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Moorland photography competition showcases the birdlife of the UK uplands


The winning entry; a short-eared owl, photographed by Peter Curran


At the end of last year, with seemingly no end in sight for the Covid restrictions, the Regional Moorland Groups thought it might be a nice idea to launch a moorland birdlife photography competition. The competition would of course be open to anyone who wished to enter; but behind the concept lay two things: the people who live and work on the moors, and the many species of bird who also live (and work!) on the moors.


The idea behind it was to give the members of the moorland community to showcase some of the wildlife that choose to live there. The UK’s uplands are home to some of the rarest and lesser spotted bird species, with many red and amber listed birds choosing to make their homes there. It isn’t just the birds that you hear about the most, either; not just the curlews, buzzards or grouse, but the ones that aren’t mentioned or seen much; the dunlin, merlin and skylark, to mention just a few.


There are of course hundreds and thousands of bird watchers who travel to the uplands in the hope of catching a glimpse of the some of the birdlife there. But lockdown had put a stop to this; and in any case, it is often the people who are there day in, day out – come sun, come snow – who get the best sightings of moorland wildlife. These people are the gamekeepers; the upland farmers; the estate managers. The ones who life’s work it is to protect the uplands, and encourage them to thrive.

Grey partridges, photographed by James Little


At the heart of the project, then, lay the Regional Moorland Groups. In England there are six RMGs covering the breadth of the uplands of England, from the Peak District to the Northern Pennines. It was the moorland groups whose input was most needed in order for the wildlife competition to be a success; and we were very lucky in that they embraced it wholeheartedly.


All of the Regional Moorland Groups shared details of the competition on their social media pages, and it is entirely thanks to the hard work of the group coordinators and members that we received so many entries.

Woodcock, photographed by James Cavana


These groups are at the heart of so much of the work which goes on to raise awareness of what happens on the moors; whether that's running the popular social media pages and sharing videos and photos taken by gamekeepers, explaining to the public why moorland management happens the way it does, or sharing information about peat restoration projects and other news – such as this week, when a video taken in the North Yorkshire Moors and shared on the NYMMO Facebook page made the national headlines.


Without their support the moorland photography competition could never have been a success, so thank you to all of the RMGs for their hard work in promoting in, and thank you to all those who entered – and, of course, congratulations to the winners! The overall winner was Peter Curran with his photograph of a short-eared owl taken on moorland above Scar House reservoir in Upper Nidderdale.


Other photos which captured the judges’ imagination include a redshank taken on the Abbeystead Estate in the Bowland Fells; a woodcock, pictured in the North Yorkshire moors by James Cavana; rare grey partridges in Northumberland by James Little and a red grouse on Glaisdale Moor, North Yorkshire, by Mike Crocker.