Having being selected as one of the shortlisted entries in 2014, Mat Larkin's The Return of the Nightingale was eventually picked as the winner by the judges for the 2015 competition.
Ever since his first chance encounter with this elusive bird, Mat admits that he has been "pretty obsessed with nightingales", mainly due to its renowned and beautiful song. "It simply cuts through the spring air, sounding like a laser show at times, and temporarily eclipsing the likes of song thrushes, blackbirds, robins and even the gallant little wren. And those are birds that can really sing!"
Mat concentrated his efforts at the local wildlife reserve at Fingringhoe Wick (owned by Essex Wildlife Trust), which he states "is one of the best places in the UK to hear nightingales". Although he realised pretty quickly that he had taken on a very tough assignment.
Eden Shorts judge Michaela Strachan commented:
In the wildlife filmmaking business, we know how difficult it is to find and film nightingales. On top of this, the other wildlife featured is superbly incorporated into the story. Mat's passion is evident and the story of how he was introduced to the bird brings a real point of view and the penultimate line "I track him down and listen, even though the song is not meant for me" really wraps the film up nicely.
You can hear nightingales from a great distance away, but it is very hard to see them unless you get quite close. Nightingales sit in thick bushes or thickets keeping obscured and often close to the ground, while their song "seems to swirl around and come from all parts of the undergrowth".
Despite one whole week of searching every day for a number of hours Mat had no footage whatsoever, and on meeting one gentleman who had visited the reserve since the sixties, Mat learned that even he had never actually seen a one!
After confiding his frustration in his wife, Vicky, Mat endeavoured to use two pairs of eyes instead of one - enabling him to concentrate on the camera while Vicky searched for their subject. Luckily their efforts were fruitful, with Mat recording four different individuals over the course of a few hours!
Fellow judge and experienced wildlife filmmaker Nigel Marven also added:
Mat explored nightingale song and expressed his own personal thoughts and opinions without ramming the natural history down our throats. It would have been all too easy to read up about nightingales and impart second-hand knowledge, filling the piece with references to A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and other such clichés. The Return of the Nightingale left me warm inside and I'm so pleased that someone else is so passionate about this tremendous little bird.
Mat continued filming on and off for the whole season until eventually, one day in early June he did not hear a single nightingale: "their singing was done for the year, and soon they would be leaving our shores once again."