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.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

November 29, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Snow Goose Explosion
Snow Goose Explosion

Weather is Getting Colder!

Snow Geese
Snow Geese

It is getting more difficult to get up and out each morning as the overnight temperatures are now dipping into the teens. The outside thermometer in the Prius actually registered as low as 12 degrees as I drove out the North Loop Road in the Refuge yesterday at 7 AM.

Snow Geese
Snow Geese

The freezing weather doesn’t seem to bother the cranes and geese as they continue to overnight while standing in the near freezing shallows in the refuge. The last few mornings they have been seen standing on, not in, the water!

Snow Geese
Snow Geese
Snow Geese
Snow Geese
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble

The increasing numbers of Sandhill Cranes has led to better opportunities to get some “action” shots as they squabble over who gets to feed where. These brief battles occur so quickly, and unpredictably, that I rarely can react quick enough to catch the action …

Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble

… but every now and then, I am aiming in the correct direction and manage to catch some of  the action.

Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane With Landing Gear Down
Sandhill Crane With Landing Gear Down

My daily routine lately has been to get myself out to the North Loop corn fields just as the sun comes up, set up my tripod and pull out my rocking chair, and wait for the cranes and geese to fly in and land to forage. By 10 AM or so the action has usually peaked and the light becomes a little harsh, so I head back home and process images before heading back out to the same location to try and get the birds leaving the corn fields and heading out to their overnight roosts.

Sandhill Crane With Landing Gear Down
Sandhill Crane With Landing Gear Down
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane Flying into the Setting Sun
Sandhill Crane Flying into the Setting Sun

Though the dim light makes flight shots difficult as the sun sets, once in a while things align well and a nice shot emerges.

It really is getting a little colder here than I like and I imagine I will be moving farther south sooner rather than later, but it is a little difficult to leave the refuge just when the action is really starting to pick up. But then again, just how many more crane and goose shots do I really need ( or does anyone really want to see ).

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

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.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

October 31, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Sunrise Sandhill Flight
Sunrise Sandhill Flight

Lone Rock, Utah to Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

One week ago today, I awoke early at Lone Rock and hit the road just as the sun was coming up. Ended up being a long day on the road as I fought tire problems all day long and logged the 400+ miles to San Felipe, New Mexico. Back down Route 89 through Page, then picked up Route 98 east and before I had travelled more than 50 miles my tire monitoring system alerted me to a low pressure warning for my passenger side outside dually.

Found a place to pull off the highway and removed the valve extender for that tire, dragged out the compressor and reinflated the tire. That took care of that problem, but another 50 miles and the monitoring system alarm sounded again, this time for one of the tow dolly tires. Not wanting to take the Prius off the tow dolly so I could change the tire, I got the compressor out again and reinflated the tire, hoping that it was just a slow leak and I could get to my overnight destination without having to change the tire. I continued east on 98 then Route 160, then Route 64 into New Mexico, all fairly decent 2 lane roads with some rough sections and with very little traffic. Route 64 took me to Route 550 east ( actually goes south ) and that road took me down to I-25 at Bernalilo, where I headed a few miles north to the San Felipe Casino to overnight.

I had to stop and reinflate the tow dolly tire two more times, making a long day on the road seem even longer. Fortunately,  Route 550 is a 4 lane highway, with no hills and I was able to make up for lost time on this long stretch of road.

The San Felipe Casino camping area is a flat gravel lot with pull throughs and 50 amp electric hookups, no water at the campsite though there is water at the on site dump station. There were only two others camped there the two nights I spent there and there is a fair bit of noise from the Travel Center just across the road.

Hal Burns in Santa Fe for a Brake Job

I have needed to have the rear brakes on the motorhome looked at since late this summer in the Rockies and hoped to be able to make them last until I could get to Hal Burns in Santa Fe, where I have had major work done twice in the past. They were able to get me in on Wednesday and figured they would have me done the same day. I knew better than to think that would actually be the case and sure enough, it wasn’t, so I did spend one night at the luxurious Hal Burns RV Resort.

They do let you stay in your rig in their yard overnight and even will give you an electric hookup if one is available. It’s brightly lit, it’s noisy, and the atmosphere is lacking a little, but it’s free! Next day, they had me finished up around 3 PM and I was back on the road with fully functioning brakes again.

Only had to cover 150 miles to Bosque del Apache and made it to the Birdwatcher’s RV Park around 6 PM and got myself checked in and set up. This is a very basic campground with flat sites on gravel, essentially a large parking lot, with several pull throughs, with full hookups. The attraction here is the close proximity to the refuge and the price. I plan on staying a month or perhaps even more so I was charged the monthly rate of $350, or around $11 a day for a full hookup site, hard to beat.

First Trip Into Bosque

Pintails and Mallard
Pintails and Mallard

Since it was still light after getting set up, I zipped down the road a couple miles into Bosque del Apache NWR and instantly came across a rare sighting, for me at least. In a narrow stretch of water on the side of the road were about a hundred Pintail and Mallard ducks …

Stalking Bobcat
Stalking Bobcat

… and about 20 yards from them was this bobcat, crawling on it’s belly through the short field grasses cover towards the ducks! Even though I have been doing this wildlife thing for a long time, this was the first time I have ever had a close shot at a bobcat, and it looked like there was going to be some neat action as he continued slowly advancing on the ducks.

Bobcat
Scared Off

Unfortunately, a woman driving a pickup camper saw me parked on the shoulder of the road with a long camera lens showing out the window, so she came flying up in a cloud of dust to see what I was shooting. When she jumped out to get closer, of course, that was it for the bobcat and he bolted across the field to cover.

And Then Another Rarity!

Leucistic Sandhill Crane
Leucistic Sandhill Crane

It was getting dark when I spied something odd out on a burned section of the refuge. I could  make out a couple sandhill cranes working their way through the recently burned area, but, from a distance at least, I could have sworn that one of the cranes looked like a Whooping Crane, and I didn’t think they were ever found here. The shot above is a low quality image ( shot with my 600mm lens from a great distance in very low light ) of what turned out to be a leucistic Sandhill Crane, the first I have ever seen. The rangers here tell me this is his third year showing up here, so I hope I may encounter him again under better conditions during my stay here.

First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

A Bit Early for Many Birds Here at Bosque del Apache

First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

The last couple days I have been going into the refugee early each day to check on new arrivals. These snow geese are the first I have seen here this year, and while there are sandhills here, there certainly are not anything like the numbers that should show up in a few more weeks.

Sandhills Greeting the First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
Sandhills Greeting the First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

I knew I was going to be a little early arriving here before the start of November, but as a full timer, I am able to just sit back and relax and wait until the birds arrive in numbers, usually around the middle of the month. In the meantime, I have the place pretty much all to myself, nice not to battle crowds or traffic and driving the loop road through the refuge at sunrise each day, without traffic, is a wonderfully peaceful experience, whether you see any wildlife or not.

Pre-dawn Takeoff
Pre-dawn Takeoff

And each day, there are a few more birds arriving, and it’s kind of fun to see the numbers grow, and watch the fields being flooded and the refuge staff out cutting roadside vegetation to provide birders with views of the distant fields.

Pre-dawn Takeoff
Pre-dawn Takeoff

The first morning I went down the highway to the refuge there were absolutely no cranes on the ponds along the highway, the second day, I stopped and counted maybe 20, wading on the distant shore waiting for sunrise to takeoff and head out to feed. The two shots above were taken this morning just before sunrise, when some of the more than 100 cranes around the ponds were taking flight.

I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !