THERE was huge array of images for the judges to choose from at Marwell’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition.

From a cheeky image of an owl playing peekaboo, a captivating endangered Amur tiger with her cub to a red squirrel in widescreen.

Judges had the difficult task of selecting their favourite images over four categories; Native Wildlife, Cute and Funny, Marwell Zoo Residents and Marwell Zoo Endangered.

They assessed hundreds of striking entries that captured nature at its best and showed photographic excellence.

Lyle McCalmont won the top prize for his image of a curious red squirrel in the ancient Caledonian pine forests.

Mr McCalmont, from Redcar, faced many challenges while photographing the squirrel, he said: “Getting the light just right in a forest where the light changes by the second is no easy task.

"I made many attempts to capture the best image so you imagine my delight when I finally got the one! ”

Joshua Hood, 11, from Killingworth was the overall junior winner for his image of a pheasant.

Joshua has won a Junior Photographic Experience at Marwell Zoo with their expert photographer, Jason Brown, an annual membership to Marwell Zoo and her image will also be exhibited at the zoo. 

Joshua said: “When I heard the news that I had won the competition and was really shocked as it’s only my second competition that I have entered so to win it is just amazing.”

A number of winners were from Hampshire.

The competition’s Cute & Funny winner went to John Evans from Colden Common with his photo ‘Little Owl Peekaboo’ of a young owl peering behind a wooden fence.

Judge Laura Barwick said: “The focus is perfect on the one eye. Simple compositions sometimes make the most impact”.

Helen Pinchin from Winchester and Mark Fryer from Fareham have both been recognised for their contribution.

They were both awarded commended and runner up prizes in the Endangered and Marwell Residents categories after capturing stunning images of a balancing macaque and a weaver bird returning to its nest.

Ms Pinchin said: “I captured the image as I was watching the young macaques playing.

"I find their different behaviours and interactions fascinating and often amusing!”

Other winners included Tim Archer from Chandlers Ford who was runner up and commended in the Adult Endangered category and commended in the Native category along with Gemma Davis and Ferg Cowhig from Southampton who were awarded commended in the Cute and Funny and Native categories.

Judge Laura Barwick said “Red pandas are cute by nature but Gemma’s portrait of one chomping on bamboo is heart-warming!”

Judges for this year’s competition included the Daily Echo’s news photographer Stuart Martin as well as; Laura Barwick, image consultant for BBC Natural History Unit; Jason Brown multi-award winning wildlife photographer, Chris Breen, managing director of Wildlife Worldwide and Amy Squibb, editor of Digital Photographer Magazine.

One of the judges, Laura Barwick, said: “I think in the three years I’ve been a judge on this competition the entries showed a much greater diversity of species and style this year.

"It shows the dedication of the photographers to think more creatively, to look for arresting images through their viewfinders and take those chance moments to provide us judges with a wonderful array of images from which we had to find our winners, which was not an easy job.”

This year’s top prize is a five day Poland photography trip from wildlife holiday specialists Wildlife Worldwide and The Travelling Naturalist worth £1,000 along with along with an annual subscription to Digital Photographer magazine.