Ecology Conference and photography Oscars extravaganza

Tuesday 25th February 2014

Young peregrine by Geoff HarriesYoung peregrine by Geoff Harries

Celebrating the work of their Ecology Groups, last weekend the Wildlife Trust held an annual conference featuring their prestigious photography ‘Oscars’

Every year the Wildlife Trust BCN hold a conference marking the work of our Ecology Groups - teams of dedicated volunteers who take part in monitoring species on Wildlife Trust BCN nature reserves. Their work helps to detect subtle changes taking place on and around nature reserves and gathers important evidence to support the decisions made in reserve management. The monitoring projects also help detect and respond to other factors influencing reserves including climate change, and feed into management plans long into the future. Part of this work involves photography, and at the annual Ecology Groups Conference, held last weekend at the Belfry, Cambourne, the prestigious annual photography ‘Oscars’ (the Wildlife Forecast Photographers awards) were presented, as 120 Wildlife Trust volunteers and staff assembled from across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and beyond.

 

Once again, the conference reminded me of the amazing skills and deep dedication which these volunteers bring to our nature reserves. And what a range of activities: interpreting the DNA in bat droppings, finding water-beetles in ponds within weeks of them being created, taking some of the most stunning and memorable wildlife photographs I’ve seen, or putting the records on computer and analysing the results. We’re immensely fortunate to have a team who will go out in all weathers, at any time of day or night, to give us the information to look after our nature reserves even better." Brian Eversham

 Competition was high with a large amount of stunning images of wildlife from around the region. First place went to Geoff Harries, whose winning picture of a juvenile peregrine falcon, top, proved eye-catching with the judges. Geoff said: “I was very pleased to win first place - to get good wildlife images involves a lot of patience and being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Watching and photographing the fledging of this young female peregrine was exciting and challenging, and being recognised by this award has made it even more worthwhile.”

 

 Second place went to Bob Izzard who took his atmospheric photograph at Felmersham Gravel Pits, Bedfordshire, left, in early January. Bob said: “I’m now 71 and first had a ticket to fish Felmersham reserve in 1969 before it became a Wildlife Trust Reserve so effectively I’ve been a member since the Trust took it over. In those days I used to travel from Luton but have lived in Shefford since 1979. I’ve been a member of the photography ecology group for the last five years and visit the reserve up to eight times a year. I’ve been photographing since the early 60’s but in the last few years it has become a passion and in the last year a daily activity.”

 

In third place was Guy Pilkington who regularly photographs at Cambridgeshire’s Great Fen with a lovely portrait of a Chinese Water Deer, left, at Woodwalton Fen: “I was delighted to win third prize in this year’s Ecology Group photo competition. The standard was particularly high and I hope to improve for next year. I've been an Ecology Group volunteer for about two years, my main sites for this year are Lady's Wood & Upwood Meadows; I live close to the Great Fen so a lot of my photos are taken at Woodwalton Fen and Holme Fen. The Trust run excellent  training workshops and this year I’m doing the 'Introduction To Reptiles' and the 'Water Vole' courses. I haven't yet managed to get any decent shots of grass snakes or water voles so I'm hoping these courses will help me get some.” To see more of Guy's work - read his blog here.


The prizes were provided by Opticron, who also helped with the judging, along with WT BCN Chief Executive Brian Eversham who said: “Once again, the conference reminded me of the amazing skills and deep dedication which these volunteers bring to our nature reserves. And what a range of activities: interpreting the DNA in bat droppings, finding water-beetles in ponds within weeks of them being created, taking some of the most stunning and memorable wildlife photographs I’ve seen, or putting the records on computer and analysing the results. We’re immensely fortunate to have a team who will go out in all weathers, at any time of day or night, to give us the information to look after our nature reserves even better."

As a whole, the ecology volunteers cover an impressive amount of work – during the last year 162 monitoring projects spanning birds, mammals, invertebrates, plants and photography were carried out covering 72 nature reserves, involving more than 7,500 volunteer hours. At the conference speakers from the Ecology Group volunteers gave talks on a variety of subjects including water beetles and photography, plus there were staff presentations on projects ranging from new dormouse nest box designs to breeding bird monitoring.