New Mexico Favorites: Bosque del Apache 1/4

20XX

Following almost a month in Eastern Europe, I’m so glad to be back home in New Mexico’s high country, above 4,000′ elevation, which includes much of central and western New Mexico.

Always exhilarated by high-desert light, I’m starting off this year’s postings by re-visiting images of my favorite New Mexico locations, beginning with the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, which is fed by the Río Grande, 150 miles south of Santa Fe. Established in 1939, this is a protected migratory stop for thousands of snow geese and upwards of 15,000 Sandhill Cranes heading south in November, then returning north beginning in February for breeding season.

Early winter light warms the soft wetlands screened by the 7,000′ Chupadera Mountains immediately to the west; as the sun clears the mountains, thousands of Snow Geese’s cacophony builds until the Sandhills too, with their six-foot wingspans, begin to lift off in twos and threes, heading for the nearby grain fields to feed for the day before returning, as the sun sets, to the wetlands’ 2-4′ of water.

So, this will be the first of the 4 Bosque del Apache favorites.

Bosque del Apache<br>New Mexico Favorites: Bosque del Apache 1/4 Bosque del Apache II<br>New Mexico Favorites: Bosque del Apache 1/4 Bosque del Apache III<br>New Mexico Favorites: Bosque del Apache 1/4 Bosque del Apache IV<br>New Mexico Favorites: Bosque del Apache 1/4 Bosque del Apache V<br>New Mexico Favorites: Bosque del Apache 1/4 Bosque del Apache VI<br>New Mexico Favorites: Bosque del Apache 1/4 Bosque del Apache VII<br>New Mexico Favorites: Bosque del Apache 1/4

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Beaufort, South Carolina Low Country

2014

 From northern NM high country to South Carolina tidal lowlands amounts to an 8,000’ transformation in elevation.

Water, water and more water, as the tidewater fishing fleet courses amongst the lowlands, always followed by wonderful skimming pelicans…

Low Country<br>Beaufort, South Carolina — 2014 Low Country II<br>Beaufort, South Carolina — 2014 Low Country III<br>Beaufort, South Carolina — 2014 Low Country IV<br>Beaufort, South Carolina — 2014 Low Country V<br>Beaufort, South Carolina — 2014 Low Country V<br>Beaufort, South Carolina — 2014

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Albatrosses & Petrels

2014

The fossil records of both Albatrosses and Petrels go back nearly 60M years; both are pelagic, since they only return to land to breed. Dominant in the Southern Oceans, albatrosses and giant petrels are convergent, so while not closely related, they have independently evolved similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments.

Albatrosses comprise a group of 22 species of large to very large birds, and are among the largest flying birds. Both albatrosses and petrels are tube-nosed seabirds with strong and sharp-edged bills, with their upper mandible terminating in a large hook. Along each side of their bill are tubes (long nostrils) that enable albatrosses and petrels to measure their exact airspeed during flight – analogous to the pilot tubes in modern aircraft – and thus are highly efficient in the air. With their ability to use dynamic soaring and slope soaring, they are able to cover great distances with minimal exertion.

In addition to wingspans of at least 8-10 feet, albatrosses’ wings are stiff and cambered, with thickened streamlined leading edges. They travel huge distances using two techniques common to any long-winged seabird: dynamic soaring and slope soaring. Dynamic soaring involves repeatedly rising into the wind and descending downwind, thus gaining energy from the vertical wind gradient, with effort only expended in turns at the top and bottom of each loop. This maneuver enables them to cover about 600 miles a day without flapping their wings. Slope soaring uses the rising air on the windward side of large waves. Albatrosses’ very high glide ratios of 22:1 means that they can travel forward a distance 22 times the drop. Further, they are aided in soaring by a shoulder-lock, a sheet of tendon that locks the wing when fully extended, allowing the wing to be outstretched without any muscle expenditure, a morphological adaptation they share with the giant petrels.

All albatrosses are listed to be at some level of endangerment as a result of the serious decline in fish stock, from overfishing, and from being hooked by longline fishing gear. Both feed on squid, fish and krill, by either scavenging, surface seizing, or diving.  And their breeding season can take over a year from laying to fledging with a single egg laid in each breeding attempt.

Combining their soaring techniques with their use of predictable weather systems, Albatrosses in the Southern Hemisphere flying north will take a clockwise route, while those flying south will fly counterclockwise. So well adapted to this lifestyle, their heart rates while flying are close to the basal heart rate when resting. Their flying intensity is such that the most energetically demanding aspect of a foraging trip is not the distance covered, but the landings, take-offs and hunting undertaken to find a food source.

Albatrosses live much longer than other birds; they delay breeding far longer and invest more effort into fewer young. Most species survive upwards of 50 years.

Capturing Albatrosses and Petrels in flight by camera, from a moving, bouncing ship in high seas is an exciting and exhausting challenge. With their habit of closely following ships for what might possibly be discharged, plus their natural tendency to glide within the ship’s draft, they definitely try to see just how close they can fly to the ship before having to veer off…

Petrel<br>Albatrosses & Petrels – 2014 Albatross<br>Albatrosses & Petrels – 2014 Petrel Il<br>Albatrosses & Petrels – 2014 Albatross II<br>Albatrosses & Petrels – 2014 Petrel III<br>Albatrosses & Petrels – 2014 Albatross III<br>Albatrosses & Petrels – 2014 Albatross and Petrel<br>Albatrosses & Petrels – 2014

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Bosque del Apache V: Totems

2013

The initial challenge for me was to compose vertical slices of landscape within the camera vs. carving a vertical image out of an existing horizontal image. Either way though, it causes me to see differently, which is my objective. Limiting much of the surroundings enables me to emphasize verticality.

These eight totems, drawing from both approaches, are meant to provide a different perspective on one of New Mexico’s truly beautiful locations.

Marsh<br>Bosque del Apache V: Totems - 2013 Snow Geese<br>Bosque del Apache V: Totems - 2013 Sandhills<br>Bosque del Apache V: Totems - 2013 Wetlands<br>Bosque del Apache V: Totems - 2013 Bald Eagle<br>Bosque del Apache V: Totems - 2013 Sandhill<br>Bosque del Apache V: Totems - 2013 Cottonwood<br>Bosque del Apache V: Totems - 2013 Sandhill II<br>Bosque del Apache V: Totems - 2013

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Bosque del Apache V: Last Light

2013

As the last light falls on the bosque’s marsh grasses, the range of red-browns gradually fades against the Chupadera Mountains, leaving hardly any visible contrast with the tens of thousands of snow geese and sandhills that have now settled in, quieting with only occasional chatter.

Nearby grasses bordering a canal contrast ever more softly against the flowing water in the marshes. And then it becomes so quiet, no one would believe that only a few hundred yards away a vast carpet of migratory fowl await daybreak’s signal to once again awake, rise and fly out to the fields to feed.

Last Light<br>Bosque del Apache V: Last Light - 2013 Last Light II<br>Bosque del Apache V: Last Light - 2013 Last Light III[<br>Bosque del Apache V: Last Light - 2013 Last Light IV<br>Bosque del Apache V: Last Light - 2013

 

 

 

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Bosque del Apache V: Sunset

2013

As the sun begins to set, the daily ‘fly-in’ commences with the gradual return of all the snow geese and sandhills to the relative safety of the bosque’s 3-to-4 feet of water. Announcing their arrival with incessant honking as they circle and set down, the very low-angled light of sunset provides a dramatic backdrop.

Snow Geese Fly-In<br>Bosque del Apache V: Sunset - 2013 Sandhill Fly-In<br>Bosque del Apache V: Sunset - 2013 Chupaderas at Sunset<br>Bosque del Apache V: Sunset - 2013 Chupaderas at Sunset II<br>Bosque del Apache V: Sunset - 2013

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Bosque del Apache V: Overflight

2013

Tens of thousands of snow geese and as many as 15,000 sandhill cranes begin arriving mid-November to rest and refuel from their long southern migration flights. Most will stay until the end of January, spending each night safe from predators in 2-to-3 feet of marsh water. At dawn, the snow geese begin stirring; soon their honking and flapping of wings raises to such a din, flock after flock lift off, ‛flying out’ to the surrounding fields to feed. As the sun sets, they return to the wetlands for the night.

This time of year thousands of people are drawn to Bosque Apache to witness this twice daily incredible ‛sight, sound, and motion’ show, which is further enhanced by the low-angled winter sun as the birds circle against the 7,000′ Chupadera Mountains.

Sandhill Overflies Snow Geese<br>Bosque del Apache V: Overflight - 2013 Snow Geese Overflight<br>Bosque del Apache V: Overflight - 2013 Snow Geese Overflight II<br>Bosque del Apache V: Overflight - 2013 Snow Geese Overflight III<br>Bosque del Apache V: Overflight - 2013

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Bosque del Apache V: Sandhills Rising

2013

Each morning during their migration rest at Bosque del Apache, the Sandhill Cranes rise from fields flooded by 2-3 feet of water, where they are safe from predators. In groups of 3 to 10 they fly to nearby grain fields, where they spend the day feeding, only to rise again as the day fades and return to the safety of the wetlands for the night.

Weighing 8 to 10 lbs. and with a wingspan of up to 6 feet, Sandhills look ungainly while standing, but stretch into beautiful aerodynamic form with their powerful pumping wings slowly lifting them into the sky

 

Sandhills Rising<br>Bosque del Apache VI: Sandhills Rising - 2013 Sandhills Rising II<br>Bosque del Apache VI: Sandhills Rising - 2013 Sandhills Rising III<br>Bosque del Apache VI: Sandhills Rising - 2013 Sandhills Rising IV<br>Bosque del Apache VI: Sandhills Rising - 2013 Sandhills Rising V<br>Bosque del Apache VI: Sandhills Rising - 2013
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Bosque del Apache V: Framed by Mountains

2013

Twelve years ago I moved from Maryland’s very flat, eastern shore to Santa Fe to live amongst beautiful mountains bathed by incredible high desert light. Yet I still can’t quite believe the anomaly that is the 4,500′ Bosque del Apache wetlands preserve.

The wetlands’ color and texture magically blend against the Chupadera mountains’ 7,000′ east face during the sun’s morning ascent.

Framed by Mountains<br>Framed by Mountains - 2013 Framed by Mountains II<br>Framed by Mountains - 2013 Framed by Mountains III<br>Framed by Mountains - 2013 Framed by Mountains IV<br>Framed by Mountains - 2013

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Bosque del Apache V: Early Light

2013

This is my fifth extended visit to Bosque del Apache, one of my favorite locations in New Mexico, 160 miles south of Santa Fe. Created in 1939 to protect the last remaining 17 living sandhill cranes, the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge’s selective damming of an offshoot of the Rio Grande has developed into nearly 100 sq miles of managed wetlands and adjacent feeding fields, providing a critical stopover for migrating birds including ducks, hundreds of thousands of light geese, and now thousands of sandhill cranes.

In late fall, the bird migrations on their southern trek stop to rest and feed, then return again in early spring as they fly north for mating season. With the first rays of sun, thousands of light geese begin stirring, until their deafening cacophony raises them in waves upon waves, to be followed by hundreds of the much larger and more majestic sandhills in groups of 10 to 20 at a time. Since they only fly to surrounding fields to feed for the day, once the sun begins to set, the light geese and Sandhills rise again and return to the safety of adjoining marshes for the night.

Low-angled winter light on the wetlands, marshes, grain fields and surrounding mountains presents a spectacularly soft tableau.

Early Light<br>Bosque del Apache V - 2013 Early Light II<br>Bosque del Apache V - 2013 Early Light III<br>Bosque del Apache V - 2013 Early Light IV<br>Bosque del Apache V - 2013 Early Light V<br>Bosque del Apache V - 2013

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Bosque del Apache IV

2013

Returning once again to the Bosque del Apache in cold January, I wait for first light as it gradually warms the soft wetlands and rouses thousands of migrating fowl. Tens of thousands of snow geese and thousands of Sandhill Cranes raise an amazing raucous as they begin lifting off the water to spread out amongst the adjoining fields of grain. Though the snow geese are quicker to gain flight, the Sandhills with their six-foot wing spans are truly majestic as they slowly rise in powerful flight.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1939 to protect the last remaining 17 living Sandhill Cranes. By creating a wetlands area off a turn of the Rio Grande seventy-five years ago, Bosque del Apache has served as the major high desert refuge for the Sandhills, various strains of geese, and countless ducks migrating south in fall and returning in early spring.

Against the Chupadera Mountains to the west, the contrast of the wetlands’ water and foliage illuminated by early light makes for a photographer’s dream.

Cottonwood<br>Bosque del Apache IV - 2013 Winter Orange<br>Bosque del Apache IV - 2013 Ravens and Sandhills<br>Bosque del Apache IV - 2013 Wetland Early Light<br>Bosque del Apache IV - 2013 Sandhills Rising<br>Bosque del Apache IV - 2013 Wetland Ice<br>Bosque del Apache IV - 2013

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Bosque del Apache III

2011

Early winter light warms the soft wetlands screened against the hard Chupadera Mountains as the rising sun awakens thousands of migrating fowl. The Snow Geese’s cacophony builds and 10,000 Sandhill Cranes begin lifting off in twos and threes with their six-foot wing spans slowly, powerfully, pumping them upward.

President Clinton used to say: “It’s the economy, stupid.” With landscape, it’s the light! Never is that more pronounced than in early winter at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge with the Sandhills flying.

To view more images of Bosque del Apache, see Bosque del Apache and Bosque del Apache II

Winter Palette<br>Bosque del Apache III - 2011 Winter Palette II<br>Bosque del Apache III - 2011 Winter Palette III<br>Bosque del Apache III - 2011 Two Sandhills In Flight<br>Bosque del Apache III - 2011 Three Sandhills<br>Bosque del Apache III - 2011 Bosque Apache<br>Bosque del Apache III - 2011

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Bosque del Apache II

2012

The Bosque’s most celebrated season begins with the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes in mid-November and lasts until January-February when they head north to breed. Honking and calling 10-15,000 strong, the Sandhills congregate in groups among thousands of Snow Geese creating a spectacular migratory stop in the desert sands.

Sandhills appear gangly standing in the water on their long skinny legs.  Yet as one of North America’s larger water fowl with wingspans reaching six feet, they are definitely the stars of the Bosque show.

To view more images of Bosque del Apache, see Bosque del Apache I and Bosque del Apache III

Grasslands<br>Bosque del Apache II - 2012 Wetlands<br>Bosque del Apache II - 2012 Wetlands Trail<br>Bosque del Apache II - 2012 Sandhill Cranes Lift Off<br>Bosque del Apache II - 2012 Chupaderas<br>Bosque del Apache II - 2012 High Desert Bosque<br>Bosque del Apache II - 2012

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