Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Magic from the Rio Grande

I've uploaded two more slideshows from Bosque del Apache to my main photography site. Please visit the following links for better quality versions (and with a smooth transition in IE at least):



Friday, January 14, 2011

Bosque Predators

The Sandhill Cranes and Snow/Ross's geese feed on specially-grown fields of maize around the refuge. Multi-species flocks comprised of Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird and Brewer's Blackbird swarm over the left-over grains, while Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks sail overhead. Rows of corn are periodically flattened to allow the birds access to a steady and controlled food source throughout the winter. The more dominant cranes appear to access the freshly knocked-down cobs, where outbreaks of aggression and general social interactions are more frequent. Having access to the best feeding sites may come at a cost though. Coyotes lurk in the cover of the standing corn. Several times during my visits near the farm deck, a peaceful scene of feeding geese became a snowstorm of wings as the Snow and Ross's Geese erupted into the air in a spectacular and coordinated fashion. Up to three coyotes were trying their luck and twice I saw them get a meal by successfully grabbing a goose. There were many false alarms when the geese would half-heartedly take to the air but then quickly re-settle. On the occasions that a goose was taken, the whole flock did not return for hours. The cranes on the other hand, while still responsive to the presence of the coyotes, were far less keen to fly off. While they lack the immediate speed and agility of the geese they would flap a few feet to a safe retreat before turning and facing the Coyotes and on one occasion formed a wide semi-circle around a coyote, almost like a coordinated mob of the mammal. A few hundred long, sharp bills pointing its way was enough to make it think again and it retreated back into the corn.

The second obvious predator was the Golden Eagle, often two birds hunting together. The arrival of this species would often cause the blast-off of thousands of geese as they soared over a much wider area with the sky becoming a confusing, swirling mass of individual flocks. The power of this raptor became very clear one day when one dropped from the sky with such speed that it sent a goose thundering towards the ground as it lost is grip on the initial impact. The goose appeared to be dead after hitting the ground and the eagle came down for its meal, attended by Common and Chihuahuan Ravens and Red-tailed Hawks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Beauty of Bosque

I'm back from the blue skies of New Mexico to the drab of London. The first two weeks were spent photographing Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, Ross's Geese and other species from dawn till dusk (rest on Christmas day) at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on the Rio Grande south of Socorro, followed by another week touring around the state, sightseeing, birding and trying Green Chili Cheese Burgers! I've started a slideshow/gallery of Bosque del Apache, for photographs made in the landscape/horizontal format at the link below on my main bird photography site - more will be added in the coming days along with a gallery/slideshow in the portrait/vertical format. I'll also post some stories and notes shortly.