By Kathleen Swift

The 11th Annual Nature Photo Cover Contest drew 100 entries. The contest showcases the wide variety of nature found in our area as well as the talent of so many area photographers. If you like lovely scenery, birds, flowers, insects and reptiles, you will want to peruse these pages and look for your favorite pic. The proceeds from the contest benefit the Wildcat Glades Friends Group, which offers nature and outdoor programing for everyone.

Many thanks to our judges this year: Kerstin Landwer, director of sales/assistant director at the Joplin Convention & Visitors Center (former volunteer and development director at Wildcat Glades); Robin Standridge, executive director at Wildcat Glades; Jeff Cantrell, conservation education at Missouri Department of Conversation and staff writer; Kathleen Swift, staff writer; Kristi Tucker, graphic designer; and Cheryl Franklin, social editor.

First Place

Mike Ritzman caught this blue heron at just the right moment. “If you look closely, you can see the sun was just setting and reflected his colors into the water,” said Ritzman, who took the photo on Silver Creek not far from Wildcat Glades, where he often walks. “It was a good experience. I always have my camera with me and was lucky to get close enough to get this shot. I don’t go much beyond Joplin to get nature photos, but I like walking at Wildcat Glades and watching spring jonquils and the eagles and the herons.”

2nd Place

This northern mockingbird was captured just outside of Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Missouri, by Amy Watts. “Mercy has all kinds of shrubs, trees and flowers that provide good habitat and attract birds. I go there often and walk the sidewalk around the campus with my camera,” said Watts. “I took this photo last winter. Personally, I think winter is a good time to take photos because the birds, nests and winter berries aren’t obscured by the leaves. I also use a telephoto lens so that I can extend my range and won’t scare the birds.”

3rd Place

This young kestrel, a member of the falcon family, was photographed by Noel Gleen. “A friend of mine in Pittsburg, Kansas, called one day last spring and said he had a nest of birds on his property. When I arrived, I found a pair of kestrels and two babies. This young kestrel landed on a fencepost about 15 to 20 feet from me. I took photos as fast as I could while thinking about this contest. I knew I wanted to get a shot that would fill the requirements for the contest!”

Kids Contest Winner

After 13-year-old Wyett Griffin found this rough green snake, he identified it with the help of the conservation department in Neosho. When he let it go, it climbed a small tree and Wyett was able to snap this winning photo.

Facebook Favorite

Ashlyn Henderson was assisting a Pittsburg State University grad student with a bird count on local mine land when she snapped our fan favorite picture of these fledgling Bell’s vireos. “I always have my camera with me because I love to take nature photos,” said Ashlyn.