It has been one of the most spectacular weeks in memory at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and the Festival of the Cranes in Socorro, New Mexico. The birds are in and close, the light has been simply wonderful (even by NM standards, which is saying a lot), and there is a lot of action in the flocks. This “dance” is part of the year long mating ritual, and it is a behavior you will see if you spend any time watching cranes. Sony RX10iv in my customized Birds in Flight adaptation of Program Mode. Processed in Polarr.
This Common Paraque has roosted beside one of the trails at Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center for so many years in a row that has to be the most photographed bird in Texas. There are always two along this short stretch of trail, but most years we only find one of them…this one, or at least the one sitting in this spot. This year the second was about 4 feet behind this one, kind of on the same line, and also in plain sight. You have to understand that “in plain sight” means something different for Paraques than it would for most birds. Even though I knew the second bird was there, since others were seeing it, it still took me 5 minutes to find it…sitting right out in plain paraque sight. The difference in the 2018 version of my yearly Paraque photo is that this bird is wet…or very damp at the least…since it was raining on and off the morning we visited Estero Llano Grande. Of course, I have only ever photographed this bird in sunlight once in all the years I have been going to Texas in November…even on a bright day it is tucked in under deep shade. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Anti-motion Blur mode. (A special mode that takes multiple images and stacks them for better performance in low light.) Processed in Polarr.
Here is something you don’t see everyday…a Yellow-billed Cuckoo sitting right out in plain sight. This very wet and very bedraggled cuckoo was feeding near the boardwalk at the Birding Center on South Padre Island, Texas, part of a wave of migrants coming through with the storm front. The bird continued to feed in plain sight as long as we watched it. It even perched on the boardwalk for a moment. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr.
It was a very slow day for birds in the Rio Grande Valley. We went to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Lots of butterflies and dragonflies…more than I have seen there in years, but practically no bird activity. Very strange. After Santa Ana we went to Fronteria Audubon in Weslaco, Texas where the buzz of the day was a intermittently visible Golden-winged Warbler. We missed the warbler by minutes on several occasions, but again the butterflies did not disappoint. This Clouded Sulphur on Turk’s Cap was one of the last photos I took there before heading back to the hotel to cool off before evening activities. Sometimes nature provides light you would be hard pressed to duplicate in the studio. I should add a disclaimer here. I am not a butterfly expert and if someone were to tell me this is an Orange Sulphur and not a Clouded, I would not be totally surprised and in no way offended. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr.
I have lots of images of Sandhill Cranes landing at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on the Rio Grande River, south of Socorro, New Mexico, but considerably fewer of Cranes taking off. Unless you can catch the whole sequence, which is interesting, there is way less drama in the take off. 🙂 This is such a sequence, done up into a collage in PhotoTangler on my Android tablet. It goes top left to right, and than bottom left to right, if that is not obvious.As you can see, the Crane runs a few steps before launch…or this one did. I have also seen them leap directly into the air where the water is a bit deeper.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. My custom Birds in Flight Mode. 1/1000th @ f5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet. Assembled in PhotoTangler.
Snow and Ross’ Geese rising from Flight Deck Pond, just moments after I first turned onto the Tour Loop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro New Mexico last week.
Sony RX10iii at 92mm equivalent field of view. 1/1000th @ ISO 100 @ f6.3 (Program Mode). Processed in PhotoShop Express on my Android tablet.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is an ideal place to practice action wildlife photography. The Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese are always doing something. These two cranes are having a dispute over…well, it is hard to say. This group of cranes had a lot of this kind of action while I was watching but I never could determine the cause. This is two adults. It is not breeding season. Who knows what was going on, but it makes a dynamic image.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode with continuous focus. Processed in PhotoShop Express on my Android tablet.
The Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro, New Mexico is over for another year. This image captures both of the stars of the show. Sandhill Cranes above, and Snow Geese below. The Geese fly considerably faster than the cranes. I was tracking the Cranes for a shot when the Geese photo bombed. And that is the only way it could have happened. I could not have gotten this shot intentionally. 🙂
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode (my saved Birds in Flight Mode…with wide area and continuous focus, and minimum shutter speed ISO set). Processed in Photo Mate3 on my Android tablet.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
Though it is the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache NWR near Socorro New Mexico, it is probably the Snow Geese that keep people coming back. Standing beside a field of Geese when they startle and rise all at once is an experience that inspires wonder and delight in almost everyone who sees it. The Geese are beautiful. The action is spectacular. The sound of the calls and the wings is overwhelming. The energy is undeniable. Once experienced it wakens the appetite for more. I talked to one couple, originally from Cincinnati Ohio, who moved to Albuquerque in part because of their experience at Bosque del Apache. It is that impressive. Impressive enough to change the course of a life.
And of course, the generous eye is always looking for experiences like the Geese rising…life-changing experiences. Experiences that speak directly to the spirit in us…and speaks the greatness of the Spirit that creates all in love. Awe inspiring experiences. If your eye is generous you will find them everywhere. Bosque del Apache is just a very obvious, and accessible, example.
So, happy Sunday, and may you find your Geese rising experience today! It just may change your life.
(I caught this image with the Sony RX10iii and processed it in Photo Mate 3 on my Android tablet.)
One of the most popular activities at the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is, believe it or not, to get up at 4am to be at the Refuge in time to stand in the cold beside a body of water in the dark and wait for the sunrise. Generally, if you have picked your spot correctly, just before the sun crests the horizon, the Snow Geese will rise from the water and fly off to feed in fields deeper in the Refuge, followed shortly but the Sandhill Cranes. Seeing the Geese and Cranes rise in the dawn light is what brings the folks out that early, and it is indeed an experience not to be missed. I do it once at least on each visit. Yesterday I actually taught a workshop and had 4 other intrepid souls with cameras beside me at the pond in the dark, and were amply rewarded.
This is a small flock of Snow (and Ross’) Geese moving just as the first light came into the sky. Sony RX10iii. Program Mode. Processed in PhotoShop Express on my Android tablet.