Bosque Questions

Last year in early December I went to Bosque del Apache for the first time and shot four sunrises and sunsets. Before going I read everything I could find online about photographing there. When we arrived the rangers said the snow geese were not roosting at the flight deck and they didn’t know where they were, so they suggested we shoot at the large pool west of the highway, north of the park entrance. We got many great shots of sandhill cranes taking off in the morning and landing in the evening. There were even a few snow geese roosting one morning and they did a mini lift off before the cranes started being active. The last morning we went to the flight deck and found no geese roosting, but lots of photographers lined up just north of the deck, so we joined them. At 6:38 there was a massive fly in of snow geese. That is the photo I enclose. They stayed for 6 minutes and then there was a classic “lift off”. So, I am trying to understand geese behavior and am confused, since I don’t speak geese. I am visiting again soon and I have questions. How might the photographers lined up at the flight deck known that there would be a snow goose landing, followed by a lift off? Is it common for the geese to have a massive landing in the morning? If seeing a lift off is the priority, how does one choose where to go before sunrise? Is it useful to scout for roosting geese the night before? I would love some advice on how to find a lift off, rather than just show up at the flight deck and hope for the best. And of course, any other helpful suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!!

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A lovely sunrise lift-off image, Tony. If he doesn’t respond to this directly, I’d ping @Keith_Bauer as probably the best source. He lives in the Albuquerque area and conducts workshops there. I’ve been lucky in that the geese were always in that area north of the flight deck when I’ve been there. You can probably poke around on ebird as well. With all the folks who go there, I’m sure someone’s figured out where they’re hanging out and posted it.

Hi @Tony_Siciliano. Glad to hear you are headed back to the Bosque. Cranes and geese have already begun arriving in decent numbers. In another month it should be even better when you arrive.

Your questions are hard to answer as the bird behavior is not always predictable. For the past decade or so, the large populations of geese have not roosted overnight on the main Flight Deck Pond. There is a lot of water not accessible to visitors in the refuge and they hang out there more now. For the past 2 years they have made an early morning appearance at the crane pools on highway 1 as you come into the refuge. Flying in around dawn, hanging around for a while then blasting off. The behavior you saw where they flew into the north end of Flight Deck pond, then lifted has also been somewhat consistent. This year?? I will be there teaching for Festival of the Cranes in about 2 weeks. I’ll see what’s happening then, but tough to be at several locations with my teaching schedule. My advice would be to spend a morning at the crane pools early and see if they arrive. If they don’t, certainly the cranes will be there. Then see about the north end of Flight Deck Pond on another day. If the sky is cloudy (heavy clouds with little chance of breaking before sunrise) to the east, go to the flight deck. Light at the crane pools will not be favorable for flight images anyway. That won’t affect the geese. After sunrise, head to the north loop. The road is back to the main north loop this year rather than the diversion from the past 2 years as the fields have had a chance to recover and have been planted again.

You asked about scouting the night before. Not feasible as they’ll move anyway and most likely you won’t see where they are anyway as most will likely be in other ponds visitors can’t get too. Hope that is helpful.

Thanks for the response Keith. You masterfully answered my questions. Good luck in your upcoming visit. I’d love a report. I’ll be going there on Dec 2.

I’ve been going over to Bosque the last few years as my son lives in Socorro. I won’t get there until Dec. 7th. My experience has been the same as Keith’s re the main pond and the Crane pools (now 1 big pool with a parking lot). Keith definitely has the insider knowledge. And why they sometimes lift off before sunrise is something I haven’t figured out :-).

A magical place. I was fortunate to attend Keith’s workshop a couple of years ago. You’ve captured the feel of the place nicely.