Tuesday, February 25, 2014

High Plains Snow Goose Festival 2014

After a decent experience at the Monte Vista Crane Festival last year I decided to try another Colorado Parks & Wildlife event last weekend -- the High Plains Snow Goose Festival based out of Lamar, Colo.

Abandoned Homestead, Prowers County
I'd been driving for more than three hours when I saw this abandoned house on the side of the road.  It looked intriguing, but I was tired and just wanted to be at my destination so I passed it.  Then I had that thought that's popped into my head many times in similar situations: What are you going to do?  Shoot it next time you're here?  So I turned around, got my gear together, crawled under a barbed wire fence and got the shot.  And as usual, I was glad I had.

Arkansas River Sunset
The Arkansas River was just a short walk from my hotel, so I figured I'd see what sort of images the sunset brought.  Pretty good ones, as it turned out.

Arkansas River Sunset
I couldn't tell if that horizontal line of vapor was a jet trail or just an odd-shaped cloud.  I never saw the plane that would have made it and it never did fade away, so I'm thinking cloud.  But boy, it sure looks like a jet trail.

Saturday morning was a raptor tour led by renowned birder Greg Miller, who Jack Black played in the movie The Big Year.  But his name in the movie was Brad Harris for some reason.  Anyway, I always learn a lot when I go out with a group of birders.  But they're content spotting birds with their binoculars and scopes at distances well beyond what my camera can record a decent image of.  Still, I liked the full view of the feather pattern below this soaring hawk.  Shame I didn't listen closely enough to remember exactly what kind of hawk it was.

Red-Tailed Hawk
As much as I don't like man-made objects intruding on my nature shots, telephone poles are just where raptors like to sit.  I managed to creep fairly close to this one before it pooped and flew off to the next pole down.

Cottonwood Sunset
The warm light of the setting sun illuminates some dormant cottonwoods in Willow Creek Park.

Cottonwood Sunrise
For a while on Sunday morning it seemed like this might be the only decent shot I would get.  Skies were overcast, and I'd yet to see an actual Snow Goose.

Snow Geese Flock
Patience pays off, though.  Right as we were pulling back into town after a fairly fruitless sunrise tour one of the CPW folks with us spotted a flock at a pond in a nearby industrial park.  I'd planned to grab a shower before starting the drive home, but instead I just grabbed my stuff out of my hotel room and headed back to where we'd spotted the elusive fowl.

Unfortunately, the road was gated and a CPW employee parked nearby politely but firmly explained that the city didn't want anyone going back there.  Well, that simply wasn't going to do.  So I left in my car in the industrial park and walked to where the birds were, which was only about a quarter of a mile away.  That's about as much of a scofflaw as I really feel comfortable being.  But it again paid off, as I got to experience the flock taking off and landing back on the pond a couple of times.

Snow Geese Flock
I tried to be careful not to spook the birds myself, staying downwind and moving slowly.  I'm not really sure what caused them to decide to take wing.  But getting to see and hear them do so was pretty amazing.

Snow Geese Formation
I wasn't able to get in a position to isolate any birds in a shot.  This trio in synchronous formation was the closest I could get.

Snow Geese Flock
The last time they took off they didn't land back on the same pond, but headed to another one farther east.  Satisfied that I'd gotten what I could, I prepared to head for home.

Outside Amache Studio
One last stop at the Amache Studio eight miles west of town to pick up some prints I had on exhibit.  The clouds breaking up, an American flag stretched out from the wind and a faded county sign inspired me to snap one last shot.

All in all, I didn't get the pictures I'd hoped.  But I'm still happy with some of what I did get, which is how it goes when you're shooting nature.  I'm not sure these festivals are for me, though.  They don't really cater to photographers, and my cameras spent an awful lot of time as fashion accessories and not tools.  The people I met were all terrific -- staff, volunteers and attendees -- which made up for what I didn't capture with my lens.

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