Local photographer awarded top honour for National Forest bird study

26th Aug 2021


Owl catching prey
Credit: Martin Vaughan 


Martin Vaughan, a local amateur photographer who lives in the heart of the National Forest, has been awarded Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) – the RPS’s highest level of distinction, for his study of Birds of the National Forest.

Martin is known to local people through his long career as a GP in Measham, Leicestershire.  As a leaving gift he was given a camera, and shortly after this he went on a wildlife photography course, giving him a whole new interest to pursue in his very happy retirement. 

Martin has enjoyed travelling the world and seeing wildlife in exotic locations, but was really inspired by the wildlife, and particularly the birdlife, that thrives in the young woodlands of the National Forest. Nine million trees have been planted over the last 30 years in this young forest in the Midlands. Martin has seen the landscape change from the black and grime of the deep mines and opencast coal and clay workings to the green of young woodlands.

Martin said: “Over the years I’ve seen millions of trees planted throughout the local landscape, witnessed tiny trees growing tall enough to peer over the hedgerows, and seen local woodlands grow into centres of recreation for local people – and become marvellous places to see wildlife.

“As well as all the young trees, the woodlands often feature mixed habitats, so there are plenty of lakes and ponds, mature trees and standing deadwood – all invaluable for capturing some wonderful wildlife moments. And as my portfolio is the culmination of about six years’ work, there have certainly been lots of moments!

“The National Forest is the most wonderful project to have happened in our part of the country in our lifetime, so I am doubly delighted to have been awarded the Fellowship for a study of birds so near my own home.”

Kestrel Pair
Credit: Martin Vaughan


Dr Michael Pritchard, Director of Programmes at the RPS said: “For many photographers RPS Fellowship is the ultimate recognition of their skill and creativity. With fewer than 700 Fellows world-wide, Martin’s achievement is a testament to his photography. In the context of natural history photography, his understanding of British wildlife and fieldcraft, and an ability to anticipate and picture wildlife to such a high standard, is even more remarkable. Martin’s determination to celebrate the wildlife within five miles of his home in the National Forest is testament to his pride in his local patch, and the exciting changes he has seen.”

John Everitt, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company said: “This is an outstanding achievement for one of our most inspirational local photographers. Martin’s work celebrates the quiet work that has been part of the creation of the National Forest over the decades – make the conditions right and wildlife will arrive. The essence of the National Forest is that it is for everyone to enjoy, whether that’s by walking, cycling, musing with a notebook, or taking photographs. We are all delighted the National Forest has been part of Martin’s tremendous achievement: we congratulate him.”    

Martin’s portfolio portrays a range of species and behaviours of the birds he has studied. His images include a treecreeper at the entrance to its nest with a beak stuffed full of insects while the chicks wait, mouths gaping; in another, a tawny owl alights in the dead of night on a standing tree stump, looking like an extra on a gothic film set; and a pair of kestrels check out a hole in an old tree to decide whether it is a suitable site to rear chicks. 

For more information on the RPS see rps.org