These incredible photos of birds are beyond beautiful

A magically moody shot of a mute swan has nailed the top slot at the very first Bird Photographer of the Year (BPOTY) competition, a new initiative held by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in partnership with Nature Photographers Ltd. BTO President and competition head judge, Chris Packham, made the announcement during the awards ceremony, held at BirdFair 2016.

The beautifully lit and incredibly intricate image of a mute swan’s folded wings, taken by Andy Parkinson from Matlock in Derbyshire, England, took out the Attention to Detail category as well as being named as the overall winner. Parkinson pockets a prize of £5,000 as well as walking away with the much-coveted title of Bird Photographer of the Year, but he had to work hard for it, as he acknowledged afterwards, with the standard of entries being exceptionally high.

‘I always strive in my photography to try and produce genuinely unique images, revealing familiar subjects in different ways, and to show that there is always a new image and unique angle,’ said Parkinson, who also won the Garden Birds category with an action-packed image of a pair of squabbling redwings. ‘This is achieved by spending months or years working with local subjects, building an encyclopaedic knowledge of behaviour, light and perspective. I’m delighted that my endeavours have been so generously rewarded.’

Andy Parkinson’s winning image, captured during a two-year photographic project on mute swans. Andy also won the Garden Birds category for his shot (below) of a pair of redwings scrapping over a windfall apple.

Over 6,500 entries were received from photographers based in 40 countries around the world, and the quality was stunning. ‘We upload more than 700 billion photographs every year and, as much as they communicate in many ways, in terms of photographic merit the vast majority are total rubbish,’ said Chris Packham. ‘What we are looking for are those images which have an instant and enduring ‘wow’ factor. And when they do pop up the response is exhilarating, so exciting, so rewarding.

‘To have been gifted with so many of these ‘wow’ photos in year one of this new competition is extraordinary, because photographing birds is enormously challenging. They fly off, don’t listen to a word you say and are a much favoured subject in the wildlife photography genre–hence there is massive competition, making it hard to ‘say something new’ with an image. But the winning image exemplifies this art perfectly–a much photographed, familiar and accessible subject is represented in an entirely new and fabulously imaginative way. Roll on next year!’

Bence Mate won the Best Portrait category with a brilliant shot of ‘Curious Dalmatian Pelicans’ (main image) and the Hungarian photographer also took out Best Portfolio with a stunning collection of photos, including images of a hamerkop trying to swallow its prey (above), a white-fronted bee-eater watching its flying kin in front of their nest (below) and wading birds hunting during an electrical storm in Kiskunsag National Park, Hungary (bottom).

The objective of the competition, beyond simply showcasing the incredible talent of the world’s dedicated wildlife photographers and the sheer beauty of the birds we share the planet with, is to benefit the ‘subjects’ of the images by generating income for British Trust for Ornithology’s conservation research work. A gorgeous 256-page coffee-table book is being produced, featuring over 230 of the best images from the competition, which will be available for purchase online and in bookshops, with a percentage of proceeds winging its way directly towards the BTO to fund its continuing conservation work. An exhibition is also being held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 10 September to 29 January 2017.

This image of a leaping gentoo penguin in Antarctica by Paul Souders was highly commended in the Bird Behaviour category
Murmuration of starlings with oil paint filter to express movement, by Rachel Piper, was a runner-up in Creative Imagery
Pål Hermansen’s image of an eider duck diving was a runner-up in the Bird Behaviour category

And if you think you’ve captured an image worthy of inclusion in next year’s award, the competition has just opened for entries, so visit for more information on how to get your name in the frame. Categories include Best Portrait, Birds in the Environment, Attention to Detail, Bird Behaviour, Birds in Flight, Garden Birds. Creative Imagery and Best Digiscoped Image, and there are two special awards: Best Portfolio (best six images or more from an individual photographer) and Young Bird Photographer of the Year (under 18 on the date the competition closes for entries).


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