My final days are Bosque del Apache were pretty easy going. The numbers of Snow Geese seemed to be slightly increasing but not the Sandhill Cranes. I stopped getting up early for the sunrise and concentrated on trying to capture the near-full and full moon in the evenings with the cranes flying in.
Kingfishers are notoriously hard to capture so I was very happy to find this one hiding in the willows with a prawn.
The next evening I captured these cranes in the light of the setting sun they were flying in to the crane ponds.
This was such a great trip! I stayed at the Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park, about 5 miles from the Bosque del Apache Visitors center and 1 mile from the crane ponds (great for the sunrise fly-outs). It isn’t fancy but most sites have full hookups and the owner is a really nice guy. The saying in real estate is “location, location, location” and this RV park has it in spades. Most folks there were up and out for sunrise so there wasn’t much worry about disturbing your neighbor if you were at all considerate. Temps at sunrise were often in the mid 20s, at times with a strong wind. Being prepared for the cold weather is a must but the experience is well worth the slight discomfort. Getting up at 0500 for sunrise images then returning to the trailer by 8 am to warm up and have breakfast was a great way to start the days.
While at the rv park I met a nice guy with a Casita and we did some photography together. Met a couple with strong ties to near me in FL and we discussed cameras, gear and places to go in FL.
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One of the events offered by the festival organizers was a few hours out with a falconer which I signed up for. It was very interesting, Matt was happy to talk about his birds and answer questions. He flew the birds with an eye to making it possible for us photographers to get lots of great images. The first bird flown was a Peregrine Falcon.
After that we moved to another site where there were some bushes for the birds to fly from and to. He brought out an Aplomado Falcon, once more common in NM and making a small comeback.
Then he brought out the Harris Hawk, a large bird that will hunt in family groups in the Southwest. It was a great way to spend a morning!
Thursday morning I was up before sunrise and out at the crane ponds (along with a lot of other folks) to see and capture the cranes fly out. As always once the sun was up a bit the images got better and better. A good way to start the day for sure!
This morning I was up early again and when I saw a few clouds in the east I headed into the refuge to a place I expected some cranes to be. The idea was to photograph some as they flew in front of the sunlit clouds heading to the feeding grounds. There was a strong cold wind but I was able to use the truck as a windbreak for the time needed.
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It’s been an interesting week, learning more about the refuge and its inhabitants. Early morning is a wonderful time to get photos, the light can be challenging at times but rewarding. Once in a while there are a few clouds at sunrise, this means added color and the chance for some unique images, IF the birds are in the right place! This particular morning there were some Sandhill Cranes in the water and as the sun came up I had a great time!
I try to get to the refuge 3 times a day, sunrise, around mid day and then late afternoon. Often at mid day the Snow Geese are gathered in the water right near the refuge entrance.
While I’ve been here I’ve seen both a Kestrel and a Northern Harrier hunting the fields. The Kestrel is small and really too far away for me to get an in flight image. Today while I was watching a Bald Eagle eating his lunch (too far away for decent photos) a Northern Harrier was working the area in front of me and I managed to get some great images of it.
Do you wanna dance?
Always fun to see the cranes dance!
I finally saw a Roadrunner! They aren’t particularly large and seem to keep to the gravel road across the water from where the public can drive so I had to crop my original to get this.
The Festival of the Cranes kicks off on Tuesday. I’ve signed up for several photography workshops and look forward to learning new skills.
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Mornings start early here since I like to be out watching the cranes and snow geese before sunrise. Lately the temps have been in the 20s until close to 7 am. This young crane was having fun annoying the geese, they just moved away. As it gets lighter the birds start flying off to their feeding grounds.
There’s a white crane here, too, its beak and legs aren’t as dark as the others but it has some dark feathers so I’d guess it’s not an albino.
After getting up at 5, watching the birds for 3 hours or more I head back to the trailer for breakfast, then it’s back out again. The Snow geese have
gathered at one of the wetlands near the road in the refuge and there is a bald eagle on the dead tree in the background. I waited a long time there, watching the geese and wondering if the eagle would fly but he didn’t.
Back to the trailer for lunch then late afternoon back out with the camera. The late afternoon sun enhances the fall colors.
This I’ve seen a few herons around, this one was most obliging as it posed nearby.
In the other direction were the snow geese and as the sun went down it accentuated the colors in the wetlands. It also cast a golden glow on the birds in flight.
Up and out at dawn to see the cranes fly out from the safe pond where they overnight, three mornings so far and each one slightly different.
Later in the day I did another drive around the loops and happened on a Mule Deer doe with a fawn. A lit
tle ways past them I noticed a couple of Javelinas in the ditch on the right side of the road. I slowed down to see if they would emerge, then stopped and got out of the truck. I stayed near the front end but watched all around. Just spotted two of the critters as they had crossed the road and went into the brush. But, the third one took its time and I managed to get a couple of good images. Charming critter, huh?
Stopped in at the Visitor Center and looked around, lots of good info there! Very nice shop, too. I’ve made a practice of collecting a pin and patch at each national park, wildlife refuge or similar place I’ve visited so I got those.
Later in the afternoon, after a brief rain I went back into the refuge and was treated to a bright bit of rainbow.
Got one image over some of the water then moved along the road and got another with some snow geese (the white line you can see) in the frame.
I was parked at the side of the road and four cranes came pretty close (the t
ruck makes a great blind if you are quiet and just stick the camera lens out the window). A beanbag thing I made years ago worked great over the edge of the window to rest the lens on.
End of the day I went back into the refuge hoping to catch a good sunset. Wonderful way to wrap up the day!
You know what they say about real estate, it’s all about location?! Well, this little RV park has it! Basic parking lot camping bu
t only 1 mile from the first ponds inside Bosque del Apache NWR. Quite a few Sandhill Cranes at the first pond when I got there at dawn. As it got lighter they started taking flight.
A little bit later the sun was on them and
the mountains in the distance.
As the sun got a bit higher I went into the refuge to the loop drive and found some Snow Geese.
That evening I returned to the pond and with the cranes’ sounds as a bit of background the Milky Way was in view.
I left home the evening of the full moon so the next morning heading west on I 10 I got a photo of it above a serious cloud bank.
Fortunately it never really rained that hard and I got to see a lovely rainbow.
The second night I stopped at a Cracker Barrel in LA near the TX border and was treated to a glowing sunset. I hope that is an indication of things to come.
Heading west through Texas, angling northwest to get into NM pretty much east of where I was headed meant
taking a new-to-me route. Boy oh boy, there are oil wells north of Odessa!! From horizon to horizon in every direction. There were some cotton fields, too, with some oil rigs in them. Unfortunately one of the side effects of that many oil rigs is eau de oil.
As I got more into New Mexico I finally saw
some snowcapped mountains. The weather was very sunny and clear but starting to get nippy.
The last night before I checked into the RV park in San Antonio, NM, I stopped at Valley of Fires Nat. Recreation Area. Very good place for an overnight. The US Senior pass means 1/2 rate and they have some campsites with electric & water hookups. I opted for a dry site (no hookups) and it worked out fine. All the sites are paved and have picnic tables with shades. The area gets it name from the lava beds. These are not so much the results of a volcano but of lava coming up through cracks in the earth.Very nice paved walk around so you can get a good look at the lava. Lots of cactus, too.
It was very clear that night so I got some images of the Milky Way, too.