Top 10 of 2021…And Glad To Be Back!

Back by popular demand, after skipping last year, is my top 10 list of this year.  Again, it was an exciting year for bird and wildlife photography locally.  I count myself blessed with such a diversity of habitats and subjects, and during all four seasons!  And again, it was tough but fun to go through my 2021 files to select but 10 images.  As usual, click on the images to see a larger version.  Without further ado, let’s get going!

10. Bobolink On Lace

Probably my favorite Bobolink image.  And one of my favorite species so I may be biased in including what is essentially “just a bird portrait”.  Such a fun bird, with one of the greatest songs in the bird world!  These guys are in the blackbird family, but with a twist…just check out the dorsal side.  This fella was on a fence post when I first came across it while driving slowly along country roads, and when I made my approach (still from sitting in my car), it spooked off the fence post and onto this dry flower, dorsal side towards me.  Whoa!  Even better!

9. Ice Claws

During the colder months I’m always on the lookout for ice formations and other ice macro patterns.  So much to see!  This was a particularly windy day, and the cold open water was being blown onto nearby branches – and blown into arcs by the strong winds as the water was accumulating and freezing with each passing splashing wave.  With the longest “claw” perhaps a full foot long, this is not a true macro image, and was actually photographed at 700mms (500mm f/4 lens plus 1.4x converter).  Just as well, as I was standing well back and avoiding being splashed by freezing water myself.

8. Eastern Chipmunk And The Last Berry

This one is so new that it almost did not make it in time for the list, but became an instant favorite as soon as I saw it on my computer screen!  I spent about an hour photographing this little guy as it made its way along the thin branches of a crabapple tree, in search of fruit to bring back to its burrow.  With such cold temperatures and snow on the ground I was surprise to see it so busy, rather than hidden away in its burrow until the spring.  It goes to show you, fun opportunities with the most common of subjects are just as rewarding as with other less common ones.

7. Great Egret X-Ray

An image created way past my normal time, thanks to a very hazy day caused by distant forest fires’ smoke having made its way to our area and making everything look much “yellower” than usual, thus reducing the harshness of the sun.  At the same time, bright enough to cause this “see-through” effect on a Great Egret flying directly above me.  When the egret was further away I was not thinking to photograph it, but as it came much closer I could see the x-Ray effect on the wings with my naked eye, so I then immediately pointed my lens up just in case.  I managed three images, two of them with the subject badly cut at the frame edges, and this one that was just perfect to process!  I’m glad I did point my lens to it…

6. Common Loon In Backlit Shade

The Common Loon was my “spark” bird a long time ago, so when a friend asked me if I wanted to go out on a loon-with-chicks photography session on his newly-acquired boat it did not take long to say yes.  A great morning was had, and yes, many images of loon parents feeding their young chicks…but in the end this backlit image of an adult loon turned out to be my favorite.  Thanks a stack Marc!  By the way if you are looking for a fun, dynamic, and very talented photography workshop leader for bears, owls, or loons…do take a peak at Marc’s website to reserve your place!

5. Pine Grosbeak Winter Wonderland

Every year the locals hope for grosbeaks to irrupt into our region for the winter months.  Either Pine, Evening, or both.  Well, we had both during the last winter!  Tons of photos of these photogenic species, and for sure at least one had to make it onto this year’s list.  Pine Grosbeaks are rather tolerant of human presence, and with careful approach you may come within petting distance to them, so when you encounter a flock of 10-20 or more birds invading a favorite fruit tree it’s only a matter of placing yourself in position where you think the best spot for beautiful photos will be.  Usually at the outer edges of the tree such as here.  The festive winter mood to this one made it a favorite of mine.

4. American Coot “Moose” Splash

The third image in this year’s list that is backlit…there is just something about playing with the light.  Where this American Coot was feeding I was limited to only backlit situations in stronger light than I prefer, but when I noticed the neat effect of the splashing action against the sun when it dove for vegetation I thought I’d try to see what I could come up with.  If nothing else it would be fun just to pass the time and at least get the creative juices flowing.  When I go this one and looked at the camera’s LCD I immediately knew I had something fun and unique…not to mention looking a lot like a bull moose emerging from the water!

3. A Trio Of Baird’s Sandpipers

Shorebirds are my absolute favorite family of birds, so it’s no surprise to see one come up high on my list.  Baird’s Sandpiper, although not super rare, is considered uncommon here and attracts some attention from birders and photographers alike.  When one is presented with three of them, all with good head angles and with near-perfect juxtaposition and separation, at point-blank range, well that is a good day!  Admittedly this was, from a standing perspective, an ugly patch of beach, but when lying down flat on the ground things got rendered out-of-focus beautifully.

2. Not For The Faint Of Heart – Great Blue Heron With Rabbit Catch

This was both my most and least popular image of 2021.  I’ve never had so many messages in regards to one image than of this one.  Most praising it, and many others not liking it – not due to the technical merits of it, but rather of its graphic nature.  I can sympathize as no one likes to see an innocent animal suffer, especially not cute ones (replace the rabbit with a fish or insect, and not as many will find it gruesome).  This is thankfully probably the least graphic of the sequence I got of this stunning scene I came across that rainy morning.  I will not go into detail in what I heard and saw, except that apart from the apparent fear for its life the rabbit did not suffer much.  All I do know is this is nature at its rawest, and a moment etched permanently in my brain.

1. Red Fox Siblings Curiosity

After that gruesome #2, let’s finish it off with something a little cuter!  I had the huge privilege in following a Red Fox den a mere 2 minutes from my house.  I spent many mornings and a few evenings watching the antics as they grew up from little curious kits to bigger playful “teens”, and then their dispersal once old enough.  This frame was from one of the first outings that I was watching them, and the kit on the bottom had spotted me and came closer to investigate.  Then another came rumbling over and stood on its sibling’s back for a better of view as well!  This lasted about 2 seconds, and I was sure glad I had my attention on them as there were another 5 little guys running around the place.  Quite a busy mother fox!  I am hoping for a return to the den next spring, but heavy construction all around the site has me thinking this will not happen.

So there we have it….which of these is YOUR favorite?  Do you agree with the order?  Feel free to leave a comment in the comment box below!  

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  1. Terry Lee December 16, 2021 at 6:19 pm #

    Hi Dan,

    I’ve really enjoyed following your work for years so it’s hard to pick a favorite, but the “moose” is definitely top ten. This old coot is still laughing at himself. They are all great, especially the chipmunk.

    My all time favorite continues to be the red fox coming directly towards you in deep snow.

    Happy holidays and keep up the great photography.

    Terry Lee

    • Daniel Cadieux December 16, 2021 at 6:25 pm #

      Hi Terry, thank you very much for the support all these years! Yes, that fox in the snow in Algonquin Park from a few years ago was quite a memorable moment.

  2. David Tyrer December 16, 2021 at 6:39 pm #

    Dan: All of your images inspire me with their quality. Of the images shared here the one most striking to me is the Great Blue Heron and the”bunnie”. To be able to compose and shoot under the circumstances and not be mesmerized by what is in front of you is definitely a desirable photographic quality.

    • Daniel Cadieux December 16, 2021 at 7:17 pm #

      Hi David, thanks for the kind words. Yes, that heron and bunny encounter was quite something. I don’t remember the last time my heart was beating so fast and hard for a photo session!!

  3. Nui December 17, 2021 at 5:07 am #

    Hi Dan, Your bobolink photo and your tips how to find them brought me to your IG page. Since then, I’ve been enjoying your photos. They are always the best. You should organize a bird watching tour.

    • Daniel Cadieux December 17, 2021 at 6:32 am #

      Hi Nui, thank you very much for the kind words!

  4. Rudy Pohl December 17, 2021 at 7:36 am #

    Hi Dan,

    As always your photography is outstanding and inspiring. Every image tells a story and draws you in for a closer look at our little friends in God’s wonderful Creation. Your soft, subtle processing method with pastel-like colours add to the visual magic. Great work my friend!

    Best regards and Merry Christmas,

    • Daniel Cadieux December 17, 2021 at 8:08 am #

      Thank you so much Rudy! Merry Christmas to you as well, and God bless!

  5. Ted Busby December 17, 2021 at 8:41 am #

    Hi Dan,
    Each and every photo a stellar testament to your skill & dedication. I aspire to reach such a level of technical ability in both camera and post processing.
    Truly amazing image quality, and so hard to pick just one!
    For me, not having the opportunity to shoot loons, I like this version very much. I was with Marc in Algonquin a few days leading up to him buying the new boat. Sadly, I missed out on these guys.
    Cheers, my friend. May you and your family have A Merrry Christmas & Happy New Year!!!
    All My Best, Ted

    • Daniel Cadieux December 17, 2021 at 9:34 am #

      Hi Ted, thanks a stack for leaving a comment! I’m glad you like the loon image..lot’s of them taken on this outing, but the “artsy” one came out on top 🙂 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you as well my friend.

  6. Monique Bilodeau December 18, 2021 at 6:26 am #

    Your photography skills, creativity and passion are beyond excellent. I can always see the connection you have with your subjects. I can only imagine and appreciate the way you must have had to bend and twist yourself at times to capture THAT moment, THAT shot! I too appreciate your soft, delicate processing method with soft-hued colours. I am unable to choose just one. Every photo’s details, quality and composition are mind blowing. All are praiseworthy. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family. God bless

    • Daniel Cadieux December 18, 2021 at 12:22 pm #

      I am glad you like them Monique! Cloudy days are best for those soft pastel colours 😉 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours as well! Blessings.

  7. Jim Keener December 18, 2021 at 7:41 pm #

    Masterpieces. Humor, drama, beauty. Passion and art. Congratulations. And some of them are berry berry good.

    • Daniel Cadieux December 19, 2021 at 7:18 am #

      Thank you very much Jim, glad to hear from you!

  8. John Mack December 21, 2021 at 7:37 pm #

    Hey Daniel, First off how did you narrow it down to only 10? Love, that coot or incognito bull moose. Funny I don’t remeber seeing that on BPN. Great frames all around.

    • Daniel Cadieux December 22, 2021 at 6:59 am #

      Hi John, thanks for stopping by! It was tough to sift through, but a fun exercise. Glad you like that coot/moose image 🙂 See you on BPN!

  9. arthur morris December 22, 2021 at 3:26 pm #

    All are beautiful, gory, dramatic, and or creative. If I were judging 1-2-3 would go to he chipmunk (1st), the ice claws (2nd) and the Coot Moose (3rd).

    with love, artie

    • Daniel Cadieux December 23, 2021 at 6:39 am #

      Hi artie, thanks for the comment. I’m glad the “Ice claws” are getting some love, as ice photography in general is a favorite of mine, and largely goes underappreciated. I just may post the coot moose on BPN 🙂

  10. Luke Olsen January 3, 2022 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Daniel,

    Absolutely amazing photos! I especially like the Pine Grosbeak in the wintery scene, Great Blue Heron with the rabbit (nature is wild!) and the fox kits! As a novice wildlife/nature photographer I have a huge amount of respect and appreciation for your work and will use your photos and blog as a baseline of my nature/wildlife photography goals moving forward. Best of luck in 2022 and I look forward to seeing more of your work in the new year!

    • Daniel Cadieux January 3, 2022 at 4:46 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words Luke, and thanks for picking your favorites! Have a Happy and productive New Year!

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