Bosque 2009; Where Has All the Magic Gone?

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This Sandhill Crane was photographed in early morning light with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop off the yellow grasses: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6. Be sure to click on each image to see a larger, sharper version.

Overall, photographic conditions at Bosque del Apache NWR during the second half of November, 2009 were poorer than I have ever experienced in my 15 consecutive visits at this season.  That said, the two crane pools (Ed Cranepool to the south, and Harry’s Crane Pool to the north), have consistently offered excellent photographic oppourtunities virtually every morning and on some late afternoons as well.  And those who worked hard and put their brains in gear were able to make some good images away from the crane pools.  The huge problem is that there is no corn by the Farm Loop Road.  Various explanations are about:  a farmer quit; a farmer was sick;  root grubs ruined the entire crop and spraying to control them was not feasible.  With more than 20,000 geese present, there have been some decent morning fly-outs but those massive, loud, and thrilling mid-morning blast-offs from the corn fields have been missed by all.  And that includes birders, photographers, and the folks attending the Festival of the Cranes. 

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Though we had some great pre-dawn color, the birds were still sleeping. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 1000. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/60 sec. at f/5.6.

I remember the good old Phil Norton days when every festival was attended by huge flocks of geese roosting and feeding close to the tour loop road.  This year mid-morning and afternoon trips around the refuge often resulted in very few geese (if any) seen at all and those from great distance.  The present management has stated that there will be lots of corn planted near the road next year.  

There were some issues last year when a woman photographer walking absent-mindedly on the railroad tracks west of the North Railroad Pond was almost struck by a maintainence vehicle.  Understandably the railroad had a cow.  The solution was to leave the usually productive pond dry.  Last year the main impoundment was, for the first time in probably 14 years, plowed.  The large expanses of blue water were a photographer’s dream.  In just a year the main impoundment became totally overgrown and worse yet, the spent sunflower stalks along the western shore of the impoundment south of the Flight Deck were not cut as they had been last year.  This impeded views of the pre-dawn fly-ins and fly-outs and caused over-crowding on the Flight Deck. 

And for whatever reason–possibly the cold weather–the geese took flight quite late each morning.  We had some very nice sunrises (and one spectacular one) but the color always faded before the birds took to the air en masse.   My IPT group was great, and understanding.  And we had some great chances with the ducks at various off-refuge locations.  See BAA Bulletin #307 coming soon for the complete IPT report and news of the Bosque Site Guide update.

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This drake Wood Duck was photographed with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-7D. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/7.1. Fill flash at -2 stops with Better Beamer.
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