Established in the 2009, the British Wildlife Photography Awards concentrate on local UK photographers celebrating the beauty and diversity of Britain's flora and fauna. The extraordinary winning image, 14 months in the making, uses an infrared camera to capture the flight path of a rare bat at night.

The fascinating winning image from photographer Paul Colley is titled Contrails at Dawn. Taken at Coate Water Country Park in Wiltshire, the image reveals the high-speed flight of several Daubenton's bats, with one captured just moments before catching its insect prey. Colley spent 14 months developing a unique infrared camera and lighting system with the goal of imaging this elusive bat's speed of movement and hunting flight path.

"In hindsight, I experienced a huge gradient of emotion," Colley says, explaining his long journey in attempting to capture this single striking image. "There were lows felt during months of long, cold and exhausting dusk-to-dawn sessions, sometimes waist deep in water and often without getting a single usable image. And then the natural highs of those light bulb moments, when new ideas blossomed, problems were solved and the project inched closer towards the potential to win this exceptional accolade."

The competition spans a massive array of different categories, from animal behavior and portraits, to a documentary category focusing on entries comprising six images that tell a single story. All the winning images are celebrated in an exhibition tour, as well as being collected into an annual coffee table book.

Naturalist and author Stephen Moss suggests the competition is an important reminder of the broad assortment of species and habitats found in Britain. "It is a snapshot of Britain's diverse and beautiful wildlife, at a time when these wild creatures – and the places where they live – are under threat as never before."

Take a look through our gallery to see all the winning images, which can also be found in the annual published collection, available online here.

Source: BWP Awards

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