Monday, March 15, 2010

Around the Pond

Duck Ecology was another class my husband and I took during the Festival of the Cranes. This class was held at New Mexico Tech, a very nice campus in the heart of Socorro, about 18 miles north of the Bosque del Apache. Our presenter was John Vradenburg who is a full-time employee at the Bosque, the Land Management Research and Demonstration Senior Biologist. His presentation pointed out how the Bosque's habitat relates to all the duck species that visit the refuge. He showed us the migration patterns of these birds as well as their breeding strategies and how the refuge is an integral part of their lives.
After class was over, we visited the pond just outside of the classroom, where there are always many ducks and geese, including hybrids, hanging around waiting for a "handout." They are so used to humans feeding them. But that is one thing I refuse to do since they are supposed to be "wild." I was surprised to see this beautiful ring-necked duck in the pond. We usually see these birds only at the Bosque.
And then I took several photos of my favorite duck that lives on this pond, the American Wigeon. Their whistles as I call it are so unique. Typically I think of "ducks" in general as "quackers." But this species "whistles!" I'm not positive, but I think in the photo above we are looking at a female. Notice the brighter green of the plumage on the wigeon behind this bird. But then it could also have been the lighting, the way its head was turned (or not) toward the sun.

And then I saw something that broke my heart. Notice this mallard. It does not look good. A closer look reveals that there is a pin, a push-pin, in its chest. Now, how did it get there? It's obvious this duck wasn't going to live much longer. It seemed to be swimming along as if nothing was wrong, yet it was so pale.
Upon further observance, I saw some movement and heard twittering going on in the bushes next to the pond. I had to see what all the noise was about. And I found a few song birds there. Below is a titmouse trying to hide. I can't ID the other bird below it (possibly a red-winged blackbird).
And then I found out who was doing the singing - a few white crowned sparrows. It's amazing how close to the water these birds get.

One bird I usually see, but did not see this time, is the killdeer. They are usually around the pond in large numbers, but I don't remember seeing any that day and hour.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A New Mexico sunset

There are so many great opportunities to see beautiful sunsets in New Mexico. While visiting the Bosque del Apache during the Festival of the Cranes (Nov 17-22, 2009) there were a couple of beautiful sunsets. Here is one worth sharing. You can click on each of the photos to enlarge them.
Note the sandhill crane flying in this photo. I think this one is my favorite of the three photos here.
And this one I was trying to get what is called a "sun dog" where there is a rainbow of sorts in the clouds.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Snow Geese at the Bosque del Apache

One of the most spectacular birds in flight, especially en masse, would be snow geese. Their contrasting colors of black and white in large numbers can be so exciting to see. And if one has the opportunity to take photos of these birds in flight with a bright blue sky as background is more like icing on the cake. Below I am posting a photo of these birds in flight with mountains in the background at the Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. Back in November, during the Festival of the Cranes, following a morning class my husband and I took regarding Sandhill cranes, we decided to drive around the refuge and seek out our own sights. You can click on the photos to see a larger image.
In the photo below, these all look like snow geese. The differences between snow geese and Ross' geese are slight, but if you look closely at a large flock of geese you can possibly pick them out. Besides being slightly smaller, Ross' geese have rounder heads and their beaks and necks are shorter than snow geese. Probably one of the most noticeable features are the lack of a grin patch on the Ross' beak. They also have a straighter looking beak at the base whereas the snow geese have a more curved base.
Here is another shot of snow geese, especially the ones in the foreground. I really like this image; it looks to me like a mama, papa and two youngsters.
I think this is a golden eagle perched on a power pole. Someone please correct me if I am mistaken.
Last year my husband and I visited one of the prairie dog colonies that the refuge has maintained. It's only been a few years that the Refuge has reintroduced this species, and we visited the colony once again in November. This particular species is known as the black-tailed prairie dog. I have provided a link in case you would like to know more about these animals. On our way to visit the colony of prairie dogs we encountered another species that I am able to add to my wildlife "life" list. And that is the javelina. I have never seen these pig/boar-like animals before, and it happened so quickly that I didn't have the opportunity to get a snapshot. We were rounding the bend in the road and there were at least 7-8 javelinas at the edge of the road. We startled them and they took off up a steep hill into the more arid area of the refuge.
We saw these cranes eating in the field while driving around the refuge. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will be able to see that some of the cranes have their heads up, literally looking to the sky. They are calling out to other cranes while the others are busy eating. I wonder what they are "saying." :o)
And here is a male-female pair in the foreground eating in the marshy field. Don't you just love those red heads?


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