Location Reviews

Can't Make it to Bosque, Try This

2012 11 29 | 09 21 16 | 008016 E01C0295 Looking for Sandhills, find them in Indiana.

Bosque del Apache is still the supreme fall location to find Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese but Jasper Pulaski (JP) is a close second for cranes.  Located in northwestern Indiana, just south of Valparaiso, JP is a prime migration point with end of November crane counts in excess of 28,000.  The preserve does a great job of providing access to viewers and photographers with a raised viewing platform position right in front of the morning and evening gathering spots.

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You are limited to viewing locations (primarily shooting due west) so the time of day dictates your shots.  Evening shots are either difficult low light shots or some fantastic silhouettes as seen above. (click the images to see a high rez versions).  Learn to take what nature gives you and you'll come away with some great sunlit backdrops as the cranes arrive from feeding in the near by fields.

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Get there at sunrise as the Sandhills arrive from their night time spots in the adjacent marsh and you'll be treated to wave after wave of arriving cranes, just as the light gets really sweet.  Arrivals and departures will continue until around 10:00AM.  Just as the best light starts to slip away, you'll get to witness a huge series of blast-offs as the cranes head out to the corn fields for daily feeding.

Weekends get a little crowded with fellow bird watchers and photographers - but weekdays are perfect for a relaxed adventure.  The main parking lot is about an 1/8 of a mile walk from the observation deck and a dedicated handicapped parking lot is available right next to the observation deck.  The deck is equipped with both stairs and an access ramp.

Crane populations have peaked but there will still be plenty of action through December.

Stay in focus,


Location Review: Bosque del Apache

MCT 2011 12 09 7732 Bosque del Apache . . . a nature lovers "life list" kinda place There are a few places that qualify as a "must do" location, but Bosque is definitely one of them.  Located just south of Socorro New Mexico, Bosque is a managed wetlands area of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and migratory home to literally tens of thousands of geese, cranes and ducks.  Comprising over 57,000 acres, the refuge is managed into areas of wet bottomlands, fields and natural landscape.  Refuge roads and "loops" provide excellent access, with most photographic opportunities within 30 yards of where you park along side the road.  Detailed site information can be accessed at Bosque del Apache NWR or the Friends of the Bosque del Apache websites.


There is plenty of wildlife to view and photograph during the morning and evening hours as the pictures above illustrate.  In fact, the shot directly above of the Blue Goose isn't one of my best but it does illustrate the opportunity.  The Blue is trying to find a place to land in a "sea" of Snow Geese - yes, the whole shot is nothing but birds!

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The best way to experience Bosque for the first time is to attend a photo workshop or nature tour.  Like most visitors, your time on site will be limited to a few days and it would take a few days just to learn the basics of where to go and when.  Workshop or tour leaders know the lay of the land and "when to be where".  I'll be going to Bosque myself this year - but because I attended a fantastic workshop last year, I now have the basics down.  Checkout my Bosque Workshop Review post from last December - I can highly recommend Rick and Juan's session, great guys and they know where to go and will work hard for the best shots.  Last time I checked there were still a few spots open for this years end of November and early December sessions.  You can learn more about their workshops here.


The weather in Bosque can be unpredictable and varied.  It's not uncommon to see a daily range of temperatures between 20 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit - and at times MUCH colder!  Last year was a little different it seems.  There was a couple week stretch of below zero weather and during my week there we had 3 inches of snow on the ground - which certainly provided some unique photo opportunities.  So the lesson here is to come prepared - checkout my Cold Weather Photography post from last year.  I'll be doing an update to cold weather photography in a few weeks with new lessons learned.  But this post will give you the basics.


At minimum, I'd suggest 3 days at Bosque, with 5 days probably ideal.  The main support area to Bosque is the little town of Socorro, NM which is about 30 minutes north of the refuge.  Hotel space can fill up during the prime fall viewing period so plan to make reservations early.  If you sign up for one of the workshops or tours, they will usually have rooms pre reserved for you.

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If you can't make it this year, mark your calendars now and save your pennies for 2013 - you won't be disappointed!

Stay in focus,