Thursday, November 29, 2007

White Geese Galore


Why do thousands of bird photographers go to Bosque del Apache every November? Well the light is amazing. The vistas are wide open. And there are hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes, snow geese, Ross's geese, and just about every kind of duck you can find in your field guide.

Furthermore, the birds are somewhat acclimated to humans along the refuge's causeways and the birds tend to have routines that they follow. This allows nature photographers, with their lenses as long as a Cooper Mini, to get in position to take some really, really, really nice bird pictures.

For bird photography pikers like me, Bosque is a paradise, too. I can take some shots of a cooperative bird, change my settings wildly, take some more pix, change again, check them out on the camera's screen, take some more. You get the scoop.

We had an afternoon off late in our week at Bosque and just when the light was perfect, we turned a corner on the Marsh Route and found a newly flooded field chock full of resting, foraging snow and Ross's geese. So we joined the skirmish line of bird photographers already in place, snapping away.

Soon the geese took off in a sudden fright. Then they returned. They kept coming and going for the next hour and I thanked the gods that I was not shooting film because I took more than 500 frames.

Here are some of the more acceptable results.
The flooded field with resting geese. Mostly snows with a few blue geese and a good number of Ross's mixed in.

Spooking into flight.


A great chance to compare Ross's goose (L) with snow goose (R).

Coming back around to land in the flooded field again. This looks to me like the shots of the imprinted birds in Winged Migration.

Coming in for a landing. White birds with black primaries! How beautiful.

Splashing down.

Each bird created its own wave as it splashed to a landing.

And then they were up again. A coyote scared them into flight. Cottonwoods providing the backdrop.


As the flock passes overhead, you do NOT want to look up with your mouth open.


Droplets of water still clinging to the belly.


A beautiful blue morph snow goose.

Same species, different color morph.


While leading a trip on the first full day of the Festival of the Cranes, our groups spent some time scanning a flock of snow geese. I wanted to point our some Ross's geese to our vanful of birders.

While scanning with my spotting scope, I noticed a blue morph bird that looked quite small by comparison...


It was a blue morph Ross's goose--a very rare bird. I'd seen this morph before here at Bosque, but not for a while. Everybody was really excited to see this bird. We radioed the other van and got them over to see it.

A closer look at the rare creature. Check out the tiny head. Note, too, the head of the snow goose in the foremost foreground, showing the black grin line on the bill. Most of the other white birds in profile in this shot are normal Ross's geese (sans black grin lines on their much smaller pink bills).

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