Just a duck or two…Ducks Away!

Pintail and Mallard Ducks (mostly), Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro New Mexico

The first days at the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro New Mexico, the fields behind Coyote Deck were still dry. On Thursday they began to pump water in, and by Saturday there were at least 5000 ducks, mostly Mallards and Pintails, gathered to feed on the floating seeds and shoots. They flood those fields to bring Ducks and Cranes and Geese within easy viewing of Willow and Coyote Decks on the Festival weekend every year. Bosque del Apache is intensively managed all year for the wildlife, but during the Festival of the Cranes, yearly, for close to 30 years, they also manage for the people who come to view the wildlife. And, just as I always hope for a Snow Geese rising shot at Bosque, I have come to appreciate the “Ducks Away” experience off Coyote Deck. I watched the field flood daily and stopped along the road when I finally saw the congregation of ducks, and waited. Most years the ducks just continue to feed while I am watching, but they rise often enough to give me hope…like once in past 6 years 🙂 This year, as I stood there hopping from one foot to the other to keep warm, a Refuge truck came down the dike road on the inside of the tour loop and, as it passed, the ducks startled and took to the air. I had an intense few moments there until they settled again. 

Sony RX10iii at 580mm equivalent field of view. Action and Flight mode (my own saved program). 1/1000th @ f4.5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet. 

Sandhill Cranes practice makes perfect

Sandhill Cranes, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro New Mexico

Sandhill Cranes mate for life, and only mate in late winter/early spring on their mating grounds far north of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro New Mexico (where this sequence was taken), but young Cranes and even adult pairs “practice” mating behavior year round. They don’t mate…they just practice. Or maybe “play” is a better word. This pair is either practicing or playing, and in season and on territory this would result in a mating. Hopefully these are young Cranes and they will get better at it with practice. If they continue to play around they will get the hang of it by spring. We can hope. (They can hope.)

Sony RX10iii at 454mm equivalent field of view. My memory BIF and action Program Mode. 1/1000th @ f6.3 @ ISO 100. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet and assembled in Pic Stitch. 

Coyote and the cranes…

Coyote and Sandhill Cranes, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro New Mexico

Carol picked up movement way back in one of the fields at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro New Mexico as we drove the tour loop. It turned out to be a Coyote and we watched it come up the tree-line and then cross into the next field fairly close to the road. It stalked across the field to a group of Sandhill Cranes. I could not figure out what it was doing. Sandhills are not easy prey for coyotes…in fact, unless an adult is injured, and totally alone, no coyote stands a chance against a Sandhill Crane. They do take pults and eggs, but only on the rare occasions when they find them unprotected. The Cranes responded to the Coyote by coming toward it, in a group, sending a clear “don’t mess with us…we are ready for you” message. Eventually the coyote went round the front group, up a corridor between groups, and drove off a couple of ravens who were pecking at something dead far out in the field. When you are an omnivore, leftovers are better than food that fights back…especially standing Cranes. 

Sony RX10iii at 494mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 200. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet. 

And a closer shot of the Coyote. 

Frosted Oak

Frost on oak leaves. My yard, Kennebunk Maine

Yesterday’s Day Poem was about waking to a heavy frost. What I did not say is that I got dressed and went out into the yard to capture the event in photos, just as the sun was rising. These four images catch some of the feeling of the frost on the oak leaves and grass. 

Sony RX10iii in-camera HDR. Processed in Snapseed to bring out the frost effect, and assembled in PicStich on my Android tablet.

And the poem: 

Under the street lights this morning
before dawn, it looked like it had
snowed in the night…the lawn was
white, and the cars looked covered.
I had to go to the back deck and
turn on the light to see that it was
only heavy frost. I have been fooled
before. I am ready for snow…oh
I know, once it comes I will remember
it is always, at best, a mixed blessing.
I could be out there right now with
the snowblower in all my winter gear
clearing the drive. No, I guess I won’t 
hurry the season. And there is much to 
be admired, after all, in a heavy frost.

November forest floor

Fungi, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Wells, Maine

My wife and I took a walk around the loop trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge near our home in Maine yesterday. The day was overcast, a real late November fall day…no snow yet here in Southern Maine (like most of the nation). The forest was largely bare. Even the oak leaves were all off. The fungi on fallen birches and maples showed easily with all the undergrowth died back. This found still-life was just off the trail. I like the mix of textures here, the way the wintergreen pokes out beneath the fungi, the way the small maple leaf rests, and the richness of the damp colors.

Sony RX10iii in-camera HDR. 200mm equivalent field of view. Nominal exposure: f4 @ 1/200th @ ISO 800. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet. Cropped for composition.

Serenity. Happy Sunday!

Canada Geese, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge,Socorro New Mexico

The Generous Eye: “If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Early morning light, and two groups of Canada Geese on the Boardwalk Pond at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro New Mexico. (Actually, now that I look at the image more carefully, there appear to be a few Cackling Geese in that far flock as well.) The light, the Geese, both still and gently moving, and the reflections make this, to my eye, a very peaceful image. I have cropped it to accentuate that feeling. 

Peace is among the hardest human emotions to achieve. Joy is often thrust gladly upon us by events. We are overwhelmed with sadness. Pain is something we afflict and endure in about equal measures, but peace we have to work at, we have to strive for, we have to surrender to. Peace rests behind every heartbeat, but too often, just out of our reach.

Part of the reason we have such difficulty with peace, I think, is a misunderstanding about its nature. We think peace is stillness…the absence of motion…the absence of trouble. But just as in this image, peace is motion in balance, the harmonious relation of forces. Peace is the untouchable center which moves through the troubles of this world, and is not altered by them. Peace is not a rock in the stream…it is a twig floating at one with the current. 

This image, while it has a painterly look, is not lifted out of time. It is not a still-life. It is peaceful because of the dynamic it captures, the second when things are just so, that will, if we let it, flow into the next and the next, without disturbing our equilibrium, our balance, our sense of peace. Peace is in the light, is and inseparable part of the light, in our beings when our eyes are Generous Eye. May peace be with you and yours this Happy Sunday!

Snow Geese photo-bomb Sandhills

Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Socorro New Mexico

I was tracking these Sandhill Cranes, trying to get them framed against the mountains, when these two Snow Geese overtook them and got in the way 🙂 Geese fly considerably faster than cranes. This is another shot I could not possibly have planned. Just the right place at the right time and ready…which, as I have said before, is my most basic recipe for photographic success, especially nature and wildlife photography.

Sony RX10iii at 518mm equivalent field of view. My specialized Birds in Flight mode. 1/1000th @ f7.1 @ ISO 100. -.3EV exposure compensation and level 5 DRO. Processed in PhotoShop Express on my Android tablet. 

Take off…

Sandhill Crane, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro New Mexico

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. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wild Turkey (Rio Grande Subspecies), Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro New Mexico

These nice plump Wild Turkeys are not destined for anyone’s Thanksgiving table. They are plump because they live on the refuge at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro New Mexico, where the living is easy…lots of corn and other fodder planted to sustain the population of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese, and freely available for the wandering herd of Turkeys…and only natural predators…Coyote, Bobcat, and Mountain Lion (and Fox, Raccoon, Opossum, and snakes for the eggs and pults). Only! Still, the population of Wild Turkey is obviously healthy at the Bosque. And that is something to be thankful for 🙂

There are five subspecies of Wild Turkey. When I saw these Turkeys I assumed they were Merriman’s, since that is the most common in the West. A little googleing this morning, however, showed that they are the much rarer (in New Mexico) Rio Grande subspecies…which exists in New Mexico only along the Rio Grande, specifically right around Socorro and Bosque del Apache, and a few other rivers further east. The Rio Grande is the most numerous subspecies in Texas, and also exists in Oklahoma and Kansas. I should have known better. Merriman’s are restricted to Ponderosa Pine and other dry mountain forest habitats. Interesting.

So, thankful Turkeys. And of course, a reminder to remember and numerate the many, many things we have to thankful for in these United States…beginning with family and abundant fodder, and extending out to election year politics. Whatever we think of the results of this year’s election, we are truly privileged to live in a country where we do, for better or worse, get to pick our President (or at least the electors who pick our President). And in between, well, an environment still healthy enough to support 5 subspecies of Wild Turkey, a National Wildlife Refuge system dedicated to protecting so many other species (though both are under attack), the right to free speech and assembly, the right to practice the religion of our choice (and the faith that sustains us), the privilege of loving and being loved, the wonder of waking up every day free to pursue the best the day has to offer. We have a lot to be thankful for. We have come a long way since the first Thanksgiving, and we have come that way, mostly, together. I can only hope that we will continue along the same path, despite the occasional predator…and like the 5 species of Wild Turkey, we will all be here to celebrate next year and for all our years to come. Happy Thanksgiving!


Just a few Snow Geese…

Snow and Ross’ Geese, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro New Mexico

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.