Bosque del Apache — My Dilemma

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I’ve returned from our trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve near Socorro, New Mexico, facing a dilemma, albeit a very happy one.  I went to the reserve intending to photograph wintering Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes, and I had success beyond my wildest dreams, returning with dozens of excellent images.  How do I showcase these images in this blog without boring you with image after image of the same species?  I’ve tentatively decided to resolve the problem by devoting a couple of days to each species that I photographed.  That will not do justice to all of the images that I brought back by any means, but yes, there can be too much of a good thing.

Bosque del Apache is located in south central New Mexico, about 100 miles south of Albuquerque.  The reserve is many thousands of acres of rolling countryside punctuated by mesas, low mountains, and valleys.  It is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, appearing as predominately dry scrubland. However, the reserve includes riparian areas with bodies of water and woodlands and these areas  within the reserve are a magnet for migrating species.  During the winter, weather at the reserve is usually relatively cold, with nighttime temperatures well below freezing.  There is occasional rainfall and snow.

The reserve is not only a magnet for migrating wildlife but for nature photographers and birders as well.  The most productive venues in the reserve — places where large numbers of migrating birds — attract photographers and birders by the score.  There were a couple of occasions when I stood shoulder to shoulder with dozens of other photographers.  Normally, that would be a cause for considerable irritation, but not at Bosque del Apache.  The migrating birds, at least, the Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes, are inured to humans’ presence and they tolerate the observers.  There are also tens of thousands of individual birds, so it’s usually possible to secure a great location for photography even if you’re among dozens of your newest close friends.  That said, it pays to get to the choicest locations early!

Of course, the primary attractions are Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes.

But, these aren’t the only species in the reserve.  Indeed, Bosque del Apache harbors all sorts of species, including the occasional Bald Eagle.

It’s rare that one can find wildlife as accessible as in Bosque del Apache.  There were times when we stood within just a few feet of some species.  That said, one has to be intrepid if one wants to capture the really exciting images.  So, getting up at 4:30 in the morning and standing for an hour or more in sub-freezing temperatures waiting for flocks of several thousand Snow Geese to fly into a pond at sunrise is part of the game.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin with a discussion of Sandhill Cranes.  In subsequent days I’ll talk about Snow Geese, come back to the cranes, return again to the geese, and intersperse a couple of posts about other species and some of the unique features of Bosque del Apache.  It’s a lot of verbiage and images, I know, but well worth it, I think.


Images made with a Canon 5Div.  First image made with a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II L lens (thanks for lending it to me, Alfonso!), second through fourth images made with a Canon 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, fifth through seventh images made with a Canon 16-35mm f4 IS L zoom lens.  All images, aperture priority setting.  Third and fourth images supported by monopod, fifth and sixth image by tripod.  First image, ISO 500, f5.6 @ 1/1000.  Second image, ISO 1600, f5.6 @ 1/1600.  Third image, ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/2500. Fourth image, ISO 800, f7.1 @ 1/1600.  Fifth image, ISO 1600 f5.6 @ .3 seconds.  Sixth image, ISO 1600, f7.1 @ 1/200.  Seventh image, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000.


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