15 October 2021

Winning photograph captures barn owl closing in on its prey

A photograph of a barn owl hunting has been chosen as the winner of a leading wildlife and nature photography prize. Judges of the Julian Gardner Award 2021, run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, selected the image by Steve Clayton from Lincolnshire.

Hunting The Hay By Steve Clayton Winner 2021

“Steve has captured the moment when the owl closes in on its prey, hovering just above ground, wings outstretched, ready to swoop. It is a remarkable image, and the judges were unanimous in selecting it as the overall winner,” said James Swyer, GWCT Press and Publications Manager and competition judge.

Responding to news of his win, Steve said: “This is a great surprise. I have never won any competitions before, but I have tried!

“I have always been interested in photography and got into wildlife photography about ten years ago. Now that I am semi-retired, I have more time to devote to it. I took this image in July, around 8pm, in a field of fresh cut hay. I was waiting for a fox to appear, as they often hunt mice in the trails of hay, but this owl showed up and began hunting. It didn't see me in the hedge bottom and came quite close and I was able to get the image. The fox never showed up.”

Junior winner

Andreas Schoefer (14) from Newcastle-upon-Tyne won the Junior section of the competition with an enchanting picture of a dozing seal. He was 13 when he took the winning shot, on a boat trip to the Farne Islands.

Andreas Schoefer Junior Winner 2021

“The boat took us close to a small group of seals,” said Andreas, “and I used a telephoto lens. I have been taking photographs since I was 11. I started getting interested when I got my first phone, but I always had an interest in nature. I love to take photographs of birds the most, but I also like mammals.”

The Julian Gardner Awards are run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and are open to amateur photographers. Entries should relate to the GWCT’s research and advisory work, taking in all aspects of the UK countryside, including the people who live and work there, game, wildlife, habitats and landscape.

“Congratulations to both of our worthy winners. They beat off some stiff competition from an outstanding range of entries this year,” commented head judge James Swyer.

The award was launched eight years ago in memory of Julian Gardner, a Sussex farmer and lifelong supporter of the GWCT, who was tragically killed while defending his property in October 2010. A very kind donation from Julian’s family and friends enabled the GWCT to buy the two trophies, which are presented to the winners to display for the next year. The adult winner’s trophy is a sculpture of a hare, while the junior winner’s trophy is of a leveret, both designed by Claire Abbatt. The winners also receive large prints of their winning photographs, as well as seeing them published in the GWCT’s membership magazine, Gamewise.

The GWCT is now inviting entries for the 2022 Julian Gardner Awards. The competition closes on 30 June 2022 and you can enter at www.gwct.org.uk/photocompetition

The competition is open to all amateur photographers to submit their photographs of all aspects of the UK countryside. There is an adult section and a junior section for those aged 16 and under.

Photos: Hunting the hay – Steve Clayton; Seal - Andreas Schoefer

Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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