Osprey, Mono Lake © Robert Sommers 2023

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Bosque Del Apache

The trip we had planned didn't really unfold as expected. The way the thing had been drawn up, Ken would drive to Kansas to visit family and then pick me up at the Albuquerque airport midday Wednesday. We would shoot photos at the Bosque Del Apache and then take several days getting back, hitting a couple spots that we had never visited before returning home.

Best laid plans of mice and men. The reality unfolded a little differently. A huge snow storm hit the midsection of the country. Much of New Mexico was inundated and the I40 East was stopped at Tramway in Albuquerque. After a rough trip with ice and high winds last week, Ken's original plans were derailed and he ended up  stuck in a hotel room in Albuquerque, not able to continue east on his journey.

He managed to stay busy, drove down to the Bosque his first day out, took some exceptional pictures, including some really nice bald eagle and heron shots that he sent me. I was a little jealous of his success but told him not to wait five days for me to show up, to come on home. I would use my ticket another time. My good friend toughed it out and waited for me, picking me up midday Wednesday as promised. Awesome!

I felt the biting cold air as I stepped out on the curb awaiting his arrival outside of the airport. Seeing my breath before me, I knew that I was no longer in Southern California.

We quickly headed down to the Bosque, wanting to make every minute count. I had been to the large bird preserve twice before but never in the prime time of winter, when the large sandhill crane migrations took place.

The hour and a half trip, through Socorro and San Antonio went fast, both of us eager to see what prizes nature would deliver to our eyes and lenses. Ken had a pretty good idea of where to go, since he had bird dogged the park some five days past.

My first quarry was this harrier which I found enjoying his lunch out in the tules by the side of the road.

We drove a few of the loops to scout a bit and get our bearings and headed to the area in the south near the corn fields, which required a good short hike with multiple cameras, long lenses, very heavy tripods and Wimberly gimbals on our shoulders. Felt a little whipped.

We saw lots of birds. I think even some red winged blackbirds mixed in. And if I am wrong somebody is sure to tell me.

There are about 8000+ Sandhill cranes in the park this season at last count, a small number according to the locals but plenty for me. Add the Snow, Canadian and Ross geese, not to mention assorted ducks and raptors and it is simply amazing. Hard to describe the sheer number of birds until you stand there. A big bird mixer.

I took several thousand shots and as always it will take weeks, months or years to sift through them. I hope that you enjoy these pictures of our journey!

It will be very difficult to pick what to post.

We stood and watched winter's splendor as the sun sank in the distance. Suddenly an alarm rang out. A coyote was prowling the back of the corn field. The birds scattered.

The coyote finally left and a posse of javelinas sauntered over, mostly minding their own business. This flustered the flock as well but not like the coyote did.

We decided to call it a day. Grabbed a bite in Socorro and found our hotel. We did a little negotiating. My proposal, we could go through the snow covered mountains towards Magdalena, risky in the weather or I would be willing to drive home lickity split if we could do the Bosque one more time the next morning. Originally our plans were to check out Gila and a secret spot that I will not mention publicly. But Ken had been gone a long time and had been considerate enough to wait for me. 

Ken readily agreed on Bosque. Up at Sunrise. He had a bald eagle and I didn't and I needed to even the score. We rose at dawn the next day and drove back into the refuge. Caught a bunch of Canadian geese in the field. Hosers.

We found another large field of snow geese and cranes but we weren't quite ready for what we saw next. Two coyotes entered stage right and we watched the aftermath of a goose kill. We were very far away, thank heaven for my Sigma 150-600mm lens. 

Nature is indeed cruel but this was epic.

The crows patiently waited their turn.

Fido split with dinner. We snapped our fill and decided to take one more last trip around the Bosque.

It was sitting there on a branch, on a tree in the middle of the lake. Far away but the lens was perfect. I got my bald eagle. Along with a friendly raven.

You couldn't find a better mentor, photography teacher or friend than Ken. Have to thank him profusely.

We drove to Saguaro National Park and made the east section right before sunset. I was taking a picture of this saguaro silhouette when a deer popped her head up. Better to be lucky than good sometimes. More soon.


Sanoguy said...

Great shots, BH! Looks like you made some chicken salad!

Blue Heron said...

Thank you Mike. It was truly wonderful. Hyper attenuated and action packed. More tomorrow.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Superb photos. How many cameras do you carry in order to do a shoot like this?
Do you set up the tripods and wait for the birds?

Blue Heron said...

Two cameras, a Nikon D7000 and D7200. My lenses were a Nikon 18-135mm, a Sigma 150-600mmc and a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle. I shoot 90% of the photographs handheld without a tripod since the optical stabilization is so good on the long lens and you are encumbered a bit on a tripod when things are moving around.

What you don't see are the sherpas releasing the birds just outside of view. Very expensive but worth it, no? Gets very time consuming when there are thousands of ducks involved.

Thanks so much for the compliments Helen. I appreciate your readership and always taking the time to comment.

Jerry said...

Very cool Robert! Thanks to Ken for waiting and to you for the share.

Bethany said...

Always a pleasure to see what you select to post... Wonderful photos. Your coyote reality is a charming but truly pukey touch.

Anonymous said...

Great story and the photos are superb. Ken

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a visual feast.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely stunning! What an eye you have, and that focus is perfect. Very impressive!!


Anonymous said...

Fuck me
Priceless, thanks

Chip said...

Really beautiful. ....what an adventure! !

Paul Parker said...

Fantastic pictures Robert. What a treat. I need to visit the Bosque Del Apache.