Swooping to conquer: Dramatic shot of gull diving into a lake targets first prize in wildlife photography competition

By Charles Walford

Dramatic moment: Tom Hines picked up first prize in the wetland wildlife category with this stunning shot of a gull diving to catch a tasty morsel

A flock of flying black and white Barnacle Geese, an inquisitive duck staring straight at the camera, a gull scratching its leg and a fluffy black-necked swan.

These stunning wildlife images are among the shortlist of the The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s photograph of the year competition.

A gull diving head first into the water at London's wetland centre helped Tom Hines win the 'wetland wildlife' category.

A beautiful sunset picture, taken by Ian Cook was the winner of the 'wetland landscape' category at the Washington centre in Tyne and Wear, while a close-up of a man's and a duck's feet won Sally Sanford the 'people and wildlife' category at Arundel centre in West Sussex.

Schoolboy Ben Cullen's shot of a Shoveler duck looking down the lens won the 'young photographer' section at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire.

The category winners, who beat more than 2,500 entries in the autumn heat of the competition. will now go through to the competition final which will be judged next August once the winter, spring and summer heats are complete.

The remarkable shots have all been captured at the WWT's nine wetland centres in the UK.

Bottoms up: This trio of ducks were so busy hunting for food they didn't realise photographer Richie Lort had them in his sights

Reflective moment: A gull glides across the surface of a lake in Llanelli, photographed by Wayne Davies

And the organisers want to raise awareness of the threat to the UK’s 2000 hectares of wetlands, which are home to around 200,000 waterbirds.

Ducks and dragonflies, grebes and gulls and swans and otters live side by side in Britain's fast-disappearing wetland reserves.

In winter they are joined by thousands of migratory birds.

Martin Spray, chief executive of the WWT, said: ‘Wetlands are extraordinarily beautiful and the UK has some of the world's best wetland sites.

'The quality of entries in the latest heat has been outstanding this year and the competition encourages people to get really close to some fantastic wildlife.

'Waterbirds are some of our most elegant and colourful animals and are also very photogenic.'

He added: "In the last millennium about 90 per cent of UK wetlands have disappeared and in the last 100 years 20 ponds a day were destroyed.

'All around the world, wetlands are being lost or damaged more rapidly than any other ecosystem.

'In the last 100 years, the amount of inland wetland alone has halved - because of land reclamation, changes to agriculture, pollution, water diversions and other developments.

'Such losses are catastrophic for wildlife. Scientists blame them for pushing a third of all amphibians, 15 per cent of water birds, over 40 per cent of reptiles, 30 per cent of mammals and 6 per cent of fish species close to extinction.'

Photographers can now enter the contest's winter heat by uploading wetland pictures at www.wwwt.org.uk/photo until Feb 29, 2012.



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