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Bosque del Apache

Sandhill Cranes at Sunset, Bosque Del Apache NWR

Birds, Bosque del Apache

Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) arrive at the “crane pools” at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge each evening. Having spent the day feeding in nearby corn fields, they will overnight standing on their long legs in the shallow pools, presumably so that they can rest in the dark with minimal threat of attack from coyotes. As the sun rises the next morning, they warm up and eventually depart to the corn fields again. This location is perhaps my favorite spot in all of Bosque del Apache. Skip and I made a point of being here for sunrise and sunset photography most days during our in visits to the Bosque in 2008 and 2010.

Sunset at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, with sandhill cranes silhouetted in reflection in the calm pond.  Spectacular sunsets at Bosque del Apache, rich in reds, oranges, yellows and purples, make for striking reflections of the thousands of cranes and geese found in the refuge each winter, Grus canadensis, Socorro, New Mexico

Sunset at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, with sandhill cranes silhouetted in reflection in the calm pond. Spectacular sunsets at Bosque del Apache, rich in reds, oranges, yellows and purples, make for striking reflections of the thousands of cranes and geese found in the refuge each winter.
Image ID: 21804
Species: Sandhill crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Bosque del Apache NWR

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, Video

Here is a short compilation of video clips I made with my dSLR while at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in early December. Most of these birds are snow geese, but there are some sandhill cranes in there too.

Bosque Del Apache NWR, New Mexico, 2010

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Skip and I made a short trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, in New Mexico, to photograph snow geese (Chen caerulescens) and sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis). This is strictly bird photography and has essentially nothing to do with the marine subjects that I really prefer. But its cheap, easy and fun, and is good practice for the real thing, so I’ve joined Skip at Bosque del Apache a couple times now. Here are a few photos from this year’s visit:

Snow geese in flight, Chen caerulescens, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow geese in flight.
Image ID: 26196
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Sandhill crane in flight, wings extended, Grus canadensis, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Sandhill crane in flight, wings extended.
Image ID: 26197
Species: Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Snow goose in flight, Chen caerulescens, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow goose in flight.
Image ID: 26199
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Flock of red-winged blackbirds, in flight, blurred in time exposure, Agelaius phoeniceus, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Flock of red-winged blackbirds, in flight, blurred in time exposure.
Image ID: 26200
Species: Red-winged blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Sandhill crane in flight, wings extended, Grus canadensis, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Sandhill crane in flight, wings extended.
Image ID: 26202
Species: Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Snow goose bearing neck and leg research ID tags, in flight, Chen caerulescens, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow goose bearing neck and leg research ID tags, in flight.
Image ID: 26209
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Snow goose in flight, Chen caerulescens, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow goose in flight.
Image ID: 26203
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Snow goose in flight, Chen caerulescens, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow goose in flight.
Image ID: 26207
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Sandhill crane in flight, sunset, Grus canadensis, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

Sandhill crane in flight, sunset.
Image ID: 26204
Species: Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

A flock of snow geese in flight, Chen caerulescens, Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico

A flock of snow geese in flight.
Image ID: 26206
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque Del Apache, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Snow Geese Blasting Off at Sunrise, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Another early morning blast off of thousands of snow geese (Chen caerulescens), viewed from near the flight deck alongside the main impoundment at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Snow geese at dawn.  Snow geese often "blast off" just before or after dawn, leaving the ponds where they rest for the night to forage elsewhere during the day, Chen caerulescens, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow geese at dawn. Snow geese often “blast off” just before or after dawn, leaving the ponds where they rest for the night to forage elsewhere during the day.
Image ID: 21806
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

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Sandhill Crane in Flight, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

I had hoped to get a few good photos of a single sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) in flight during our visit to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Sandhill cranes are relatively large birds, meaning they are relatively easy to find in the viewfinder and they fly relatively slowly, helpful characteristics for a struggling bird photographer. The best ones I shot were taken on the final morning of our trip. This one was nearly at eye level, having just taken off from one of the crane pools shortly after sunrise.

Sandhill crane spreads its broad wings as it takes flight in early morning light.  This crane is one of over 5000 present in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, stopping here during its winter migration, Grus canadensis, Socorro, New Mexico

Sandhill crane spreads its broad wings as it takes flight in early morning light. This crane is one of over 5000 present in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, stopping here during its winter migration.
Image ID: 21797
Species: Sandhill crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and photos of Sand Hillcranes.

Golden Crane, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Here is another sandhill crane (Grus canadensis), backlit by a reflected gold sunset, wading through one of the crane pools at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

A sandhill crane, standing in still waters with rich gold sunset light reflected around it, Grus canadensis, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

A sandhill crane, standing in still waters with rich gold sunset light reflected around it.
Image ID: 21805
Species: Sandhill crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and photos of Sand Hillcranes.

Snow Geese on Pond, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Each morning I would watch the predawn blast off of snow geese from Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge‘s main impoundment. Each time was impressive. Afterward, I would move to the crane pools, hoping to watch the cranes take off as the sun reached them and warmed them up. One morning at one of the crane pools a large “fly in” of geese took place just as the sun was cresting the mountains in the distance. These were the same geese that had lifted off from the main impoundment pool, only to settle down again by the thousands in a new pool, backlit by a golden sunrise.

Snow geese resting, on a still pond in early morning light, in groups of several thousands, Chen caerulescens, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow geese resting, on a still pond in early morning light, in groups of several thousands.
Image ID: 21808
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of snow geese and photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Blastoff, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is famous for its early morning “blast off”, a stunning event in which thousands of snow geese (Chen caerulescens) take to the skies. It does not happen every morning, nor does it happen at the same time on those mornings on which it takes place. Sometimes it occurs in near dark, while other times it happens after the sun has arisen. The snow geese will rest on still ponds overnight. As dawn approaches and light grows in the east, the geese will increase their calls. It sounds like a gigantic buzzing, passing through the flock, rising and then quieting only to rise again minutes later. Eventually, one goose is startled into flight, perhaps by an approaching coyote or hawk, in such a way that all its neighbors join it, and the blast off begins. Like a wave, many thousands of geese will rise, with a chaotic sounds some have likened to a passing train. Passing overhead, the geese make their way afield in search of foraging opportunities or simply to settle down again at another pond.

Snow geese at dawn.  Snow geese often "blast off" just before or after dawn, leaving the ponds where they rest for the night to forage elsewhere during the day, Chen caerulescens, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow geese at dawn. Snow geese often “blast off” just before or after dawn, leaving the ponds where they rest for the night to forage elsewhere during the day.
Image ID: 21800
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

See more photos of snow geese in flight and photos of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Snow Goose in Flight, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Our first few days at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge did not yield great opportunities to photograph individual snow geese (Chen caerulescens) in flight, primarily because the geese were spending the bulk of their day in the far northern corn fields, far out of reach of even the longest lenses. On our final morning, however, I took one last drive around the Farm Loop and found, to my surprise, a large gathering of snow geese just off the road, feeding in the near corn fields. Just two other photographers were there when I arrived. I am not much good at photographing birds in flight, they simply move too fast for me and I do not practice at it enough. However, after an hour and about 800 images, I was sure I had at least a few keepers: well composed (or at least well-enough) and sharp. About 25 photographers had gathered by the time the light was too harsh and I had to leave to catch my flight home.

Snow goose in flight, Chen caerulescens, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

Snow goose in flight.
Image ID: 21813
Species: Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

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Sandhill Cranes, Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Each evening while we were at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge we positioned ourselves at one of the two northern “crane pools”, the ones located on the west side of the road as one approaches the main entrance to the refuge. For 30-40 minutes before and after sunset, sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) would fly in to the pools to spend the night, arriving individually as well as in groups of a few to a few dozen. In the east the sky took on a rich gold color, deepest right along the edge of the hills that formed the eastern horizon from where we stood. I would shoot a few frames as the cranes sank lower in the sky on their approach, just as they passed through the best color before slipping into the dark below the horizon.

Sandhill cranes in flight, silhouetted against a richly colored evening sky, Grus canadensis, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico

Sandhill cranes in flight, silhouetted against a richly colored evening sky.
Image ID: 21831
Species: Sandhill crane, Grus canadensis
Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

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