Prize winning photo of moorland bird took four years to captureShort Eared Owl Captured by Malcolm Mee

With piercing yellow eyes, the short-eared owl alights for the briefest of moments on a fencepost as golden evening sunlight bathes the moorland.

Malcolm Mee’s winning photograph was pitted against a high volume of entries showing ‘moorland and wildlife’ scenes, and impressed the judges enough to take first prize in the Moors for the Future Partnership’s first photography competition.

The winning image was chosen by wildlife photographer Paul Hobson and BBC Springwatch regular contributor Wildlife Kate (Kate MacRae) who said “Golden light falling on this stunning short-eared owl was what made this shot stand out. The moor in the distance puts this awesome hunter in context with its landscape. A cracking shot!”

Malcolm explained how he achieved his winning image: “I have been visiting the same location for four years trying to get shots of this daytime hunter - I stay in my car as it makes a perfect hide. Finally the owl landed briefly on a post on the other side of the road giving me just enough time to get the portrait that I was looking for”.

The five runners up chosen by the judges were: a beautifully atmospheric image of a red deer stag in the mist taken by Brent Hardy; a Peak District mountain hare camouflaged on a snowy moor taken by Paul Gibbs; a family of mandarin ducks lined up on a river bank taken by Steve Green; a brown hare hiding amongst ox-eye daisies and a water vole feeding - both taken by Mary Wilde.

The competition is part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Community Science project run by Moors for the Future Partnership. Since 2003 the Partnership has been working to protect the most degraded moorland landscape in Europe, and the competition is focused on raising awareness of how vital it is to conserve the internationally important Blanket Bog habitat of the South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation. 

Project manager Sarah Proctor said: “It’s wonderful to see all the inspiring moments people living in and around the moorlands have captured and shared with us. It is great to see so many potential Community Scientists engaging with the landscape”.

The winning and shortlisted photos can be seen online via the Moors for the Future Partnership website, and will be on display in the Peak District National Park and beyond during the coming months:

Bakewell Visitor Centre: February 8 – 21
Long Eaton Library: February 22 – March 6
Castleton Visitor Centre:  March 7 – 28
Marsden National Trust Visitor Centre: March 29 – April 11
Sheffield Eccleshall Woodland Discovery Centre: April 12 – 24
University of Huddersfield Library: April 25 – May 8
Gallery Oldham: May 9 – June 2
Heptonstall Museum: June 3 – 27 (weekends)