I went for a scouting trip to Bosque del Apache in December for just a couple days but was very happy with the images I took in such a short time. It was crowded as the week before Christmas is a popular time for many of the tours but my fellow photographer and long time friend Bruce Taubert had an excellent time. Birds are back at the major roosting pond for the evenings and the magnificent fly outs, not in huge numbers as they are roosting in other ponds as well, but it still made for a nice fly out. The sunrises were spectacular as you can see below. The colors there never cease to amaze me and I slightly desaturated the images below as the red was overwhelming. There were approximately 65,000 geese there, 7,000 sandhills, and over 40,000 ducks of various species. As usual the northern pintails were the most numerous. The fly in to the major roosting pond by the sandhills was different than I have ever seen it before and it provided some great opportunities for flying birds. They were coming in from the east so you could set up on the west shore and get some excellent shots with the front of the cranes completely illuminated by the softer late afternoon light. I was dissapointed I only had one afternoon to shoot them in this light, but I still have many photos to process so I should not complain. Bruce and I headed to Albuquerque where he met his tour group and we all went to the zoo to shoot wood ducks, many to choose from at quite close distances as usual. The next morning I skipped the zoo in search of an area I might be able to photograph flying wood ducks and was lucky enough to find a few. Shooting flying birds is always tough and these little guys average around 45 miles per hour. I was able to get a few landing that I'm happy with but just didn't have the time to get a side view. I had to get back to work and make a Christmas shopping stop in Gallup which both my wife and son appreciated less than a week later.
In this new year I have many exciting photo trips lined up including south Florida, High Island in Texas, a few more trips to Bosque, my annual brown bear shoots in AK, back to Colorado for leaf color changes and elk again, and the pinnacle, 6 weeks in South Africa as I design a study abroad class on Wildlife Biology for ASU. I'll also have several local trips lined up. This late winter, early spring I hope to center on waterfowl, smaller predators through calling, and the desert breeding birds as the season is just around the corner. Happy New Year and Happy shooting to you all. I hope you feel as blessed as I do!
Here is the press release from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum:
Marvels of Migration Photography-Lecture By Stan Cunningham Dec. 9 Last winter Arizona birders and photographers were surprised when a wayward Common Goldeneye spent a few days at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, near the scenic copper-mining town of Superior, about 45-minutes drive due East of Mesa. Would you believe that of the 850 bird species in North America, more than 300 leave the continent and spend the winter in Central and South America and the Caribbean? In preparation, some transform themselves into “super birds”: gorging until they accumulate fat reserves that almost double their body weight in order to have the energy for transcontinental flight? Others take an opposite approach - flying just a few hours each day. And how do they find their way? An internal magnetic compass, eyes that can see polarized light or even magnetic directions, memorized celestial maps along with many other methods have all have been hypothesized and some convincing data collected. Research biologist and ASU Polytechnic Wildlife Professor Stan Cunningham will share these and more insights into avian migration during a lecture Dec. 9 at Boyce Thompson Arboretum accompanied by his impressive photography of birds on the wing. The presentation begins at 1:30 p.m. in the lecture room of the Smith Building and is open to the public, included with Arboretum daily admission of $9, and no pre-registration required. For the past three decades Cunningham has lived an adventurous life you'd expect to see depicted on film: crawling into black bear dens during wintertime as a wildlife biologist for the Arizona Game & Fish Department and spening a month each summer in Alaska as a professional photographer, shooting vivid pictures of Brown bears for magazines, tourist lodges and leading Alaskan photo safaris and ecotourism trips. A professor of wildlife biology at Arizona State University Polytechnic since 2006, Cunningham is known for his decades of research about bears, mountain lions, and the ecological effects of wildfire. On Sunday, Dec. 9, he will share some of the secrets scientists have learned on migration and navigation along with some of his most breathtaking avian photography.
I also will be talking about photographing migrating birds. I hope to see you there.