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 3, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

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Pintails Over Bosque del Apache

Week One at Bosque del Apache NWR

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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.

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Pintails over Bosque del Apache
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Pintails over Bosque del Apache
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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.

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Pintails

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

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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.

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Pintail Preening
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Pintail Preening

The preening routine I am familiar with.

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Pintail Preening
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bosque del Apache Coyote
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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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