April 24, 2017 Malhuer NWR, Oregon

Abandoned Ranch
Abandoned Ranch

More From Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge

Ruddy Drake
Ruddy Drake

Always get a kick out of the male Ruddy Duck and his sky blue bill during breeding season.

Redhead Pair
Redhead Pair
Redheads Takeoff
Redheads Takeoff

Plenty of ducks encountered this week while driving through the refuge and was able to get a few decent flight shots when there was enough light, lots of overcast mornings.

Ring-neck Drake Takeoff
Ring-neck Drake Takeoff
Mallard Drake in Flight
Mallard Drake in Flight
Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff
Cinnamon Teal Pair
Cinnamon Teal Pair

This pair of Cinnamon Teal have been found on this spot every day this week, so I assume she is sitting on some eggs.

Cinnamon Teal Drake
Cinnamon Teal Drake
Avocets
Avocets

American Avocets hunting along the flooded fields.

Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Curlew
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

This Sandhill was one of several pairs out hunting the flooded cow pastures along the highway.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

A completely drenched Ferruginous hawk manning his roadside hunting perch during one of this week’s showers.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

The look says it all, he doesn’t care for this weather any more than I do.

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December 1, 2016 Leaving Bosque del Apache

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

Time to Leave

Frozen Pond
Freezing Over

In the image above, you may be able to detect that some of the ducks are not sitting in the water, but are, in fact, standing on it! When ice starts forming on the ponds, then it must be time for me to head farther south. Morning temps are now regularly in the teens and, although the afternoons are pleasantly warm, I guess I have gotten enough crane and goose shots to last a lifetime or two, so it’s time to head for the desert.

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

These large birds continue to fascinate me and for some reason, I don’t seem to tire of taking action shots of them as they go about their daily routines.

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane Heading for Night Time Roost
Sandhill Crane Heading for Night Time Roost

Th wildly varying light conditions, above a crane taking off just before the sun sets …

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

… here one taking off in the chill of a below freezing morning, provide such variations in the birds coloring as to keep my interest up.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

This is a shot of a crane coming in to the corn fields with his landing gear still retracted. Seems odd to see them without their long legs trailing behind them in flight.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes

Love it when a pair of cranes are caught in flight in pretty much the same plane and I am able  to get them both in sharp focus. Because of the shallow depth of field when using the 600mm lens and shooting in these dim light conditions, it doesn’t happen very often.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane Takeoff
Sandhill Crane Takeoff
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes

The above images are the last of my good action shots of the cranes greeting, and/or fighting, moves and dances, never am absolutely certain which are which.

Sandhill Crane Posing
Sandhill Crane Posing

A classic preening pose …

Sandhill Crane Portrait
Sandhill Crane Portrait

… and a closeup portrait.

Ducks Waiting to Take Flight
Ducks Waiting to Take Flight

Almost every morning that I have been here, I am out on the refuge roads before sunrise, always a peaceful place at that hour, with very few other folks out yet, the shallow ponds are just covered with roosting ducks and geese, the numbers simply astounding.

Dawn Flight, Snow Geese
Dawn Flight, Snow Geese

Just as the sun is coming up, the birds take flight and head out to the surrounding fields to forage.

Farm Fields on the North Loop
Farm Fields on the North Loop
Snow Geese Landing
Snow Geese Landing
Snow Goose Landing
Snow Goose Landing

A typical white snow goose ….

Blue Morph Snow Goose
Blue Morph Snow Goose

… and a dark morph snow goose, also called a Blue Goose, landing to forage in the farm fields on the refuge.

Tomorrow I am heading to Quartzite, Arizona, to get some much needed peace and quiet out on the desert, away from the confines of the cramped quarters of the Birdwatchers RV Park here at Bosque del Apache. I have thousands of images to sort through and process, so there probably won’t be much to report for the next couple of weeks. I plan on leaving Quartzite before Christmas to avoid the crowds there, and will be spending the next couple of months out in the desert around Yuma.

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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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