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 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 ).

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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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