Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, south of San Antonio, New Mexico is its 25th Festival of the Cranes, this week.
A little photo mission with my brother Guy and his wife Barb on Thursday afternoon found the refuge sparsely populated with visitors and birds.
The day had a mid-level layer of cloud cover.
There were birds, just not in the large numbers of years past.
Speculation, lack of birds might be due to a mild fall and it is also extremely dry.
Some fields are flooded to augment the wetlands, but there was a conspicuous absence of Canadian Geese.
A Golden Eagle established a perch on a tree in the center of an area half flooded and ventured out to dive and swoop, but this duck, below, kept flying as the eagle diverted its dive, and didn't come back with anything for lunch.
Among those viewing this raptor, there was some disagreement whether it was an immature Bald Eagle or a Golden.
Referring to the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide of Birds of the Western Region, based on the size and coloration, I’m going with it being a Golden Eagle. An immature Bald Eagle is larger and darker, it is actually larger than a mature Bald; having a greater wingspan. After its first molt, wing-tip feathers are not replaced. It’s like the bird loses its training-wheels.
A Golden Eagle is also smaller, with up to a six-foot wingspan, while the Bald has a wingspan up to seven and a half feet.
There were a variety of hawks, Harriers, Osprey, and Kestrel.
The stars of the show, the Sandhill Cranes were present, as were the snow geese.
This coyote was trying to jump the cranes, but they spotted him and those close took flight, while the others kept a sharp eye out.
At least the likelihood of this coyote is probably safe from the scheduled massacre, because it is making its home on federally protected land.
Near sunset, a small herd of deer came into an open field to graze.
At sunset we arrived at a very popular viewing location, the Flight Deck, where normally large flocks return to the wet area for the night. There was little activity as the sunset was muted.
Even the moon only showed the narrowest of a sliver.
So, What Is Wrong With This Picture?
Even with all the limited situations and weak light, many opportunities presented themselves.
This was a less hectic experience than others I have had where you seemed to be spinning, overwhelmed by the numbers of birds constantly moving and dividing your attention. This trip allowed one to savor the birds.