A compelling image of a barnacle-covered football captured by Ryan Stalker off the English coastline took the top prize in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards. The winning image was selected out of a pool of over 14,000 entries from both amateur and professional photographers all competing for the £5,000 grand prize. 

Ocean Drifter
British Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2024 and Winner of Coast & Marine
Ocean Drifter is a photo of a football that is covered in goose barnacles below the waterline. Above the water is just a football. But below the waterline is a colony of creatures. The football was washed up in Dorset after making a huge ocean journey across the Atlantic and then returned to the sea for the photo to be taken. Goose barnacles are not native to the UK but can wash up on our shores during powerful Atlantic storms. Although the ball is waste and should not be in the sea, I do wonder about the journey the ball has been on. From initially being lost, then spending time in the tropics where the barnacles are native and perhaps years in the open ocean before arriving in Dorset. However, this waste can also bring creatures that may survive in UK waters and could become invasive species. More human waste in the sea could increase the risk of more creatures making it to our shores.
© Ryan Stalker / British Wildlife Photography Awards

“Above the water is just a football. But below the waterline is a colony of creatures. The football was washed up in Dorset after making a huge ocean journey across the Atlantic,” says Stalker. “More rubbish in the sea could increase the risk of more creatures making it to our shores and becoming invasive species.”

Also receiving some praise in this year's competition was Max Wood who was named the RSPB Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2024 for his image of a coot running across a misty lake at sunrise. The award is sponsored by the RSPB in an effort to encourage young people to get involved in nature and conservation.

Running on Water
RSPB Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2024 and 15-17 Years Winner
I woke up at 4:45am with the hope of capturing backlit waterfowl images at Frensham Pond in Surrey. I lay down at the edge of the pond and waited for the birds to become active. As the morning progressed, rays of sunlight began to shine through trees along the edge of the pond, creating spotlights in the morning mist. This created a beautiful atmosphere, which I aimed to capture in my images. This coot was fleeing a fight, running across the water to take flight through the mist and rays of light.
Max Wood / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Founded in 2009, the British Wildlife Photography Awards is a showcase of nature photography in Britain and serves as a reminder of the value that woodlands, wetlands and other ecosystems hold.

“The British Wildlife Photography Awards brings to light the spectacular tapestry of Britain’s natural heritage,” says Will Nicholls, Director of BWPA. “This collection is more than just a gallery of images; it is a celebration, a reminder of the enduring beauty of British wildlife and a call to preserve the natural spaces that we are so fortunate to have in Britain.”

Here's a look at some of the phenomenal photos in this year's competition:

The Tightrope Walker
Habitat | Winner
In this image, you can see a red fox walking along a tree branch at a considerable height from the ground, demonstrating that these animals are true tightrope walkers of nature. The fox is perfectly framed between the branches and its silhouette is subtly highlighted by the sun’s rays falling on it.
Daniel Valverde Fernandez  / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Beech for the Sky
Wild Woods | Winner
Beech tree grove near Dunbar in East Lothian. When the leaves are almost gone, the branches show their ‘canopy shyness’ – a phenomenon observed in many species of trees in which the crowns of mature trees do not touch each other. In doing so, the trees form a canopy that has channel-like gaps which, when photographed from below, appear to create an intricate network of channels between the respective canopies. Besides the wondrous vision you are afforded, it’s also just a great excuse to lie down in the forest.
Graham Niven / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Three Frogs in Amplexus
Animal Behaviour | Winner
Every March, our garden ponds suddenly come alive with hundreds of frogs that seem to appear overnight from nowhere. I have been photographing them for many years, and I am always fascinated and amused by their antics. Here, there has been a competition to mate with a female. For a lot of the time there is a frenzy of activity, but sometimes they freeze long enough to get a shot. The image is taken with the lens at water level, and the background is a distant larch tree.
Ian Mason / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Tiny Forest Balloons
Botanical Britain | Winner
The world of slime moulds is fascinating. They’re neither plants nor fungi. I had never noticed them before, but when I set out to find some to photograph, I discovered that, if conditions are right, they’re everywhere! They’re just so small that if you are not looking for them you will simply overlook them. Each head on these fruiting bodies is approximately 1mm wide, and the depth of field when shooting at such high magnification is so shallow that focus stacking is required. This image was made using 160 images, each focused on a different area of the scene, then stacked together to create one highly detailed image.
Jason McCombe / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Three’s a Crowd
Hidden Britain | Winner
I think I have a slight addiction to photographing blue butterflies – I just love them! They are such beautiful little insects, and they enhance any wildflower meadow or garden they inhabit. Blues are quite social insects, and they can often be found roosting quite close together – or even on the same grass or flower. I found a dozen or so blues all resting close together one evening last summer. Using a shallow depth of field, I decided to ‘frame’ my subject with two out- of-focus butterflies to help add impact and context to my shot. The warm, evening light produced a vibrant natural background.
Ross Hoddinott / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Starling at Night
Animal Portraits | Winner
I had been observing the birds in my garden as they fed on sunflower seeds and peanuts from the feeder for some time. I aimed to capture the sense of movement and flight patterns in my images while still preserving the fine details of the birds. To achieve this, I used flash in rear curtain sync mode. Timing was crucial, and I needed to carefully balance the flash with the ambient light to record the starling’s trail at the beginning of the exposure, while a brief burst of flash would freeze the bird in mid-flight.
Mark Williams / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Raven Above Arran
Black & White | Winner
This is a shot from the top of Goatfell on the Isle of Arran, which is the highest mountain on the island. It was a lovely hike to the top on a bright summer afternoon after arriving by ferry a few hours before. When we reached the summit, it was deserted except for two ravens who seemed to dominate the peak. We sat for some time, observing these birds gliding over Arran just as gracefully as any bird of prey. It’s a harsh yet beautiful world they inhabit. This image is in black and white and consists of two shots, focus stacked.
Robin Dodd / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Dancing in the Dark
Animal Behaviour | Runner-up
‘Dancing in the Dark’ portrays a pair of great crested grebes engaged in their courtship ritual at sunrise. This carefully choreographed dance serves to strengthen their bonds during the mating season. The photo was captured in the early hours on an urban lake in North Tyneside – once a former mining site, now thriving with wildlife, it hosts up to four separate pairs of grebes, competing for territory and displaying their flamboyant courtship style. Spending considerable time with these birds, I’ve learned to anticipate their courtship ‘dances’ and be prepared to capture these beautiful moments.
Matthew Glover / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
What’s All the Fuss About?
Urban Wildlife | Runner-up
In this photograph, the Arctic walrus who had come ashore to rest on the harbour slipway in Scarborough has lifted its head as a car passed on Foreshore Road. The image is lit by the streetlights to the left and features the town’s fishing boats in the background. Despite being taken handheld at 1/80th of a second at f/1.6, an ISO of 6400 was still needed to properly expose Thor and the slipway at 2:28am.
Will Palmer / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Sunrise Hare
Animal Portraits | Runner-up
I’m fortunate enough to have access to a private farm and have spent a lot of time with brown hares over the past couple of years. During this time, I’ve invested many hours into developing fieldcraft and gaining a good understanding of their behaviour, allowing me to get close without disturbing the animal – hares are often skittish. For this image, I lay low and silent in a spot of the field they tend to follow from the hedgerow. This hare was very relaxed and allowed me to capture some portraits as the sun was starting to rise over the field.
Spencer Burrows / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Daisy Danger
Hidden Britain | Runner-up
This photo was taken in a patch of land along the A30 in Devon that has been left untouched for a long time, making it a haven for wildflowers and the wildlife that inhabits it. Using the Laowa wide-angle macro lens, I aimed to capture this scene. While walking, I came across a flower crab spider wrestling with a bee on an ox-eye daisy. The light was behind the subject, which backlit the flower nicely. However, the spider itself was quite dark, so I used some flashes and homemade flash diffusers to illuminate it. This allowed me to capture the deadly strength of these ambush predators.
Lucien Harris / British Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The Crop Thief
Habitat | Runner-up
It was a pleasant spring evening, and I was spending some time on recently obtained farmland permission where I had observed good numbers of brown hares. I stood at the edge of a crop field when I suddenly noticed this small hare leveret down the tramline, chewing on the crops. I approached slowly and quietly, getting close enough to capture the image. I got down low and fired a burst of shots. I particularly like this one because of the facial expression on the hare as it munches on the crop.
Steven Allcock/ British Wildlife Photographer of the Year