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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