Category Archives: Birds – General

The allure of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

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While I would not consider this photo to be an artistic masterpiece, it does convey all of the things that make Bosque del Apache such an amazing place. The colors that I witnessed there, at both sunrise and sunset, are second to none. The conditions also varied every day, making for new opportunities to capture the beautiful landscape that surrounds Bosque del Apache and San Antonio, New Mexico. The other attraction, and the primary reason that most people visit, by a wide margin, is the birds. There are large wintering populations of the gangly sandhill cranes and the beautiful snow and Ross’s geese. There are many incredible things you can see on this planet, but in my life, I cannot recall a more moving natural spectacle than thousands upon thousands of geese lifting off in unison. It truly takes one’s breath away. (text continued below next photo)

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The top photo illustrates the amazing color of the sky just prior to sunrise when the geese and cranes begin to stir. A thin layer of mist arose just before the sun’s rays came over the horizon. The second image is just after the geese “blast-off” and does a very poor job of conveying how moving a sight it is to experience. Finally, the third image is of one of the sandhill cranes making its lumbering run to gain flight, reminding me of the old films of World War II propeller planes gathering speed on the deck of an aircraft carrier before gaining enough lift to get airborne.

If you are looking for a photographic destination or just an amazing place to visit, then Bosque del Apache should be on your list. You don’t even need a monster telephoto lens to get close to these majestic birds. It can be folded into a trip to White Sands, Santa Fe and Taos, and Albuquerque. For northerners, it is also a welcome respite to cold winter temperatures. Start planning!

In preparing this post, I realized I had not written about the landscape shots I took at Bosque del Apache NWR, either, so I will seek to rectify that oversight very soon.

P.S. – you will also likely see northern harriers, bald eagles, northern pintail ducks, kestrels, many species of hawks, Gambrel’s quails, roadrunners, eared grebes, northern shovelers, coots, herons and egrets, many species of sparrows, and other birds and often mammals, too.

sandhilltakeoff

Puffins!

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This past week, my son, my girlfriend’s son, and I were treated to an amazing experience. We spent a few hours on Machias Seal Island, New Brunswick, observing razorbills, murres, terns, a lone Northern Gannett, and puffins, as well as seeing the fully functioning lighthouse. The trip was operated out of Cutler, Maine by Bold Coast Tours. I made the reservations back in late January to be sure we had spots (they are booked for the entire 2015 season already). We were extremely lucky, as it is not uncommon to make the ride out to the island, but not be able to land due to sea conditions. While it was a little chilly, conditions allowed us to land and spend a couple of hours in one of the blinds. Captain Andrew Patterson and his mate, Tyler, were not only gracious guides and hosts, but also provided a wealth of knowledge about the area’s wildlife and history. I cannot recommend this trip highly enough. Being so close to these amazing and quirky birds should be a bucket list item for everyone.

Also, photographically speaking, once you are in the blind, you can capture images with only a medium telephoto lens, as the birds literally land and parade about right in front of you. The puffins and the razorbills were the most common, but there were many murres, terns, gulls, cormorants, as well as the aforementioned gannnett.

I will share more images over the coming weeks.

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
  • ISO 640, f/5.6, 1/2000 secs. @ 255mm
  • handheld

The ecstasy and the agony… rough-legged hawk redux

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I have made several trips down to the East River marsh in the hopes of capturing that perfect image of the Rough-Legged Hawk that has been frequenting the marsh where the East River empties into Long Island Sound on the Guilford-Madison border. The images from Sunday, January 18 were nice in that I did not previously have any of this type of hawk, but the conditions were less than optimal. Those pictures are really only documentary in nature (see previous post below).

Yesterday afternoon, my hopes were high as I got closer to the dirt road that leads to the boat launch. The hawk was on a utility pole on the beach-side of the road. I passed it, turned onto the dirt road, hastily parked, and walked back, camera in hand. I took a few quick portraits, but they were obscured by wires. As I moved closer, the hawk launched across the road, and was obscured first by wires, and then brush. I was able to snap a few photos before it landed on the peak of the roof of the nearest home. The best is the one shown above, although I am tormented by the clipping of the wingtips at the bottom of the frame… so close to capturing a perfect image! Note the burrs stuck to the bird’s underside.

I turned and before I could even focus, he (or she?) was off again, skirting the back “yards” along the marsh before coming to rest in a tree behind the farthest house. I made my way down the street, quickly set up the tripod and captured a few more images before we were off again to the same peak of the roof of the house back up the street. I followed, at which time he again retreated to the tree behind the last house. I figured that I had been granted my chance and it was better to let the bird alone rather than harass it. Apparently, those duties were taken up by other local residents, as a few crows buzzed it and then landed to keep the hawk company (see below). The hawk decided that it would seek calmer locales and took off in a westerly direction along the shore.

I will keep trying to capture that perfect image as long as this beautiful bird remains close by.

Photo information:

  • Top: Canon EOS 7D Mk. II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, 400mm, f/5.6, ISO 1000, 1/1600 sec.
  • Below, top: Canon EOS 7D Mk. II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, 400mm, f/5.6, ISO 1000, 1/2000 sec.
  • Below, middle: Canon EOS 7D Mk. II, Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM, f/4.5, ISO 1000, 1/4000 sec.
  • Below, bottom: Canon EOS 7D Mk. II, Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM, f/5.6, ISO 1000, 1/2000 sec.

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Rough-Legged Hawk

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These are two images of the Rough-legged Hawk that has been visiting the marsh at the end of the series of roads that start at Neck Road in Madison, CT and end at the Guilford-Madison East River boat launch. They were taken in rather poor conditions of moderate rain and very gloomy (dark) skies just before sunset on January 18 and will surely not win any contests, but they are of an interesting subject. Yes, this beautiful bird is extremely wet (and probably got wetter as the skies opened up after sunset). Others have seen this beauty since, although I was skunked both morning and afternoon on January 19. I will try again tomorrow!

Photo information:

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/500 sec., ISO 1000