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The Rising

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I've been grasshoppering lately, but as an obligate ant-blogger, I went back in the pantry and looked, to find this long-overlooked post from November. I hope you'll forgive me the sudden jolt from my Ohio backyard to New Mexico, but I didn't want it to go bad on me, so here it is. I like this post for the dose of reality it brings to the romance of bird photography.

On the one afternoon we had free and together at Bosque del Apache, the light was perfect, the air was warm, the colors were stunning, and the geese were cooperative. I remembered having found a lot of waterfowl on one impoundment, and suggested to Bill that we go check it out for its photographic potential. Instead of canvasbacks and redheads, what we found was a mixed flock of snow, blue and Ross' geese. And they were doing the most amazing thing: rising up, flying over to a nearby cornfield, staying a little while, then coming back to the impoundment. We stood on the dike and watched in amazement, our cameras clicking madly. I was able to document one rise in a series of pictures, which I'll give you now:

1. The geese give a great clamor of calls and begin to lift off the water.

2. The wind from their downstrokes writes on the water.
3. They gain altitude.
4. They rapidly get closer. Autofocus is the only option. I'm firing madly and laughing like a hyena, but you can't hear me over the clamoring geese. See the ripples on the water? I'll tell you about that later.

5. The bulk of the flock is directly overhead now.

6. I turn to catch part of the flock going over.
7. The flock on high.
Now, about those ripples on the water. Take a look at this lovely flock, coming right over our heads. See anything to be alarmed about? Let's take a closer look.Uh-huh. Pretty much every bird that takes off lightens its load by pooping. That's what the marks on the water's surface are all about. And mixed with the exultation and clamor of their liftoff is a pattering rain of warm goose poop. These are big birds, folks. So the soundtrack from the photographers clustered on the dike is gasps of wonder followed by exclamations of disgust. I had a hat on, and I've been pooped on by everything from terns to macaws, so I didn't mind. They scored on the front of my khakis. That's what field clothes are for.
This is one of my favorite shots of the session, for its symmetry and the poetry of the birds' synchronous wingbeats. But I have to note, being an observant person, that the uppermost bird is in mid-poop. I guess that's what Photoshop is all about. If I knew how to use it, I'd probably still leave the poop in. Why delete any information? Information is manna to Science Chimps.

I'll take a patter of warm goose poop any day, for shots like these. Oh, how I'd love to be back in November's sunny New Mexico, as the sleet patters on frozen boilerplate snow outside.Just remember to keep your mouth shut, should you ever be so lucky as to witness a rising.


As I read this entry I thought to myself, who but Science Chimp would write a blog post focusing on goose poop... well stupid me... I did a google blog search of entries for "goose poop" and there were 1722 hits! -- but you'll be proud to know JZ that your post already was at the top of the list, so anyone with a sudden overwhelming urge to research goose poop on the Web tonight ought to be headed your way! (...or, they could just get a life ;-)

It's great to see photos of Bosque Del Apache! I was fortunate to conduct my thesis work there and had the place virtually to myself each summer. Unfortunately, the snow geese and cranes had moved on by then.
Did you get any good crane photos? I could watch them coast in for a landing all day.

Ah. That explains the sudden bump in hits. Thanks for that, Cyberthrush, I think... :-/

Come on, admit it. You google "goose poop" every day.

Max, if you want to feast your eyes on BDA and New Mexico, see the November and December 2007 archives. I'd love to hear your thoughts on sandhill crane hunting once you get there.

By all means, do not omit the poop. Fabulous photos! I've never witnessed a rising so grand and also did not know what happens on take-off. It's very apparent that New Mexico is close to your heart.

This was well worth the trip back in time!


I'm happy with your left-overs.
The shades of sky are lovely--the geese exquisite.

Julie, I left some quick thought about crane hunting in the December section.
I missed out on the Festival of the Cranes this year, but I did send a poster down for the research symposium.

LOL... I thought the next shot would show your lens covered in goose poop!

Awesome and educational! And your imagine about the wingbeats' downdrafts writing on the water was stunning to this humble WordChimp.

I'm hoping to take a field trip to Middle Creek near Lancaster (PA) to view huge flocks (5,000-plus) of snow geese, so this tutorial was very helpful. I'll be sure to wear a hat and keep my yap shut.

Hi Julie,

The blogger award thing isn't your style, I know. But there's something for you at my place.


Got it, Max. Thanks for your thoughts. We're on the same page.

goin' over now, Mare! (Hey, it's my thing to GET 'em; I'm just too lazy and inconsiderate to figure out how to GIVE 'em!!)

Scrolling down your photos to where it became apparent the birds were going to fly right over I thought "oh, no!" I've been in a blind and subject to a similar rain. Mouth closed and peek up under the brim of your cap. Lovely photos!

Great job, Julie. And you can "ant" about BDA and New Mexico anytime! I guess now that the Festival of the Cranes is behind us, should we be thinking about next fall? And here's hoping the number of Sandhill Cranes will be larger than this past year. Although a few thousand is nothing to sneeze at, it would be more impressive to see larger numbers. And maybe we can convince more of your readers to consider attending the 2009 Festival of the Cranes. By far, it's still my favorite birding festival to attend.

Amazing pictures! I like your writing, thanks for sharing your talents!
Greetings from PerĂº!
p.s. I think all the cool blogs I found and linked today are actually own by your family members lol

Wow! I'm new to Tucson and the Tucson Audubon. I heard about this place in their newletter. Seeing these photos really makes me want to go there! Lucky you!

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