Medical issues sidelined my wildlife photography in all of December 2022 and all of January 2023, and again for part of November 2023. I usually shoot 50,000 to 60,000 wildlife photos each year, but in 2023, my number of wildlife photos was a little more than 35,700. In addition, we traveled only one time in 2023, and that was for a few days near Hendersonville, NC. In 2023, I also decided not to drive 100+ mile round trips just to photograph one avian species that I had photographed many times in previous years.
Warblers are my favorite birds to photograph, and I only managed 31 in 2023, in contrast to my high of 42 in 2021. Only 36 of these warblers seasonally reside in or migrate through central Virginia, and I probably could have gotten most of the rest if I had made long drives to their usual locations. Photographing more than 36 requires a trip to see western North American warbler species, unless there's a very rare out of normal range species. I also compiled a 2023 list of all my avian species from my photos and blog postings, and that list totaled 148 avian species.
In December 2022, when I was doing very little walking, I decided to choose my favorite wildlife photos of the year, and it was fun to do, so I thought I would do it again this year. With only two exceptions, I limited each species to only one photo, and choosing 40 photos out of more than 35,000 wasn't easy to do. There were lots and lots of favorites, and I had to make some tough choices.
I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I did taking them and then reviewing them for this posting.
Male American Redstart
I've included a very special photo here. In early June, I found a male and a female American Redstart guarding and sitting on a nest just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I went up there every day to keep an eye on it, and three chicks hatched on my birthday! Here's a photo of mama at the nest. The chicks hadn't even opened their eyes yet. Their eyes were open the next day.
Female American Redstart and chicks
I'm really lucky to live less than 10 miles from the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Rockfish Gap). Six to nine warbler species breed ever summer along the first 14 miles of the parkway, and my favorite is the Cerulean Warbler. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Cerulean Warblers as Near Threatened. Although they breed at multiple locations here on the parkway, they are easy to hear but difficult to see, as they like to forage near the treetops. I've been up there so many times since 2007 that I know most of their favorite breeding and foraging locations, and have taken hundreds of photos of them. But getting a photo of two of them in the same photo is rare.
Cerulean Warbler - papa and junior (first fall male)
Green Heron and mating dragonflies
Eastern Painted Turtles