Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bosque for the Birds

December 4-7
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
The Crown Jewel of  our Winter Wonderlands Tour
There are 52,500 snow geese, 27,800 ducks, and 6,890 sandhill cranes spending the winter in the ninety square mile Bosque de Apache National Wildlife Refuge.   Just about all of the geese and the cranes roost together overnight in two ponds on the refuge.  

In addition to the birds, there are hundreds of photographers on the refuge.  Just about all of them gather before sunrise along the muddy shore of the pond where the geese roost. The prime view spots are precious few, and they go quickly to those who arrive well over an hour before the sun rises.  The photographers shiver in below freezing temperatures, long lens cameras poised on their tripods, waiting for the magic moment known as "the blast-off," when the geese all decide to fly out together.

This is our reward for getting up at 4 a.m. each morning.

(What these pictures cannot capture is the intensity of the moment when the geese begin to fly, as their random burbled calls rise to a unison babble, and the beating of their wings is percussive in the air.)

After the geese are mostly gone, the photographers rush to the pond where the cranes roost overnight, to photograph them leaving to forage for food in the fields throughout the refuge and the nearby countryside.

As the sun is getting low in the sky, the photographers are back around the ponds, photographing the birds returning for the night. 

Then they all return to their hotel rooms to download their hundreds, or thousands, of pictures from the day, to sort through them, to recharge batteries and prepare for an early wake-up call the next day.

Dick has wanted to photograph the geese and cranes here for years--Bosque del Apache is a pilgrimage site for bird photographers.  We feel fortunate to be sharing this wondrous experience, and to have such "mild" weather and dramatic sunrises during our little window of time on the refuge. 

P.S. Four of the pictures above are mine (Gayl's).   I love my little Panasonic camera with its big zoom, and I love Dick's post processing talents. 

1 comment: