A pair of Sandhill Cranes takes off from the Track Pond at Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, their shimmering reflections echoing their flight.
A colorful New Mexico sunset adds a gorgeous background for a group of Sandhill Cranes flying in to their nightly roosting spot. The posture of these silhouetted cranes appearing to float down makes me think of Mary Poppins floating down to earth holding onto her umbrella.
There are two kinds of starts to the day in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico. Either the Snow Geese, after congregating in a huge white flotilla on one of the ponds during the night, explode in a swirling mass of white and the entire flock takes to the air and disappears flying to another area of the refuge to feed. Or, they peel off in small groups and, group by group, the flotilla gets smaller until finally the pond is empty. The latter is much quieter and much less dramatic. While it’s a disappointment when the anticipated explosion doesn’t happen, there is still something very appealing about watching the small groups as they take to wing with determination.
A few weeks ago just outside Yellowstone National Park’s North entrance, we encountered a flock of Bighorn Sheep. Most of the sheep ignored us as we stood on the road photographing them as they went about eating before bedding down for the night. Every once in a while one or two would stop and stare at us, then continue what they were doing. This group of ewes didn’t pay us the slightest attention…except for the one on the end who let her curiosity get the better of her.
I am always fascinated by the collective nouns used to describe a group of birds—a murder of crows, a gaggle of geese, a paddling of ducks, a squadron of pelicans. Some make sense. Others are a puzzlement. I wondered about Sandhill Cranes and found lots of different terms that are apparently used to describe them. The collective terms for cranes include herd, construction, dance, sedge, siege, and swoop. Some of these are likely derived from crane behaviors like dance and swoop. My guess is that sedge refers to the sedge-filled marshy habitat cranes frequent. I wonder if construction is a nod to construction cranes? I’m not sure how siege might describe cranes. A herd implies to me a lumbering mass of wildlife and is not what I see in cranes. Why not just call them a flock?
The gorgeous New Mexico sunrise and the cool morning temperatures with enough moisture in the air made for a perfect pairing of color and mist at Bosque del Apache. Snow Geese, silhouetted against the golden sky, fly through the morning fog.
…Who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town. This skinny Father Christmas doesn’t look like the jolly, pudgy Santa we’re used to seeing despite the “Ho, Ho, Ho.” Better check that stocking for a lump of coal.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Sandhill Cranes are elegant in the air, flying effortlessly from pond to field with slowly beating wings. Much of the time while we were visiting Bosque del Apache earlier in December, the skies were clear and cloudless providing an uncluttered background for this Sandhill Crane heading off to find a meal before roosting for the night. Taken with Nikon D5, 500mm PF lens.
In December, there is an abundance of Raptors at Bosque del Apache. Red-tailed Hawks watch patiently for prey from high perches. Northern Harriers cruise the meadows and fields in search of a meal. Bald Eagles sit majestically on bare branches in the midst of a pond. American Kestrels swoop down to the levees to retrieve small critters and insects. This American Kestrel was a star on the loop that circles through the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Every day we were there last week, it would perch in a tree above the levee at the edge of a particular pond until it saw prey, then would fly down to attack. It was so predictable that cars congregated on the side of the road and birders and photographers would walk down the road to whichever tree the Kestrel had selected for its perch for a better view. We stopped a couple of times.
As the light comes up at sunrise, the Sandhill Cranes begin to leave the ponds where they roosted for the night in search of food. Here a pair of Sandhill Cranes takes flight, splashing through the shallow pond as the Snow Geese watch.