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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November 3, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

pintailsbosqueflyintosunset
Pintails Over Bosque del Apache

Week One at Bosque del Apache NWR

pintails12flylright
Pintails over Bosque del Apache

Not that many cranes here yet, and very few Snow Geese, but incredible numbers of Pintail Ducks, with plenty of Mallards and a few Widgeons also. In the top image of ducks over the foliage, there actually is a pair of Cinnamon Teal hidden amongst the pintails.

pintails6flyleft
Pintails over Bosque del Apache
pintails5flylright
Pintails over Bosque del Apache
mallardpairflyright
Mallard Pair over Bosque del Apache

All the shots above were taken from the Flight Deck at Bosque, but without the normal thousands of Snow Geese ( yet ), the birds are all landing quite a ways out in the barely flooded field, too far away from the deck to get any great shots. Once the geese arrive and crowd the area, birds will be forced closer to the deck and there should be better chances of getting some nice flight shots.

The one good point is that with very few birds here now, I have the flight deck all to myself instead of having to fight for a space to shoot from.

pintailtwopairwater2
Pintails

The Pintails are amassing in the thousands along the South Loop pond and in the narrow waters next to the road.

pintailoddposewatercroppsd
Pintail Doing What I Don’t Know

I have seen ducks assume this position before, but I have no idea of what they are doing or what it may mean.

pintailpreening
Pintail Preening
pintailpreening2
Pintail Preening

The preening routine I am familiar with.

pintailpreening3
Pintail Preening
pintailclose3
Pintail

One handsome fellow!

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Leucistic Sandhill Crane in Flight

Had my second sighting of the leucistic Sandhill Crane this morning at the ponds along the highway.

leucisticplus1flyright
Leucistic Sandhill Crane in Flight

Overcast skies in the early morning hours and the cranes’ far off travel path along the opposite shore of the pond resulted in less than perfect shots, but this second sighting gets my hopes up that maybe I will get some good shots of him sometime during my stay here.

predawntakeoff2
Predawn Takeoff

While waiting for the leucistic Sandhill Crane to take off, I had the opportunity to shoot many other cranes as they headed out from their night roosting spot to the surrounding fields to forage for the day. Again, because of the very dim light, not very many turned out sharp enough to use, but I kind of liked the feel of this one shot. Later in the season, when this pond sometimes has a thin coat of ice on it, these morning takeoff shots get quite interesting.

bosquecoyotestare
Bosque del Apache Coyote

This week I ran into three different coyotes here in the refuge with this guy being a fairly good sized animal, about the size of a German Shepherd. Their coats look pretty bad because of all the seedheads and burrs that are stuck in their fur.

bosquebacklitcoyote
Bosque del Apache Coyote
bosque2coyotes
Bosque del Apache Coyotes

Liked the composition here where the large coyote pictured above approached what I assume was probably his mate.

Some really lousy weather is forecast for the next several days, rain, rain, and more rain with possible localized flooding so it looks like I won’t be out taking photos for a while.

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