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camera Photo of the Week Winners 2015

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Jim Duncan sent us this lovely wintery photo of a very proud looking little Snow Bunting at Glenshee, Highland Perthshire.  He used a Nikon d7000 with a 300mm f4 Nikkor lens.

A few Snow buntings are resident in the UK, but the majority are just winter visitors from Iceland, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.  Many of the males return to their high Arctic breeding grounds in early March.  Not because it's any warmer then.  Far from it.  In fact temperatures can still be as low as minus twenty five degrees.  It's because they need to secure good breeding territories for when the females follow a few weeks later.

More photos and info about Snow Buntings here

Dave Down spotted this pupa attached to a Hornbeam tree in his local woods in Ashford, Kent.  Notice those short little moss-like whiskers all over it.  Very unusual.  This is the pupa of a Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar).  A species which went extinct in the UK in the early 1900's.

The Gypsy Moth is still fairly common on mainland Europe, and every so often they make an appearance here too.  The caterpillars of this moth can become a pest to forestry so when discovered they are usually "removed".

More photos and info about Gypsy Moths here

This photo of a Black-headed Gull performing some sort of mid-air yoga pose in front of his mate was sent in by Pete Tanton.  It was taken at a park in Hull with a Canon 7D.

More photos and info about Black-headed Gulls here

Of course some people go to Stonehenge to see the world famous megaliths.  Others see more than stones!  Beryl Ladd sent us this photo of a Kestrel hovering over the iconic monument - probably eyeing a mouse on the outskirts of the crowded circle.

More photos of Kestrels here

Mel Sedgwick was photographing this Little Egret at Marazion Marsh in Cornwall when a Grey Heron created an extra photo opportunity by coming in to land right on top of it.  The rather shocked looking rabbit in the foreground was an added bonus.

Camera used was a Fuji S3 Pro and a Sigma 50-500mm lens.

More photos and facts about Little Egrets here

The first time Anne Roberts spotted this striking white squirrel it was scampering through bushes at a cemetery in Margate, Kent.  Although it was just a fleeting glimpse she was determined to get a decent photo of the elusive creature, so on her next visit she took a secret weapon - a bag of peanuts.  Not sure if that's cheating, or just smart, but it worked well.

Pure white squirrels like this are quite rare, and are the result of a recessive gene which causes a lack of pigment in the skin and fur.

More colourful squirrels here

Roy Flint managed to get this lovely photo of a Goldcrest from his bedroom window in Market Harborough, using a Canon 6D with a 75-300 Tamron lens.

The Goldcrest is an extremely cute and agile little ball of feathers.  With its golden head stripe and custard coloured socks it's the smallest bird you're likely to see in the U.K.

More photos of Goldcrests here

Paul Shaw managed to photograph this beautiful Short-eared Owl at Cossington, Leicestershire.  The 'short ears', which give these birds their name, are just two short feathery tufts on top of the head which can be raised or lowered at will.  Although they're not used for hearing, they are thought to be used as a communication device to signal to other owls.

The photo was taken with a D7000 and a Nikon 500mm F4 lens.

More photos of Short-eared Owls here

Marion Moore took this photo of a Red Kite at the Argaty Red Kite Project in Central Scotland.  The Red Kite became extinct as a Scottish breeding bird in the late 1800's, so in the late 1900's the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage started reintroducing the species.  The population of Red Kites in Scotland is now steadily increasing.

Camera used: Canon EOS 600D + Sigma 150 - 500mm f5-6.3 lens

More photos of Red Kites here

Sandra Monk took this super shot of a pair of Mute Swans nest building amongst the reeds in Horsham, West Sussex.  The male (cob) usually collects the materials while the female (pen) takes care of all the construction work.

More about nesting swans here

Wildlife in the U.K. is constantly changing with new species arriving on a fairly regular basis.  While some of these newcomers can have a negative effect, many are able to happily coexist with our other flora and fauna.  One example is the Tree Bumblebee which was first noticed in southern England in 2001.

It has since spread to many many parts of the U.K. and doesn't seem to have had any ill effect on our other wildlife.  On the contrary, with the decline of many native bees, including honeybees, it has had a positive impact with regard to pollinating crops.

The less than imaginative name comes from the insects habit of nesting in trees, although it will also nest in roof spaces and unoccupied bird boxes.  It can be instantly recognised by its colouring - a gingery-brown thorax, black abdomen and a white tail.  No other bumble has the same colouring.  Queens can be up to 22mm long, while the workers and males are around 10-16mm long.

Keith Gallie spotted this queen feeding on a snowdrop in Warrington, Cheshire.  He photographed it using a Nikon D700 with a Tamron 90mm macro lens.

More photos and info about Bumblebees here

Paul Shaw sent us this photo of the total eclipse of a Dabchick.  Paul took the photo along the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire with a Nikon D7000 and 500mm F4 lens.  It's taken with the sun low and directly behind the bird.  The exposure is locked on the brightest parts of the shot to create this abstract silhouette.

More photos of wildfowl here

Ever seen one of these?  It's one of a small group of Penduline Tits (Remiz pendulinus) which have been holidaying in Devon since January.  Dan Edwards photographed it at a nature reserve near Exeter.

Although these birds can be found all over Europe Penduline Tits are rare visitors to the UK.  They're no bigger than a Blue Tit and can be recognised by that distinctive black eye-stripe resembling a bandit mask.

More photos of birds here

Nightingales are scarce summer visitors, famed for their sweet, melodious, and varied song.  They usually arrive in the UK in April and can be heard singing until early June.  Tony Margiocchi spotted this one at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire.

More photos of Nightingales here

Sandra Monk captured this lovely shot of a pair of Great Crested Grebes taking their newly hatched chick out for a ride on a lake in Southwater, West Sussex.  As you can see the chick is travelling in style.  One of the parents is giving the youngster a piggyback, while the other is providing on board refreshment.

More photos of Great Crested Grebes here

A young, orphan Grey Squirrel being hand reared by wildlife rehabilitator Andy Meads.  Regardless of the whole Red Squirrel/Grey Squirrel argument, it's fair to say that ignoring an animal in distress is not nice.  Compassion for animals (all animals) is intimately connected with good character.

More photos of Grey Squirrels here

Just look at the hook on that beak!  This photo of a kickass Osprey, feathers casually flapping in the breeze, was sent in by Emyr Evans from the Dyfi Osprey Project.  Not only do Ospreys have those wicked curved claws but they even have grippy little pads on their feet to help them pluck fish from the water.  Would you want to be a fish with a bird like this around?

More photos of Ospreys here

Sometimes you really can bite off more than you can chew.  Sapien Bower spotted this Pike trying to swallow another Pike, the same size as itself, along the River Yare in West Earlham, Norfolk.

More photos of Pike here

The Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is found in many warm, tropical regions of the world, but it's an infrequent and scarce visitor to the UK.  Mark Brazier photographed this one recently, enjoying a bit of evening sunshine on the River Stour in Dorset.

More photos about birds here

What you're seeing here isn't aggression, but a moment of intimacy in the world of Slow-worms.  Just before mating the male slow-worm takes the female in his jaws and bites the back of her neck.  If she likes this love bite the pair will coil up together and start to wave their bodies in a rhythmic motion.

After this bit of sexy dancing the couple get down to the main event.  Now maybe it's the physical complexity of it, or maybe it's because they really enjoy it, I don't know.  But slow worm-mating is definitely not an activity which can be rushed.  In fact this is probably where the "slow" bit of their name comes from because mating can last for around ten hours.  Way to go.

Ron Allen took this amazing photo in his garden in Hampshire.  He used a Nikon D2500 with Nikkor 18-300mm zoom lens.

More photos and info about Slow-worms here

Ron Allen managed to get this close up of a Cockchafer by laying on the floor with a torch lighting the ground in front of him.  The light attracted the bugs and provided just enough light to be able to focus.

As you can see this one is a boy.  You'd probably already spotted his... ahem.. extra thingy.  More details in the link below.

How to tell a male Cockchafer from a female Cockchafer

This photo of a gentleman Wolf Spider busy courting a lady Wolf Spider was taken by Nigel Neve.  He noticed the spiders during his lunch hour and watched them for several minutes as the male frantically tried to excite the female by busting his moves.

More info about the romance and risks of Wolf Spider courtship

This Scarce Chaser Dragonfly was photographed by Peter Beard at Flatford Mill in Suffolk.  Peter used a Canon Rebel T3i.

As the name implies, these dragonflies are not common in the UK, being found mostly in the southern and eastern counties of England.  They also have a short flying season lasting from late May to early August.

More info about Scarce Chaser Dragonflies here

Ever wonder how bumblebees mate?  Enthusiastically, as you can see from this photo sent to us by Mark Piccolo.  Mark spotted this pair doing the wild thing in his garden in Darlington.  He used a Camera Samsung Galaxy S5 to capture the action.

More info about Bumblebees here

Jennifer Williams took this photo of a Vapourer Moth caterpillar in Kintbury in Berkshire.

People who discover these exotic looking larvae in their gardens often ask us if they are "poisonous".  We usually manage to refrain from smartarse remarks about the difference between poisonous and vemomous, and just say it's best not to handle them as their hairs can cause skin irritation.

More photos of Vapourer Moths here

Crow dive-bombing a buzzard photographed by Richard Harris.

This behaviour, known as 'mobbing', happens when a bird wants to scare away a predator.  Usually alarm calls and flying at the predator is enough to frighten it off, but sometimes physical contact, and even defaecating on the predator is employed.

More photos of Buzzards here
More photos of Crows here

Weasels are clever little predators. Not only are they capable of running, swimming and flying on the backs of woodpeckers, but they also have a caring side too.  This photo taken by Brian Romans at the Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire shows what appears to be a mother weasel moving its kitten to a safe place.  At least that what we think is happening!

More photos of Weasels here

Tiger Beetles catch their food by running it down (hence the tiger name).  They're very good at catching their food because they're very good at running.  And they're fast.  They're very fast.  In fact they run so fast that when they accelerate to top speed they temporarily go blind!

For this reason they have to stop every few seconds just to check where they are.  According to Cole Gilbert, professor of entomology at Cornell University, when they're flat out the Tiger Beetles eyes literally cannot process enough light, and so without their trade mark staccato running style they would literally run off course and miss their prey.

Dr. Steven Murray managed to photograph these two Tigers enjoying one of their leisurely moments.

More photos of Green Tiger Beetles here

If you were going to place a bet on the outcome of this fight would you put your money on the spider or the fly?

That spider looks like it's got things pretty well under control doesn't it?  But if I tell you that the other insect is actually a Spider-hunting Wasp will that change your mind?

I've always felt that Spider-hunting Wasps are incredibly daring parents.  They do battle with spiders, sometimes bigger than themselves, just to feed their young.  This one must be absolutely fearless because it's taken on a House Spider which is a giant of an opponent.  An opponent capable of sending grown, adult men running in the opposite direction.

The wasp did in fact manage to sting, paralyse and overpower the spider.  Rob Lawton who took the photo said that he watched the wasp drag the spider off to its nest site.

More photos of Spider-hunting Wasps here

The Beautiful Demoiselle.  Jon Valters photographed this one beside the River Carey near Launceston in West Devon.  He used a Nikon 7100 with a Tamron SP 90mm macro lens.

More info on Beautiful Demoiselles here

The Swallowtail Butterfly.  Matt Berry photographed this one at Hickling Broad, Norfolk.  He used a Canon 30D and a Tamron 90mm macro lens.

More info on Swallowtail Butterflies here

A Slow-worm giving birth.  Ron Allen took this photo in his back garden in Hampshire.  He used a Nikon D2500 with Nikkor 105mm micro lens.

More info on Slow-worms here

An Orange Ladybird.  Sarah Wells photographed this one in Aspley Woods, Buckinghamshire.  She used a Nikon D3200, a 55-200mm lens with a Raynox DCR 250 attached, and a diffused external flash.

More info about Orange Ladybirds here

Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar.  Beverley Stafford photographed this one on some scrubland in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  She used a Canon 70D with a 50mm lens, with a 250D close up lens attached

More info about Elephant Hawkmoths here

Convolvulus Hawk-moth (Agrius convolvuli).  Photographed by Daisy Wilkinson on the cliffs at Swanage, Dorset with an iPhone.

What's so special about the Convolvulus Hawk-moth?  Its size.  With a wingspan of up to 120mm it's an insect that's bigger than many birds and mammals found in the UK!

More photos (including pictures of the whopping great caterpillars) can be seen here

Lobster Moth caterpillar (Stauropus fagi).  Photographed by Dave Down at Poulton Wood in Kent with a Canon 1200D with a 60mm macro lens.

With its long legs, alien head, spiny back and swollen butt this has to be one of the weirdest looking caterpillars in the UK.

See what the adult Lobster Moth looks like here

To say Tadeusz Swadzyniak likes wasps is a bit of an understatement.  If there was such a thing as a "wasp whisperer" then he'd probably be one.   Possibly the only one.  He likes to study wasps up close, and in this photo he has lured several to his hand, which makes for an interesting picture.

More wasps, bees and other bugs in the Creepy-crawlies section here

Kestrel in flight.  Ken Irvine photographed this one at Hill Head, Hampshire.  He used a Nikon D700 with a 70-200/2.8 VR II lens on a TC-20E III teleconverter.

More photos and info about Kestrels here

Squabbling Jays.  Jim Duncan photographed these two jays from a hide near Loch Lomond.  He used a Nikon d700 with a 300mm Nikkor f4 lens.

More photos and info about Jays here

This little Woodcock was picked up in London and taken to Folly Wildlife Rescue after colliding with a building.

It was given a thorough check over, 48 hours rest, and some T.L.C. from the team at Folly.  After a successful indoor test flight in their specially constructed aviary it was decided to release the Woodcock back to the wild.  You can see how that went at the link below.

See the video of the Woodcock release here

Wood Mouse.  Photographed by Andrew Thompson at Castlewellan Forest Park, Northern Ireland with a Moto G smartphone.

More Wood Mouse photos and info here

Purple Sandpiper.  Photographed by Dean Eades at Trusthorpe in Lincolnshire.

More bird photos and info here

Normally frogs mate in the springtime between March and June, but Ron Allen took this photo of frogs mating in his garden pond in Stroud, Hampshire on 30th November.

You could be forgiven for thinking that these are just two exceptionally randy frogs, but there are other records of frogs mating as early as October.  To me this picture highlights the bigger issue that frogs are having to adapt their life cycle, because the climate of the UK is changing.  Sadly any spawn they produce at this time of year is unlikely to survive the winter frosts, but its a gamble some of them are taking.

Camera used was a Nikon D5200 with the built in flash and a 105mm Nikkor micro lens.

More photos and info on Frogs here

The Robin.  Photographed by Beryl Ladd in Devon.  Camera used was a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon 55-300mm.

More photos and info on Robins here

Fallow Deer hiding in the bracken at Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent.  Photographed by Philip Bland with a Canon 350d and a 100-400 lens.

More photos and info about deer here

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