A magic moment with a couple of gannets in love turned into a big day for RSPB Bempton Cliffs’ education officer Steve Race at an awards ceremony in London.

Steve’s photograph True Love, which shows a gannet and its mate wearing a “necklace” of red campion, was commended in the bird behaviour category of the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.

Steve’s stunning image, which was taken at the East Yorkshire nature reserve at Bempton Cliffs, was one of only 100 selected by an international judging panel, from 43,000 entries, submitted from 96 countries.

Steve said: “Gannets stay together for life and often show their affection by presenting one another with bits of foliage. In this instance a breeze caught the flowers and they wrapped around the bird’s neck. On another day, it might just have blown away.”

Each year, about 23,000 gannets make their home on the cliffs, making Bempton the UK’s largest mainland gannet colony.

Five cliff-edge viewpoints on the reserve give photographers and the public close-up views of the birds.

Site manager Keith Clarkson says it is the proximity and numbers of birds on the cliffs that attract photographers from far and wide.

Keith said: “It’s been a bumper year for gannets. We estimate there have been about 1,000 more than last year and they’ve stayed with us longer than usual. They are extremely photogenic and we’ve seen some wonderful photos of them, but never one that has achieved this level of success. We are delighted for Steve.”

The awards are organised by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide and have been running since 1964.

Steve’s photograph will feature in the awards’ exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London, and at the Centre for Life, Newcastle, from November 30 until March 2, next year. The exhibition was due to open at Nunnington Hall at the weekend, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, has been postponed.

Copies of True Love are available to buy from the visitor centre at RSPB Bempton Cliffs.