The competition attracted over 15000 entries from over 60 countries, with the Conservation Documentary Award given for a set of images and captions telling a bird-related conservation story in a photo-journalistic style.
Nick’s portfolio showed how nest boxes, rescue and ringing work are helping to support and monitor Swifts in the UK, whose numbers have declined by 50% in the last 20 years. His work was helped by Bradford-on-Avon Swift Group, Action for Swifts, Swift Conservation and several Swift enthusiasts across England.
BPOTY has just launched a new Bird conservation charity, Birds on the Brink partly funded by the competition, and in the month that Swifts, much loved summer visitors to the UK that have just arrived back from wintering in Africa, the charity’s first donation is to Hampshire Swifts to fund the installation of Swift nestboxes at Winchester cathedral.
Here are the winning images:
Common Swifts originally nested in tree-holes but have nested almost entirely in our buildings for centuries and have become dependent on us for their survival. This swift is inspecting an old cottage roof to find a nesting space under its traditional tiles, where three pairs went on to breed. Swift numbers have, however, fallen by 50 per cent in the last 20 years across the UK, partly as the supply of suitable nest sites has fallen as old roofs are renovated and entrances are sealed, while newly built properties rarely offer nest spaces or access.
A screaming party of Common Swifts fly around the church bell tower at dusk in Worlington, Suffolk, in a spectacular, noisy ritual that highlights a notable conservation success. Swifts almost completely disappeared from the village ten years ago, when the last cottage where a few pairs still nested was due for demolition. But mercifully the colony survived and has even increased by moving to the village church, where more than 25 pairs now breed every year.
The sudden upswing in Common Swift fortunes at Worlington is thanks to the installation by a local swift charity of more than 40 nestboxes behind the window louvres since 2009. It is also thanks to the efforts of bird-ringer Simon Evans, who has recorded up to 70 chicks being raised in the boxes in good summers recently.
Fitting nestboxes of many kinds in churches and on other buildings old and new has really helped the recovery of Common Swift populations in several UK towns and villages. Watching these remarkable birds whizzing to and from their nests at high speed is a wonderfully rewarding sight, though challenging to photograph!
Judith Wakelam, who raised the alarm about the decline of Common Swifts in Worlington and enlisted the help of her local swift charity, hand-feeds orphaned Common Swift chicks from across East Anglia with insect food in her home in the village.
Every year, Judith releases around 50 orphaned Common Swift chicks when they are ready to fly – ones she has fostered and fed with insects at her home. Conservation – much of it done by homeowners and local swift groups, as well as large wildlife charities – really can make a difference to the prospects of threatened wildlife.
BPOTY judge and member of the Birds on the Brink advisory panel Mark Carwardine shares his thoughts on the decline in the UK Swift population and announces the winner of the BPOTY Conservation Documentary Award 2020:
Photographer and film maker Nick Upton from the United Kingdom is the inaugural winner of the Bird Photographer of the Year Conservation Documentary Award for 2020. Nick supplied a fantastic series of images depicting the decline of the UK Swift population and the local conservation projects that are being undertaken to help halt the decline in Swift numbers. In this video Nick explains how he took the images:
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