Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sandhills cranes, Photographers, and Wildlife Refuges

I was in Socorro for a couple of days this week, on my way to visit family in Grants, NM. This time of year is good for seeing some of the migratory birds that winter at two wildlife refuges in the area. The larger of the two wildlife areas, Bosque del Apache, is an excellent place to see these birds and is much larger than the Sevilleta NWR at least as far as tour roads go, and Bosque has more water which is nice for reflections and morning flyouts. However, Bosque has become very popular with photographers and this time of year any place in the refuge where birds are accessibly close to the road is very busy with parked cars and lines of photographers. Some pro photographers even teach workshops at Bosque. On the other hand the small area available at Sevelleta isn't nearly as popular.

"A Siege of Cranes" Sevilleta NWR, NM
The photograph above was taken Tuesday afternoon/evening at Sevelleta.  I went into the refuge area and found myself the only one there, I drove down the road and found a large group of sandhill cranes in a field, across the road, and into the next field.  I estimated there were two or three hundred cranes in the group and they seemed to be relaxed because nobody was around.  I parked the car a distance away and approached he group slowly with my camera and telephoto lens handheld.  As I got close they began to get more nervous and began moving to a more distant field in small groups. At one point, a fairly large group took to the air and I shot this image as the cranes flew in the late evening light.

A group of sandhill cranes flies with a sunset backdrop
I went thrice to Bosque and once to Sevilleta and my best results came from the visit to Sevilleta because the access to the birds and the lack of crowds allowed for a more relaxed environment for both myself and the animals.  Fortunately, there was a very nice sunset the evening I was at Sevilleta, so that helped!

I have, generally, seen some different animals at the two refuges.  At Sevilleta, I've taken some very nice photos of American kestrel and at Bosque I've seen more hawks of various breeds so this might be an important consideration for the photographer interested in certain subjects.  I've also seen more deer at Bosque and took the photo below on the second morning I was there.

Mule deer, early morning, Bosque del Apache NWR
As ever, click on a photo to see a larger version.

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