DEL APACHE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, NEW MEXICO
A Nature Photographer's First Visit
Text and images copyright Heather Forcier
at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge doesn't attract a large
number of photographers every year for nothing. Host to a variety
of wildlife including large numbers of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes,
photographic opportunities are plentiful. Red earth western mountains
can serve as a backdrop, and many vantage points have great eastern
and western views at dawn and dusk. Accommodations in nearby Socorro
are just over an hour's drive from the Albuquerque airport.
refuge is easily accessed by vehicle, with most shooting possible
from within, by car side, or a short walk away. With such abundant
wildlife, beautiful backgrounds, and easy access, Bosque is an unforgettable
experience for the nature photographer.
for nature photographers, mornings begin predawn. Allowing for the
half hour drive from Socorro and the time needed to secure a desirable
position for daybreak, the first hour is spent in the dark of night
setting up to view the eastern horizon, light slowly creeps in above
the distant mountains across the refuge's marsh. No two mornings seem
the same: some are saturated with fiery colors, others are overcast
in blue. Waiting along the water's edge as increasing light filters
into the sky, geese, ducks, and cranes become visible in the water.
event that gathering photographers, birders, and other spectators
are awaiting arrives with the din of distant Snow Geese. They could
be approaching from any direction, with likely thousands flying in
to congregate in the pools ahead. On approach, the sound of their
calls combined with the beating of their wings dominate the senses.
this time, almost unlimited photos are possible, such as mass Snow
Geese blur images, sharp silhouettes against a colorful sky, sunrise
over the mountains, and cranes lined up in the water that reflects
sky colors. With the flurry of goose activity comes a flurry of activity
by photographers. It may take several minutes for the geese to land
and settle with their already grounded counterparts, or additional
flocks may also arrive, prolonging the event. Finally, the noisy snow
geese settle in the water; all the while the light is changing, perhaps
even unfolding in different ways over the different horizons.
the event isn't over yet. At some point the geese will arise unforgettably
en masse from the water. Thousands upon thousands of geese take flight
simultaneously, perhaps even circling back to reland in the same marshes,
to do it all again later.
the birds depart that section of the refuge and redistribute over
other areas. The sun has risen, whether clear or overcast, and it
is time to search out the other opportunities that Bosque has to offer.
to continue on depends upon the light and wildlife activity. Scouting
out along the refuge's loops, Sandhill Cranes may be moving predictably
from one area to another. A Roadrunner may be spotted stalking insects
along the dirt roads. Any number of waterfowl might occupy the waterways
throughout the refuge. Stopping to take photos, most are possible
either from the vehicle or only paces away.
day continues on much like this, contingent upon the cooperation of
wildlife, light and weather, until dusk approaches. This could be
an opportune time to capture Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and other
willing subjects in the golden light of sunset.
and setting up in a position near a field of geese and cranes, the
activity doesn't seem to stop, with additional birds coming in while
others depart. This could last through the final hours of the day
until the light becomes too low to continue on. This day at Bosque
and images on this site are copyright Heather Forcier, all rights
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