Happy New Year everyone! I was going to publish this list in late December, but I got an encounter on Christmas Eve that changed the order of the list. Figures to get something so late in the year! As per usual, this list is really a “favorites” of 2023 rather than a “best of”. So without further ado, here we go!:
Some honourable mentions:
Before we go with the Top-10, here are some that just missed out and made the choosing that much more difficult:
Mallard family walking away, with many smiling “duck butts” looking back:
Osprey siblings looking miserable in the rain:
Eastern Cottontail looking puffy in the cold:
Canon R6 + 100-400L II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, 1/800s., f/8, ISO 3200.
Sanderling coming in for a landing:
Top 10 begins!:
10. Muskrat and Reflection.
This industrious Muskrat was busy gathering grasses for its bank-side burrow, and kept going back-and-forth in front of me. One way with nothing, and on the way back with large clusters of marsh grasses. On the third or fourth pass, I clued-in that a certain narrow spot that it was always passing through included the potential for excellent reflection. I setup in that spot and hoped it would go through again. It did.
Muskrat carrying reeds. Canon R6 + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, 1/400s., f/5.6, ISO 3200.
9. Black Swallowtail and Bee.
In early July I made a short trip just outside of town to check out an Osprey nest that has been used for the past number of years. It had three full-grown juveniles still in the nest, plus two parents coming in with fish to feed the brood. It was a productive morning, but low-and-behold my favorite image of that day was of insects! Beautiful ones at that. During a slow time in between feedings I took a short walk in the field, and noticed a couple of Black Swallowtails feeding on the many blooming clovers. I concentrated on them for a bit and came up with a few decent images. When I reviewed the frames on my computer, I was pretty happy this one with a bonus bee, which I had not seen at the time of capture. Always fun to get some extras like this.
Black Swallowtail and Bee. Canon R6 + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, 1/3200s., f/5.6, ISO 1600.
8. Unhappy Garter Snake (x2 images)
This was the year of the Garter Snake for me (sorry those who suffer from ophidiophobia). I had a few interesting occasions this year, resulting in many excellent opportunities. On this occasion, I was flipping logs in search of salamanders. This angry fella was under one of those logs. Yikes, it was not happy and assumed this threatening position right away. Noting the cool photo op, I got on the ground right away to get to eye-level and got a few good ones, including this one. After that, it attempted to strike the lens a couple of times. So cool! But I also left it alone after a few of minutes as it was obvious this individual was not happy being disturbed. My apologies, Mr. snake, but also thank you for the way-cool wildlife images I got 🙂
A very unhappy Garter Snake threat pose. Canon R6 + EF 100-400L II @400mm, manual exposure, 1/400s., f/5.6, ISO 6400.
Garter Snake lunging at lens. Canon R6 + EF 100-400L II @400mm, manual exposure, 1/320s., f/5.6, ISO 6400.
7. Another Garter Snake – Or Make it a few!
OK, third and last snake image for this year – promise! This one was in early spring at a local bog area. Walking along the trail I noticed a lone individual snake. Neat, but I did not make much of it as it was not in a good spot. Next thing you know I spot another, then another, then another! Then the mother load – a snake ball! My first time witnessing this phenomenon. So of course I got down on my belly to their level, put on the macro lens, and began slowly creeping forward towards the action. It was pretty fascinating watching this go on through the viewfinder, and at one point, a few of them froze and lifted their heads – as if finally realizing my presence. All this while others were coming and going between my elbows that were braced to the ground, and others slithering back and forth along side my torso and legs.
Eastern Garter Snakes mating ball detail. Canon R6 + RF 100mm f/2.8 macro, manual exposure, 1/400s., f/9, ISO 3200.
6. Lesser Yellowlegs Tussling For Perch.
Shorebird photography was in short supply this fall, due to higher water levels than normal at my favorite spots along the river. That does not mean their weren’t any, just few and far in-between. A group of Lesser Yellowlegs kept me busy for a few days, and offered some fun opportunities when they gathered on some exposed rocks. These two were sleeping comfortably and peacefully when the one on the left woke up and just started to bully the other one off the rock. It held its ground, and after a second or two they both got back to sleep comfortably and peacefully again.
Lesser Yellowlegs interaction. Canon R6 + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, 1/1250s., f/9, ISO 1600.
5. Macro Ice Bubbles.
Anyone who knows my photography preferences knows that ice photography is something I love and look forward to every year, especially early or late winter when conditions are at times ideal for this. Ice bubbles are among my favorite types of ice macro opportunities, and it always seems the the smaller formations are the most interesting. This scene is about the size of a standard postage stamp, or no larger than the size of a full-frame sensor, so you can imagine how tiny each individual bubble was. The RF 100mm macro lens is fantastic with its 1.4x magnification ratio for this type of work. Mirrorless cameras’ focus peeking feature is also such a great advantage when manually focusing!
Ice bubbles macro. Canon R6 + RF 100mm f/2.8 macro, manual exposure, manual focus using focus peeking, 1/100s., f/16, ISO 3200.
4. Wood Ducklings crowded log.
I had a lot of fun with baby ducks in the spring and early summer of 2023. This included Wood Ducks, Mallards, and mergansers. This fun group of ducklings piling up on a log is Wood Ducks. They were sitting sleeping rather calmly when all of a sudden one, and then all of them, woke up and began scrambling over the log and over themselves. They eventually all plopped into the water below. The reason? Mama duck had just arrived and called them over to swim to a better feeding spot.
3. Red Fox portrait.
Foxes, especially “reliable” ones coming back to the same areas, always brings excitement within the photography community, sending crowds, often mobs, of folks trying to get a glimpse and good photos of one. Who can blame them? Such beautiful creatures! On this morning I drove past the “fox location” on route to do some ice macro photography. I noticed at least half a dozen cars parked, so I was glad that I was not going there for that. After a few minutes of getting down to macro business I heard some rustling in the dry vegetation behind me. Low-and-behold what was there? The fox, looking right in my direction, all to my lonesome self while all the others were waiting at its usual spot. To my knowledge, it was not spotted or reported that day…but I know better 😉 This image is nothing spectacular, in the sense that ther is no action, and is basically “just” an animal portrait, but the story behind it, the nice dried vegetation surrounding it, plus the soft backlit lighting conditions make it a Top-3 favorite for me.
Red Fox watching me. Canon R6 + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, 1/500s., f/6.3, ISO 1600.
2. Least Bittern in mega breeding plumage.
Another “just a portrait” type image, but these really appeal to me when done right. I had seen this species on a few occasions before, but this was my first opportunity to photograph one. And boy did it put on a showing as it came out of the reeds and posed just for me while showing off its gorgeous breeding colours. On this day, the conditions were very odd as the skies were thick with yellow smog, which was coming down to ground level as well, due to wild forest fires raging further away in the country. There were actually calls for folks with potential breathing troubles to stay indoors. Thankfully I do not have this, so I played outside all day! I must say thought that at one point I could literally taste the smoke in the back of my throat – time to go back in, but thank you to this Least Bittern in making that smoggy day a memorable one!
Least Bittern in mega breeding plumage. Canon R6 + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, 1/1250s., f/5.6, ISO 1600.
1.Short-tailed Weasel with Eastern Cottontail.
This one needs to introduction as I have just written a blog about the encounter. Boy, what a memorable encounter that you can read about by clicking the link directly below here: