Situated along the Rio Grande River, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 57,000 acres and is a major wintering ground for cranes and waterfowl. Refuge personnel manage the water levels of its wetlands and impoundments to simulate what was once the seasonal flow of water from the Rio Grande before the river was damned and the flow altered. To feed the huge number of birds visiting the refuge each year, nearby fields are planted with corn, winter wheat, millet, and other grains. Loop roads transect the refuge marshes and fields and provide prime sites for wildlife viewing and photography. Species that may be seen include shovelers, buffleheads, pintails, teal and other ducks; bald and golden eagles; kestrels and other hawks; turkey; meadowlarks; quail; roadrunners; coyotes; mule deer; and more. In November, large flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes will be present. At night to escape predators, the birds flock to the marshes and shallow pools. With dawn, the snow geese and other waterfowl rise in mass from the wetlands and sweep overhead on their way to nearby fields to feed. Each day we will spend the early morning and late afternoon hours at the refuge photographing birds and many other species of wildlife which are present at the sanctuary.
Story and Photos by Melissa Groo
As Melissa Groo explains in her Outdoor Photographer article Finding the Right Track back in March- “Now, more than ever, we need an open discussion on the ethics of wildlife photography. This is the best time in history to be a wildlife photographer, and this is the worst time in history to be a wild animal. That statement might sound extreme, but consider the facts. It has never been easier to find a wild subject. Online databases, photography forums, texting and social media yield instant information on the location of a bird or other animal—often with GPS coordinates. Workshops that promise spectacular shots of wildlife in thrilling destinations abound. Thermal-imaging devices locate dens and nests; camera traps, drones and buggies find and track elusive animals. It also has never been easier to actually photograph a wild subject. Current lens technology, AF systems, and gear lightness and maneuverability make stunning images easily within reach of both amateurs and professionals. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us when we’re out in the field. If we work within the bounds of patience, respect and an understanding of the challenges wild animals face, we’ll be on the right track.” Continue reading