Having spent the majority of the past week parked on my couch nursing a nasty cold I have used the time to read, play my guitar, watch some funny YouTube programs and to make sure I have backed up my entire 2023 photo library on external hard drives.

As I went through my photos each encounter I’d experienced came back to life.  Now, as the year comes to an end I thought I would share some of my favourites.

The year 2023 began, as it has done for the past decade, with my almost daily visits to an area I call ‘snowy owl country’ – vast farmland west of Elmira, Ontario.

Over the winter I spent a lot of time with this female snowy owl. After about a dozen encounters I was able to approach her and sit down in the snow to observe. I got to learn her habits. Here she is flying to one of her favourite trees from where she would hunt field mice and voles.

Three weeks and many more encounters later I found her along the same fence line.  On this occasion she targeted a pigeon a few hundred metres away, catching it in mid-air before bringing it back to within 35 metres of my position. There she began eating her prey.

When two barking dogs from the nearby farm sprinted towards us she took her meal and flew past me to a more secure dining area. These dogs know me and know I carry treats for them – hence their excited approach.

During the spring I visited a bald eagle nest frequently. One day, while waiting for an eagle to take flight, I spotted this American mink emerge from its den – curiously located right below the bald eagle nest – and run across a sandbank right in front of me.  It was a completely unexpected encounter. 

While out looking for coyotes one summer day this male deer suddenly appeared in an adjacent field. It stared at me long enough to snap a few pictures before turning and running into nearby woods. 

On a slow drive through a rural area one summer day I looked up ahead of me to see some raccoon kits exploring a roadside tree. They took their time and I was in no hurry. Ultimately, they descended and crossed the road in front of me headed towards a pond. Cute little critters!

Hespeler Mill Pond in Cambridge is a great place to sit and observe many different bird species. I walked to my favourite viewing spot on this September afternoon and planted my gear on the grass next to the water then sat down with my binoculars. I hoped a  great egret might come near. It didn’t take long before this one chose to fish near me. 

There’s a small pond south of Cambridge where numerous bird species might be found. This blue heron is often there foraging. The light was perfect one autumn day as I watched it catch numerous fish. Thankfully, he turned towards me with this one.

Over the summer I watched a pair of coyote pups grow and become independent of their parents. Indeed, I rarely saw the adults. By October this pup seemed to recognize me and my car due to the frequency of our encounters. It would wander out of the nearby cornfields and hunt along the road side as I took pictures. But when another car appeared it would go back into the cornfield and hide.

A few minutes after I had snapped the preceding image the coyote vanished again as a car approached. While I waited maybe ten minutes for it to re-appear I caught movement behind me through my rear view mirror. The coyote was standing in the road ten metres away looking at me.  

It then wandered along the edge of the road  listening for rodents in the ditch. Suddenly it leaped into the air and pounced on a mouse. After devouring its catch the coyote then crossed the road to avoid another car which had stopped. Then it vanished once again. 

My visits to a nearby bald eagle nest have been less than usual in 2023 largely due to my obsession with the coyote family I have been observing. But on this rare morning visit I was fortunate to capture an adult eagle take off from this pine tree. It was memorable mostly because I waited less than five minutes for some action. That’s quite a contrast to the usual waiting time of two or three hours!

It was a wonderful year for nature photography and I look forward to seeing what the coming year might bring.

Thanks to all of you who have expressed your enjoyment of my images throughout the year. It means a lot. And, I hope you experience good fortune when it comes to your own wildlife encounters.  Happy holidays everyone!



  1. Patricia Bruce

    Thanks Paul for another one of blogs and great photos, really enjoy the stories along with the photos. Love nature so it’s so enjoyable. Looking forward to more in 2024
    Sorry you were nursing a cold, it’s a virus that really is affecting a lot of people.
    Wishing you a Blessed Christmas and all the very best in 2024.

  2. Inge Johnson

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks so much for sharing your images and accompanying stories in your blog. They are so inspiring!

    Wishing you a fabulous Christmas with family and friends and a truly satisfying 2024!

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Inge, thanks for your kind words. I hope I am inspiring people to explore their surroundings because, as you can see, we are but one part of this thing we call nature. Have a great Christmas Inge!

  3. Craig

    Hi Paul, sorry to hear you are nursing a cold but you are sure making us all feel the warmth from natures beauty with the amazing photo summary from 2023. 😀. Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season – thank you for the much enjoyed break I find from reading your well written blogs and amazing photo’s throughout this past year. Cheers!

    1. Paul E Gains

      It’s wonderful to read your comments, Craig. We are a small part of nature and what we can experience and observe in our surroundings will amaze me forever. I am always inspired when I hear folks enjoy my images whether in a magazine, newspaper or here on my website. So, thank you for taking the time to write. Merry Christmas!

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