Thixendale wildlife artist Robert E Fuller has scooped a top photography prize.
Robert’s winning series of photographs of a family of weasels living in his North Yorkshire garden were taken as studies for his paintings.
They feature weasels in the first flowers of spring right through to the moment the young kits encounter their first winter snow.
The series has won the 2016 British Wildlife Photography Awards’ British Seasons category.
Mr Fuller was presented with his award by TV naturalist Mark Cawardine at an exclusive ceremony in the Mall Galleries in London earlier this month.
His pictures now go on display in a touring exhibition and will be included in a coffee table book featuring this all of 2016’s winning photographs.
Weasels are so small and lithe that there have been very few studies of their behaviour and Mr Fuller’s photographs offer a unique insight into the secretive behaviour of these tiny mammals.
Mr Fuller devoted hours to watching and recording a female weasel after he first noticed it slinking through a flower border in his garden in Thixendale.
He said: “I wanted to encourage her to stay in the garden so I designed little wooden feeding boxes, big enough for the weasel to slip in to but too small for a stoat or other creatures to get in.
“Once I had her trained as a reliable visitor I turned the entire back garden into a sort of ‘weasel town’.
“I built drystone walls, piled up logs and branches for her to climb over and even dug a mini-reflection pond.
“I placed 12 surveillance cameras at strategic points and linked these to TV screens inside my studio and gallery so that I could track her every move. In this way I followed her story from the moment she was mated to the birth of her kits.
“It was a real privilege to get such a close-up view of this tiny family through the seasons.”
Mr Fuller’s photographic record begins in spring with the female weasel popping her head out of a blossoming mound of pink saxifrage and goes on to record summer with an image of the female weasel carrying one of her seven kits to a safe new nest.
Mr Fuller said: “The kits were just 17 days old and she carried them one by one with such a delicate grasp.
“It was so touching to see this gentle behaviour in a mammal known for its ruthless nature.”
For autumn, the series features a photograph of one of the male kits looking out through a pile of roots and leaves.
Underneath the roots was one of Mr Fuller’s feeding boxes.
And winter is portrayed with a portrait of a weasel kit looking out on its first snows.
Mr Fuller said: “I was struck by how pristine the tiny predator looked against the white snow.
“It was as though he had dressed for the occasion.
“His whiskers were perfectly symmetrical, his bib as clean as the surrounding snow.”