black jacket as the background and a desk lamp for lighting. I still have it.”
The botanical award was won by Fabien Balezeau, of North Shields, for his ”Sleepy Poppy” picture, taken at Leazes Park in Newcastle.
Paul Stamp, who lives in Bedlington, won the Wildlife in the Landscape category with his image of storm-blown redshanks off Cresswell in Northumberland.
A study of a singing starling at Seahouses in Northumberland was the Wildlife Portrait winner for Alex Penn, from Dacre Banks in North Yorkshire.
Ashington-based wildlife and conservation photographer Alan Hewitt, who sifted through all 1,289 entries to draw up a judging shortlist of 95, said: “The standard of entries was absolutely fantastic. It showcases the wildlife, and the photographers we’ve got in the North East.”