The Society of International Nature and Wildlife Photographers has announced the winners of the SINWP Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 in aid of RSPB.

Over 1,700 photographs were entered into this competition from around the world and the overall winner was named as Alan Jones from Midlothian, Scotland for his image Red-Billed Oxpecker. It shows the eponymous bird on a buffalo’s face.

‘The image was taken at Zimanga reserve in the Kwa-Zulu Natal region of South Africa, which is in the Eastern Cape,” says Alan.

“The reserve has some amazing hides which allows you to collect images at water hole level. This hide allows overnight sessions and is well equipped, even including wi-fi which allowed me to post images taken during the night on Facebook! This image was taken about 6am in late September so the light level was still pretty low. The bird is of course a Red-billed Oxpecker which is sitting on a buffalo’s face.

Oxpeckers feed exclusively on the bodies of large mammals. It seems the jury is still out on whether they do the animal more harm than good. The buffalo appears to tolerate oxpeckers while other species will not.”

Alan used a Canon EOS 70D DSLR along with a 100-400mm IS II USM at 100mm; f/5.6, 1/125, at 1600 ISO.

As mentioned, the competition was organised in aid of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) who benefitted to the tune of £2,302.72 from the minimum donation of £1 per entry.

“The quality of the entry was extremely high, especially given the constraints that have impeded photography in the past year and a total of 198 images were selected from the 1,500+ to go forward for detailed discussion and selection of the awards,” said a spokesperson for the judges. “The selection was refined into Bronze, Silver and Gold to reflect the time that any given image stayed in the race.

It is quite apparent that modern camera technology is starting to have a considerable influence on wildlife photography and leading exponents are now fully exploiting the speeds, low-noise, high ISO and fabulous focus capabilities available today. A number of the shots showed quite remarkable settings in their metadata with action captures including tiny details such as insects alongside fast moving birds that would have never been possible previously. Conversely some of the images showed superb camera craft and amazing stability at low shutter speeds – as judges we salute you all!

Second place was awarded to Kevin Nash from Cheshire

Third place was awarded to Colin Bradshaw from Cambridgeshire.