Snow Geese flying

I realized this morning that I have not yet posted a close up photo of the other stars of the Bosque del Apache Festival of the Cranes from this year. As well as 14,000 Sandhill Cranes, between 30,000 and 40,000 Snow Geese winter at the Bosque. This is the first year I have visited Bosque without seeing a Snow Goose panic…when several thousand geese take to the air, calling and circling for between 5 and 15 minutes before settling. The geese were dispersed this year…feeding in several newly flooded fields, and not congregating in very large numbers in any single place. Perhaps that is why I saw no panics. I saw the geese rise in potential panics…but never enough at a time to pull the whole flock into the air. They always settled within seconds. ??? There were still lots of geese in the air as they moved in small flocks from field to field, so there were still opportunities to practice my birds in flight skills on Snow Geese, and I got some decent shots. You will want to view this one at as large as your screen allows…or maybe I should say, “I would like you to.” 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Lesser Goldfinch

It is not all birds in flight…not all Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese…at the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (Socorro, New Mexico, USA). This shot of a Lessor Goldfinch was taken right behind the Expo Tent in the Cactus Garden at the Visitor Center. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications (just testing how it worked for stationary birds). Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Cranes against the sunset

I have to get out for the sunset at least once during any trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (Socorro, New Mexico, USA) during the Festival of the Cranes. This year it was not the best sunset ever, but the Sandhill Cranes performed up to their usual excellent standard. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Dancing Cranes

We were out at the “Crane” ponds along Rt 1 north of the visitor center at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (Socorro, New Mexico, USA) to catch the Sandhill Cranes flying in to their night roost in the shallow water. The sun had already set, 15 minutes before, and the high desert river valley New Mexico dark was descending fast. We were already in ISO 6400 territory and shutter speeds too slow for comfort for the active birds. But when these two cranes decided to have a go at each other right in front of me, of course I swung the camera around and got off a burst. This ritualized combat, or dance, is part of the mating ritual and, though Sandhill Cranes mate for life, and only breed once a year, the courting goes on all year long. You are likely to see this happening somewhere in the flock any time of day. The trick is be looking at the right birds at the right moment, as the whole interaction only lasts, at least outside mating season, a few seconds. Since the colors were not strong this late in the day, I decided to process this image as a black-and-white. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Synchronized flight: Sandhill Cranes

Once in a great while you catch two Sandhill Cranes who are flying together in almost perfect synchronization, wing beat for wing beat. These two are at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro, New Mexico (USA). Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. (From a technical standpoint this is an interesting photo because it shows off the amazing tracking auto focus of the new 2.0 firmware on the Rx10iv.)

Geese against the rainbow

Sometimes it is hard to believe how very blessed we are when we go out in search of nature’s wonders. We were out early to catch the Sandhill Cranes as they rosed from the pond where they spent the night in shallow water, and in hopes that the Snow Geese would come in to the pond to stage for the day, as they often do. The sun had only a small gap between the mountains to the east and the cap of cloud that promised rain for most of the day, and as it bridged the gap to magic things happened at the same time. The geese arrived, winging in in flocks of 20 to 100, circling the pond several times before settling, and a rainbow sprung up off to the north, up the valley. Of course I had to try to catch the geese as they passed in front of the rainbow. Again, how blessed! Sony Rx10iv at 175mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. And here is landscape view.

Cranes in the dawn

The Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, USA spend the night standing in shallow water to protect themselves from predators as they sleep. They wake before the sun comes up and just as it does, they rise and move off to fields where they feed during the day. Generally they leave in groups of 3, a family unit, but sometimes several families will decide to fly out at the same time. Dawn light on the mountains to the west of the Refuge and on the Cranes can make for some spectacular sights…though the light levels are a challenge for any camera. This shot is at ISO 6400 on the Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Sandhill Cranes confrontation

The other action shot you look for at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in November is Sandhill Cranes confronting each other. It is part of the mating ritual and goes on all year long. If you watch a large group of cranes you will see it happen every 60 seconds somewhere in the group…somewhere…and that is the difficult part for the photographer. You scan the flock and hope the confrontation will last more than a few seconds…most only last that long…so you can get your camera on it. Patience and persistence sometimes win out. This these two birds are young…this year’s colts…so they are not really serious about it…just practicing for next spring’s mating. Still, they are getting lots of air already. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Sandhill Crane in Flight!

Wildlife photography is all about being the right place at the right time and ready. We stopped for the first big group of Sandhill Cranes along the Tour Loop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, in Socorro New Mexico, late in the afternoon on the north loop where they are knocking down corn for the Cranes and Snow Geese to feed. After about 10 minutes I noticed that there was a lot more action, especially birds in flight, at the south end of the field and we moved the car and ourselves down the road several hundred yards. The Cranes would come up out of the field and fly close across a hedgerow stand of Cottonwoods on their way to another group of Cranes at the end of the field two fields down. I was at the right place at the right time. I set the Sony Rx10iv in Program with my custom birds in flight modifications: center tracking auto focus, continuous focus, minimum shutter speed Auto ISO pegged at 2000th of a second, low speed continuous shooting (3.5 fps), and exposure linked to the focus point. So I was ready, or as ready as I could be. And the Cranes put on their show. I, and the camera, did not nail every shot, but I got many keepers over the next 30 minutes. The simple subtle grays and delicate feather details of the Cranes against the jumble of fall cottonwoods…and in great light. What more could you ask? Right place, right time, and ready!

Inca Dove, Texas

There were lots of Inca Doves at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center in Edinburg, Texas when I visited during the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Some were literally underfoot. Sony Rx10iv at 500mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.