November 24, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Yet More Cranes and Geese

Snow Goose Explosion

Snow Goose Explosion

A Snow Goose explosion, caused by a predator approaching too close, or just one nervous goose thinking something was amiss. This noisy flock takeoffs occur all throughout the day and are pretty spectacular to see, and especially to hear.

Another Kind of Flock

Another Kind of Flock

A different kind of “explosion”, the people explosion, peaked with last week’s Festival of the Cranes. Post festival, the numbers of people has moderated and it has once again become a little more enjoyable to venture out on the refuge.

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

One of the advantages of arriving here a little early is the opportunity to catch some colorful backdrops of autumn foliage colors. With a couple of hard freezes occurring lately, the leaves are all turning brown and dropping now.

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes

Lesser Sandhill Cranes

Lesser Sandhill Cranes

This pair of Lesser Sandhills was seen leading a procession of Greater Sandhills down one of the irrigation ditches on the North Loop Road in the refuge.

Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes

Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes

The above image gives you a pretty good idea of the size difference in the two types of Sandhill Cranes. This year I am seeing a far greater number of Lesser Sandhills than I have on previous visits.

Sandhill Crane Greeting

Sandhill Crane Greeting

These are very vocal birds, calling out greetings as they fly in and again after they land.

Sandhill Crane Squabble

Sandhill Crane Squabble

Sandhill Crane Squabble

Sandhill Crane Squabble

Not really sure if this was a squabble or just a dance.

Sandhill Crane Squabble

Sandhill Crane Squabble

Sandhill Crane with Shotgun Cartridge

Sandhill Crane with Shotgun Cartridge

A sad reminder that these birds are hunted once they fly off the refuge. I took this shot late one afternoon and assumed the crane would simply use one of it’s feet to pull the shotgun cartridge off it’s upper bill. But then I saw it fly in the next morning with the cartridge still attached.

Mulie Dash Through

Mulie Dash Through

This young mule buck came flying through the cornfield where the cranes were foraging and photographers were shooting. Really moving at a rapid clip as you can see from the image where all four feet are off the ground.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

A family unit foraging. The leucistic Sandhill Crane showed up with a family this year for the first time, I was told.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Crane Family Fly In

Sandhill Crane Family Fly In

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

I love this flight position, assumed sometimes as much as 50 feet above the landing area, as they glide into the wind and prepare to land, oftentimes calling out greetings to those gathered below.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

I’ve been here almost a month now and with temperatures plummeting it just might be time to continue on south to slightly warmer climes and maybe find some hummingbirds to shoot, quite a change of pace from these large guys.

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November 19, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Sandhill Crane Coming in for a Landing

Sandhill Crane Coming in for a Landing

More Cranes and Geese Continue Arriving

We are now in the middle of the Festival of the Cranes Week here at Bosque and the festival has brought a lot of people to the refuge, making it a lot less desirable to venture into the refuge and take photos. The heavy traffic on the gravel roads of the refuge stirs up heavy clouds of dust everywhere making driving the loop road miserable.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Still, it is hard to resist the temptation to venture on in and so I have been bypassing the ponds along the highway ( and the hundred or so photographers lined up on the ponds’  edge ) and heading straight into the refuge before dawn where I settle in along the farm fields and wait for the cranes to fly in.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

By the time there is enough light to actually take flight shots, unfortunately, the hordes of people  also arrive. Some days I start off alone out there as the sun rises and within an hour or so, there may be 3 or 4 buses and fifty cars parked along the road where I had earlier staked out my territory,

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

The above images are all of Greater Sandhill Cranes and the three images below are of Lesser Sandhill Cranes. The two fly in and out together and when they are in flight, I usually can’t tell which is which until they land and mingle where the size difference becomes readily apparent.

Lesser Sandhill Crane Coming in for a Landing

Lesser Sandhill Crane Coming in for a Landing

Lesser Sandhill Crane Coming in for a Landing

Lesser Sandhill Crane Coming in for a Landing

If you closely compare them in these images, you will see that the Lesser also has a much shorter bill.

Lesser Sandhill Crane Coming in for a Landing

Lesser Sandhill Crane Coming in for a Landing

Pintail Preening

Pintail Preening

Just happened to catch this Pintail Drake doing his preening routine in the shallows right by the roadway on the South Loop with just perfect lighting about a half hour before sunset …  yes, the golden hour, and what a difference it does make.

Pintail Preening

Pintail Preening

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Snow Goose numbers are increasing dramatically this week ! Love the foliage background setting off these white birds.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

Snow Geese Landing

Snow Geese Landing

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

Looking for a Place to Land

Looking for a Place to Land

I am constantly amazed that these large birds can actually land without beating their brethren to death with their wings. It gets very densely crowded out in the farm fields.

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November 15, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Sunrise Silouettes

Sunrise Silouettes

A Busy Week at Bosque del Apache

Pintail Landing

Pintail Landing

Ducks

The number of ducks here now is staggering. Late in the day, I park along the road at the start of the South Loop and wait for the ducks to fly in to roost in the shallows there.

Mallard Drake in Flight

Mallard Drake in Flight

Pintail in Flight

Pintail in Flight

Have to be thousands of Pintails here, along with …

Wigeons in Flight

Wigeons in Flight

… a smattering of Wigeons …

Mallards in Flight

Mallards in Flight

Mallard Drake in Flight

Mallard Drake in Flight

… and all kinds of Mallards.

Sunrise Silouettes

Sunrise Silouettes

This shot is taken at sunrise at a point farther along the South Loop Road in a waterway that was dry until just a week ago when they opened the floodgates for this section of the refuge.

Female Northern Harrier

Female Northern Harrier

I see Northern Harriers swooping over the meadows here almost every day when driving the refuge roads, but seldom encounter one when set up to take photos. Waiting for the ducks to come in one day, this female came flying by close enough to get a decent shot.

Snow Geese

Snow Goose Landing

Snow Goose Landing

The snow geese have really been streaming into the refuge this week. Being here a little early this time around, I can take advantage of the fall colors for some interesting backgrounds for these flight shots.

Snow Geese, White and Dark Morph

Snow Geese, White and Dark Morph

Snow Geese Landing

Snow Geese Landing

Snow Goose Landing

Snow Goose Landing

The crowded conditions on the night roosting shallows make for some tight landing spots …

Snow Goose Landing

Snow Goose Landing

… as this duck found out.

Snow Geese Splashdown

Snow Geese Splashdown

Snow Goose Splashdown

Snow Goose Splashdown

All these snow goose landings were shot just as the sun was setting over my shoulder, as all the ducks and geese were flying in for the night. This evening there were thousands of birds in this flooded field, yet two days later, they had found another, apparently better spot to roost for the night and this area was all but empty.

Sandhill Cranes

Leucistic Sandhill Landing

Leucistic Sandhill Landing

After almost two weeks without a sighting of the leucistic Sandhill Crane, I finally ran into him again, and this time he came in close.

Leucistic Sandhill Crane

Leucistic Sandhill Crane

At present there are about 2,000 cranes on the refuge, and that will soon balloon up to around 15,000, so finding this one rarity is kind of like finding a needle in a haystack, so today I consider myself quite fortunate to get a second chance at him. This shot was taken just as the warm sun popped up over the trees …

Leucistic Sandhill Crane

Leucistic Sandhill Crane

… and this one was taken just a few minutes before, with no sun yet.

Greater and Lesser Sandhill Cranes

Greater and Lesser Sandhill Cranes

The image above gives a good comparison of the size differential of the Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes.

Sandhills Prepare for Takeoff

Sandhills Prepare for Takeoff

Sandhills Takeoff

Sandhills Takeoff

Sunrise takeoffs from the overnight roosting ponds along the highway are getting to be a little uncomfortable ( for this photographer, can’t speak for the cranes ) with overnight temps now dipping below freezing, although the days remain comfortably warm in the 60’s.

Sandhills Liftoff

Sandhills Liftoff

Sandhills Race Down the Runway

Sandhills Race Down the Runway

Sandhills Leaving the Roost

Sandhills Leaving the Roost

Sandhill Takeoff

Sandhill Takeoff

Sandhills on the Runway

Sandhills on the Runway

Later morning Sandhill activity, as in 7 or 8 AM, has moved out to the Willow and Coyote Platform fields this week and finally we are seeing a stepup in activity in the farm fields.

Sandhill Greeting Calls

Sandhill Greeting Calls

Sandhills Greeting

Sandhills Greeting

Lots of calling and greeting going on. The sounds out here are really pretty amazing.

Sandhills Greeting

Sandhills Greeting

Sandhill Takeoff

Sandhill Takeoff

Sandhill Gliding Down

Sandhill Gliding Down

Sandhills landing

Sandhills landing

The Festival of the Cranes runs from the 15th to the 22nd and this brings in a crush of folks and will probably result in my not spending as much time shooting as I would like, but the place tends to empty out again after the festival, even as  the bird numbers continue to grow when the people leave. Should be more great shooting to come.

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November 9, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

The Snow Geese Have Arrived

The Snow Geese Have Arrived

Week Two at Bosque del Apache NWR

As you can see from the above image, the snow geese have arrived in numbers this week. Nothing like it should be in a few more weeks, but two large flocks flew in during the week and joined forces once here, gathering along the South Loop Road in the evening and moving over towards the flight deck in the morning.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

Mallards in Flight

Mallards in Flight

Meanwhile the number of ducks here is astounding! Probably thousands of Pintails, along with hundreds of Mallards and Widgeons, with smaller numbers of Teal and others.

Pintails in Flight

Pintails in Flight

Pintails in Flight

Pintails in Flight

An Extremely Light Colored Sandhill Crane

An Extremely Light Colored Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane numbers grow daily, but at this time they are gathering and feeding in refuge fields that are pretty much inaccessible  for close photography.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Crane Landing

Sandhill Crane Landing

Most of these images were taken from a pretty good distance near the Willow Deck on the North Loop. The distance forces me to add a 1.4 extender to my 600mm lens to get any kind of close image.

Sandhill Cranes on the Runway

Sandhill Cranes on the Runway

Sandhill Cranes About to Liftoff

Sandhill Cranes About to Liftoff

Sandhill Cranes Liftoff

Sandhill Cranes Liftoff

This week the staff made the first couple of row cuts on the North Loop farm fields, but I have yet to see any of the cranes really rushing to get out there to feed. These farm fields are right next to the road and do allow for some close shots of the feeding cranes and geese, but apparently it is going to take some more time before the birds decide they need to venture out there.

Sandhill Crane Takeoff

Sandhill Crane Takeoff

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

There are now several hundred cranes roosting at night along the ponds on the side of the highway, providing an opportunity for early morning takeoff shots, when, and if, the clouds don’t block out the rising sun.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

So far this year, most mornings there are clouds blocking the light from the sun until after the cranes have flown off to the distant fields to forage for the day. Eventually there will be some nice chances at these ponds to catch some nice takeoff shots.

After twice encountering the lone leucistic Sandhill Crane during my first week here, I have not had any luck finding him lately, although I have heard reports of others seeing him, so he must still be around, hope to get an opportunity to get some nice shots of this rarity before I leave !

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