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You’re NUTS about wildlife! The wild and wonderful creatures snapped by Mail readers

Many people turned to exploring local nature paths for their daily exercise when lockdown closed gyms and group sports took a hiatus amid the pandemic.

Amateur photographers who captured stunning images of animals in their natural habitat were quick to submit their snaps to Weekend magazine’s annual Wildlife Photography Challenge in the hopes of winning a package worth over £1,000.

The entrants were split into five categories – Birds; Mammals; Insects; Under-18s; and Reptiles, Fish, Amphibians & Molluscs.

While each category winner received a Nikon mirrorless digital camera kit and a year’s subscription to Nikon Owner magazine, the overall winner also received a trip to the Camargue with wildlife photographer Simon Stafford, courtesy of Create Away, for a four-night masterclass in photographing the region’s wild horses, flamingos and bulls.

Judges David Suchet, Clare Balding, Lucy Cooke, Steve Brown, Kelly Brook and Michael Eleftheriades were impressed with Lee O’dwyer, 67, a retired engineer from Lancashire, who was awarded the overall winner for his shot of a long-tailed tit.

These runner-up snaps taken by talented amateur photographers prove choosing an overall winner was a tough decision…

BIRDS

PUFFIN: Taken by Joseph Bristow, 23, a retail supervisor from Llantwit Major. ‘Arriving at 3am and queueing for the 6am ticket office to open. First in line I caught the boat over to Skomer Island. With only a few hours permitted on the island I had no time to waste. Surrounded by the Puffins was an amazing spectacle and allowed me to capture some amazing photos. I found this one puffin who seemed very tame and loved posing for the camera. As he stared down the barrel of my lens I took my shot and was pleased with the result. I found the black background really provides a provocative and striking image highlight the vibrant colour of the Puffins.’

KESTREL CHICKS: Taken by Jayne Kirkby, 20, from Braintree, Essex.  'Beautiful pair of Kestrel chicks, taken at Wrabness on 20th June 2020.'

KESTREL CHICKS: Taken by Jayne Kirkby, 20, from Braintree, Essex.  ‘Beautiful pair of Kestrel chicks, taken at Wrabness on 20th June 2020.’

KINGFISHER: Tim Clifton, a 59-year-old from, St Leonards on Sea, snapped this captivating photo of a kingfisher hunting for small fish

KINGFISHER: Tim Clifton, a 59-year-old from, St Leonards on Sea, snapped this captivating photo of a kingfisher hunting for small fish 

MALLARD:Willia.m Watson, 64, a semi retired HGV driver from East Dunbartonshire

MALLARD: William Watson, 64, a semi retired HGV driver from East Dunbartonshire. ‘Taken on the Forth & Clyde canal (December ’19’) Bishopbriggs, As I went to take this photo of this female Mallard it stretched creating a nice reflection….’

INSECTS  

BUTTERFLY: Adam Lane, a 27-year-old host at Legoland, from Slough, captured a butterfly perched on a purple flower in specular detail

BUTTERFLY: Adam Lane, a 27-year-old host at Legoland, from Slough, captured a butterfly perched on a purple flower in specular detail 

WASP: Shelia Moth took this captivating photo of a wasp on a thistle, capturing the insect and plant in immense detail

WASP: Shelia Moth took this captivating photo of a wasp on a thistle, capturing the insect and plant in immense detail 

SPIDER: Taken by Geoffrey Wells, 67, a maintenance caretaker from North Yorkshire. 'This picture was taken in my back garden during the recent lockdown.'

SPIDER: Taken by Geoffrey Wells, 67, a maintenance caretaker from North Yorkshire. ‘This picture was taken in my back garden during the recent lockdown.’

REPTILES 

MATING FROGS: Taken by Steve Jellett, 64, from Essex, who is retired. 'Taken in small garden pond when 21 frogs descended to mate.'

MATING FROGS: Taken by Steve Jellett, 64, from Essex, who is retired. ‘Taken in small garden pond when 21 frogs descended to mate.’

MAMMALS 

ROE DEER: Tim Cliffton, a 75-year-old from St Leonards on sea, took a photograph of two roe deer spotted in a field

ROE DEER: Tim Cliffton, a 75-year-old from St Leonards on sea, took a photograph of two roe deer spotted in a field 

MOUSE: Taken by Cameron Parfitt, 20, a student at the University of Brighton, from Worthing. 'I would love to highlight that even in your back garden there are images to be had. This image is of a cheeky wood mouse that keeps stealing food from what we have now dubbed the mouse feeder. It's not unheard of for this little guy to be found inside the feeder without a care in the world stuffing himself with the bird seed.'

MOUSE: Taken by Cameron Parfitt, 20, a student at the University of Brighton, from Worthing. ‘I would love to highlight that even in your back garden there are images to be had. This image is of a cheeky wood mouse that keeps stealing food from what we have now dubbed the mouse feeder. It’s not unheard of for this little guy to be found inside the feeder without a care in the world stuffing himself with the bird seed.’

JUNIORS  

FOX CUB: Billy Evans-Freke, 15, a secondary school student from East Sussex.  'It wasn't a long wait in the hide before the first fox cub woke up from its nap and came out into the open. It was soon followed by another cub. At first they stayed in the shadows of the bushes near the den. But once they gained their confidence they started coming closer. This cub in particular was very curious and came very close to the hide.'

FOX CUB: Billy Evans-Freke, 15, a secondary school student from East Sussex.  ‘It wasn’t a long wait in the hide before the first fox cub woke up from its nap and came out into the open. It was soon followed by another cub. At first they stayed in the shadows of the bushes near the den. But once they gained their confidence they started coming closer. This cub in particular was very curious and came very close to the hide.’

BUZZARD: Harry Maidment, 17, a college student from Dorset. 'This photo was taken near Dorchester, it was spotted whilst driving along and taken out of the back window of a car. It has not been edited in anyway at all, all I have done is zoomed in on the photo.'

BUZZARD: Harry Maidment, 17, a college student from Dorset. ‘This photo was taken near Dorchester, it was spotted whilst driving along and taken out of the back window of a car. It has not been edited in anyway at all, all I have done is zoomed in on the photo.’

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