Our 13th Annual Nature Contest photographers captured stunning birds, beautiful mammals, a variety of insects, a reptile and, of course, beautiful Ozarks scenes. We thank everyone who is a steward of our wildlife and fans of our local natural wonders. All of the contest entry fees go to benefit the Wildcat Glades Friends Group. Enjoy the photos in these pages and the display at the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center located at Wildcat Glades. Consider getting out in nature with your camera, and keep looking for more of nature to photograph!

Look no further to see the wonders of nature in the Ozarks. The photographers in our 13th Annual Nature Contest outdid themselves in capturing every aspect of nature. Amy Watts, our first-place winner, found her subject in Joplin at Cunningham Park. Being in nature every day is essential to Watts and her photography. Take a look at her photograph and all the other outstanding photos!

Nature Contest First Place

Amy Watts

Amy Watts captured her winning photo of a brown thrasher in a redbud tree last April in Cunningham Park in Joplin. “I go out looking for wildlife every day, and I saw this bird sitting in a circle of redbuds while his mate thrashed about in leaves on the ground looking for insects. I sat on a picnic table close by and waited 30 or 45 minutes until he came into the right position. I probably took 100 shots until I got this one,” said Watts. “I’m always looking for birds to photograph.”

Nature Contest Second Place

Koral Martin

Although only found in our area for a few months, the yellow-crowned night heron was photographed by Koral Martin along Spring River near Carthage, Missouri. “I saw my first yellow-crowned night heron near Wildcat Glades, which is appropriate since the contest benefits the Wildcat Glades Friends Group,” said Martin. “I go out early every morning for about 30 minutes, and it’s amazing how many birds and fowl are in our area. They are fascinating. I watched this heron for a long time until he stepped into the light.”

Nature Contest Third Place

Debra Smith

Third place winner, Debra Smith, is a long-time nature contest participant and bird lover. “This pair of barred owls lived in the back yard of our previous home. I would hear them at night and watch them as they came into the yard during the day. Raptors are my favorite birds,” said Smith, “and I was grateful to get to see these two flying from tree to tree. Photographing birds is my hobby, and the Wildcat Glades Friends Group are great people; I like supporting their work through the contest.”

Nature Contest Kids Winner

Paige Blankenship

Fifteen-year-old Paige Blankenship has been taking photographs since she was 12 and enjoys taking her camera into nature to see what she can find. She frequently photographs insects, birds, dogs and horses. Paige captured this inch worm in the garden in her yard. Paige said, “I got interested in photography when I got my first camera, and I thought taking pictures was fun.” She regularly enters the Show Me The Ozarks Nature Contest as she continues to enjoy nature and photography.

Honorable Mentions: 

Stephanie Jones

Linda Teeter

Todd Calhoun 

Joe Kingore

Brandon Cook 

See all of the photos in the March 2023 print or digital edition