Bosque Birding, Part 2

(Be sure to see Bosque Birding, Part 1.)

Snow Geese_BosquedelApacheNWR-NM_LAH_6273It was pitch black, and our motel room was uncomfortably cold, despite the noisy heater that had run all night. I groped my way out of bed, half asleep but excited about the coming day. We were in Socorro, New Mexico, just north of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. In less than an hour, I’d be taking pictures of some 30,000 Snow Geese flying into the dawn sky.

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Bosque Birding, Part 1

Question: I’m a birder and nature photographer living in Colorado, with a limited budget for travel. Where can I go for fun and photos at this time of year?

Answer: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge!

Geese and Cranes_BosquedelApacheNWR - NM_LAH_7495Just a day’s drive south of Colorado Springs, Bosque del Apache is the place to go for anyone interested in birds and/or photography. The week we visited, right after New Year’s, the refuge was home to 8,100 Sandhill Cranes, over 32,000 “light” geese, and a whopping 57,000 ducks! With such numbers, spectacular photos are pretty much guaranteed.

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Bajillions of Snow Geese

dsc_0367It was almost 5 am, well below freezing, and I was clumsily trying to attach my camera to my tripod with gloved fingers. The last of the stars had finally given way to the growing light in the eastern sky, but the sun wouldn’t be up for a while yet.

A class of a dozen photography students arrived and began setting up their cameras next to me. Their fancy lenses dwarfed mine. Not for the first time, I wondered what in the world I was doing here!

Of course, I’d love to be back in bed sound asleep, or at least in the coffee shop with a nice hot cup of tea, but 50,000 snow geese, glistening white in their winter plumage, were sleeping on the wetlands in front of me. At some point in the next hour or so, the growing daylight would reach a critical intensity, and the entire flock would lift off as one, circle overhead, and then fly off into the new day. I wasn’t about to miss it.

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