Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

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bgorum
Posts: 619
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Location: Albuquerque, NM
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Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by bgorum »

Hello,

This is my debut post here in the bird forum. I hope that this sort of post isn’t out of line for this forum. I don’t see a lot of the picture heavy field report type post here like we see on the herp forum, but with a paltry two pictures of one species of herp the post is definitely not appropriate there. Previous to this winter I always viewed the cold months as my off-season. It was the time when my cameras and I took a rest and I concentrated on making plans for the next year’s herp season. This winter though I ended up buying a 1.7x teleconverter for my trusty 300mm f4 lens, which now gave me a 500mm lens, (albeit not a particularly good one), and that was a good enough excuse for me to bump up the number of visits I make to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge during the winter from only a couple per season, to virtually every weekend.

I’m kind of new to birding. So feel free to correct my i.d.s!

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Gorum_121124_0318 by bgorum, on Flickr

A pair of snow geese with the Chupadera Mountains behind them on November 24.

On November 30th I drove out to the Sandstone Bluffs area of El Malpais National Monument after work to meet up with some other photographers and shoot the sunset. It really wasn’t a great sunset, but I took a few pictures anyhow.

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Gorum_121130_0414_5_6_tonemapped by bgorum, on Flickr

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Gorum_121130_0435_6_7_tonemapped by bgorum, on Flickr

The color wasn’t great that evening and I love the texture of the sandstone, so I converted this one to black and white.

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Gorum_121202_0487 by bgorum, on Flickr
On the afternoon of December 2nd I drove down to BDA and found myself at the Crane ponds, (two seasonally flooded ponds just on the west side of state highway 1, where many of the sandhill cranes roost at night), at sunset. I noticed that as soon as the cranes would arrive at the ponds they would drink water. I liked the way the dripping water sparkled with the backlighting and I got an idea for a picture with only three simple elements- a backlit crane drinking, sparkling water dripping from its beak, and brightly colored water in the pond from the setting sun. I did not succeed in capturing the exact image I wanted that night, (nor all winter for that matter), but I had a lot of fun trying.

I was back at the crane ponds the next weekend to try again for my crane shot, but a cold wind and accompanying dust storm right at sunset foiled my plans. When the dust kicked up all the guys with the big lenses that cost more than my car left, but I stayed out getting sandblasted and photographing snow geese trying to fly in the dust.

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Gorum_121209_1179 by bgorum, on Flickr

The dust was so thick that it was like the world suddenly turned monochrome.

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Gorum_121209_1198 by bgorum, on Flickr

Eventually all the birds ended up leaving the ponds too!

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Gorum_121209_1247_8_9_tonemapped by bgorum, on Flickr

An empty pond with the dust obscured Chupaderas in the distance.

On December 14th I woke up at 4 am and headed down to Bosque to try for some sunrise action. It rained all morning!

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Gorum_121214_1438 by bgorum, on Flickr

At the time these two sandhill cranes were squabbling I couldn’t even tell whether the sun was up or not.

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Gorum_121214_1449_50_51_fused by bgorum, on Flickr

On these kind of rainy, socked in days I usually avoid shooting landscapes that include the sky in color, but they can often work in black and white.

There was one little window of sunshine in the late afternoon.

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Gorum_121214_1488 by bgorum, on Flickr

Great Blue Heron

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Gorum_121214_1491 by bgorum, on Flickr

Meadowlark, (almost certainly a western I think, but if any bird experts want to correct me on this, I won’t be offended).

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Gorum_130102_1749 by bgorum, on Flickr

American Goldfinch eating sunflower seeds on January 2.

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Gorum_130104_2029 by bgorum, on Flickr

Two days later and a Lesser Goldfinch doing the same.

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Gorum_130104_2074 by bgorum, on Flickr

Same patch of sunflowers and some female Red-winged Blackbirds.

Snow Geese coming in to land in an alfalfa field.

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Gorum_130104_2270 by bgorum, on Flickr

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Gorum_130104_2314 by bgorum, on Flickr

Back at the crane ponds for sunset.

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Gorum_130104_2366 by bgorum, on Flickr

Another attempt at my crane drinking shot, but too many birds and the light insn’t right!

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Gorum_130104_2605 by bgorum, on Flickr

The ponds had a little ice this time, so these Pintails decided to walk rather than swim.

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Gorum_130106_2631 by bgorum, on Flickr

Immature Red-tailed Hawk on the 6th.

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Gorum_130106_2639 by bgorum, on Flickr

Immature White-crowned Sparrows. I know these guys are kind of like the Utas of the avian world, but I like them.

On this day the refuge had the intermittent tour loop open. This is a part of the tour loop that is open only “as conditions permit”.

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Gorum_130106_2683 by bgorum, on Flickr

On this day the cranes and snow geese were feeding on corn right next to the road.

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Gorum_130106_2689 by bgorum, on Flickr

The cranes would peck at the cobs up on the stalks while the geese waited for whatever fell to the ground.

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Gorum_130106_2748 by bgorum, on Flickr

I can’t express just how much I wish that corn stalk were not in front of this crane’s face!

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Gorum_130106_2734 by bgorum, on Flickr

Mourning Dove

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Gorum_130106_2869 by bgorum, on Flickr

I don’t think Coyotes go hungry very often at Bosque del Apache.

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Gorum_130113_3147 by bgorum, on Flickr

American Goldfinch on the 13th.

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Gorum_130113_3179 by bgorum, on Flickr

Young Mule Deer buck eating the long dried out Summer Cypress.

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Gorum_130113_3211 by bgorum, on Flickr

Shovelers during the winter are so ugly that they’re cute.

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Gorum_130113_3288 by bgorum, on Flickr

Dripping wet Bobcat coming up out of a marsh full of ducks. I wish I could have got a clear view of this guy instead of just glimpses between the brush and grass.

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Gorum_130113_3402_3_4_tonemapped by bgorum, on Flickr

Sunset at the crane ponds that night.

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Gorum_130120_3407 by bgorum, on Flickr

Sunning Great Blue Heron on January 20th. Definitely a feathered herp!

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Gorum_130120_3522 by bgorum, on Flickr

Adult White-crowned Sparrow.

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Gorum_130120_3855 by bgorum, on Flickr

Cranes coming in to roost that evening.

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Gorum_130121_4447 by bgorum, on Flickr

Female Harrier plucking and eating a Coot on the 21st.

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Gorum_130121_4548 by bgorum, on Flickr

Yummy! Small intestine!

Large intestine, not so much!

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Gorum_130121_4592 by bgorum, on Flickr

(You just know that’s got to be full of all that slimy algae crap that Coots eat)!

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Gorum_130121_4616 by bgorum, on Flickr

Every now and then she would hunker down over her Coot and look up in the sky……

Turns out an immature Red-tailed Hawk wanted to share breakfast with her.

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Gorum_130121_4671 by bgorum, on Flickr

The Red-tail didn’t seem to like my car being there though, so it kept its distance.

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Gorum_130121_4798 by bgorum, on Flickr

Big Mule Deer buck.

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Gorum_130121_4820 by bgorum, on Flickr

Bathing Snow Goose

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Gorum_130121_4843 by bgorum, on Flickr

Pair of Blue phase Snow Geese

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Gorum_130121_4877 by bgorum, on Flickr

Adult and immature Snow Geese

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Gorum_130121_4937 by bgorum, on Flickr

January 27th- Hey look, a herp!

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Gorum_130127_0110 by bgorum, on Flickr

Big Bend Slider

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Gorum_130127_0165 by bgorum, on Flickr

Another attempt. Not enough color in the water yet!

Lots of color in the sky though

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Gorum_130127_0398 by bgorum, on Flickr

Snow Geese

And Sandhill Cranes

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Gorum_130127_0502 by bgorum, on Flickr

February 3rd and there were noticeably fewer cranes and geese than only a couple weeks ago. I got there in the morning hoping for a big fly out, but with so few geese I decided to experiment a little.

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Gorum__130203_0008 by bgorum, on Flickr

After the mini fly out near the flight deck I moved over to the crane ponds to shoot Sandhills flying off for the morning, (maybe not to return until next season).

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Gorum__130203_0113 by bgorum, on Flickr

I guess with birds the size of Sandhill Cranes it helps to get a running start.

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Gorum__130203_0181_tonemapped by bgorum, on Flickr

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Gorum__130203_0297 by bgorum, on Flickr

Mule Deer in a field of dried up Summer Cypress.

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Gorum__130203_0321 by bgorum, on Flickr

Pair of preening Mallards.

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Gorum__130203_0372 by bgorum, on Flickr

Ok bird experts, Lesser or Greater Yellowlegs?

Another White-crowned Sparrow

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Gorum__130203_0410 by bgorum, on Flickr

Sorry, I really like them!

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Gorum__130203_0420 by bgorum, on Flickr

Chihuahuan Raven

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Gorum__130203_0424 by bgorum, on Flickr

Eating something nasty!

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Gorum__130203_0440 by bgorum, on Flickr

Say’s Phoebe

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Gorum__130203_0466 by bgorum, on Flickr

This Raccoon looked like it was having a rough morning!

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Gorum__130203_0568 by bgorum, on Flickr

Ladder-backed Woodpecker feeding from a gall on the Coyote Willows.

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Gorum__130203_0585 by bgorum, on Flickr

Double-crested Cormorant

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Gorum__130203_0660 by bgorum, on Flickr

A Big Bend Slider enjoying a lazy winter afternoon.

Greater Roadrunner

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Gorum__130203_0696 by bgorum, on Flickr

Roadrunners have this dark skin on their backs and they’ll often fluff up the feathers on the back to let the sunshine warm it for them. Definitely my kind of bird!

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Gorum_130203_0781 by bgorum, on Flickr

Immature White-crowned Sparrow eating Russian Olives.

By February 1oth almost all of the Cranes and Geese were gone. I did find this Great Blue Heron that appeared to be hunting mice. Unfortunately I did not get to see it catch any.

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Gorum_130210_0848 by bgorum, on Flickr

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Gorum_130210_0877 by bgorum, on Flickr

Killdeer

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Gorum_130210_0899 by bgorum, on Flickr

And to end it all, an Elk skull at El Malpais.

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Gorum_130217_0951_2_3_tonemapped by bgorum, on Flickr

Thanks for looking!

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pete
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by pete »

Beautiful post!! That is a place I long to visit!

Methinks lesser on your yellowlegs :)

Reptiluvr
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by Reptiluvr »

Bosque is one of the only things that makes me want to go to NM. Your 300 f/4 + 1.7 TC shots are great. Very sharp in most cases. You said "not that great", are you just disappointed you don't have f/2.8? I plan on getting this lens soon and then the TC.
Your landscape pics are amazing, especially that first sunrise photo where you claim the sunrise wasn't that great. I think you understated it. What wide angle lens are you using for landscapes?

The yellowlegs looks like a Lesser to me too.

bgorum
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by bgorum »

Thanks for the responses.
Reptiluvr wrote:Bosque is one of the only things that makes me want to go to NM.
Seriously? Not that I want to encourage droves of people to come here, but Bosque is just one of many incredible places we have. (Yes I am biased)!
Reptiluvr wrote:Your 300 f/4 + 1.7 TC shots are great. Very sharp in most cases. You said "not that great", are you just disappointed you don't have f/2.8? I plan on getting this lens soon and then the TC.
My disappointment with the TC17e + 300mm f4 AF-s combo comes from several places. First of all remember the pictures you are viewing here are 1024 pixels on the long dimension. For a full frame shot the short dimension would be 685 pixels, for a grand total of about .7 megapixels. Its difficult to judge lens quality with images of that low resolution. I'm not saying the converter is bad, (though I did add a comment to that effect to my 300mm f4 AF-s review on the Image Lab forum that I need to go back and revise/clarify- http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... 15&t=10960), but it has issues. When I first got mine I could not get an sharp shot with it. Wide open at f6.7 was worthless and stopping down improved sharpness, but just to what I considered borderline acceptable. Turns out the issue was back-focus. None of my other lenses, including the 300mm used alone have ever required any af fine-tuning. However, when I started looking closely at the pictures I was getting with the converter I noticed that I would often have a slightly soft bird with some nice sharp blades of grass behind it, etc. So I did some testing and wound up with an af fine-tune setting of -10 for the combo. With the af fine-tuned, f6.7 now looks soft, but acceptable if I have no other choice and f8 looks dam nice IF, (and this is a big if), the subject is close. It is still not very sharp for distant subjects. Part of this may still be back-focus, (the converter may require a different setting for distant shots, than for close-up shots), but there is no way to store different offsets for different focusing distances in my camera. There is more to it than focus though, because I've tried using live view to focus, (pretty sure thats what I did with the coyote), and distant shots are still not as sharp as close-ups and nowhere close to what the 300mm produces when used alone. The second issue has to do with how slow, both in aperture and focusing speed, the combo is. Nikon claims most cameras, including my D7000, wont focus with lenses slower than f5.6. In good light the combo is actually able to autofocus reasonably well, but the best bird shots often happen when the light is low, and then the autofocus becomes slow and unreliable. You aren't seeing all the shots I deleted here! For really good sharpness the lens needs to be stopped down to f8, which means I often have to bump up the ISO on my camera. I've actually started setting ISO 1600 as my max, and the images when well exposed have remarkably little noise, but the high ISO images have noticeably less dynamic range and I'm often blowing my highlights, (the Sandhill Cranes running to take off is a good example, look at the goose). Finally, f8 often provides too much depth of field. Many of the images here have busy backgrounds that I would have liked to blur more. I'm not necessarily trying to dissuade you from purchasing the combo. I have nothing but good things to say about the 300 on its own and when combined with the 1.7 it may well be as good as anything else you could get in that price range. I intend to keep using mine, but I've also been checking ebay closely and have seen some well used 500mm f4 AF-i lenses sell for just a little over $3000. I'm saving money and am going to try to get one by next winter!
Reptiluvr wrote:I think you understated it. What wide angle lens are you using for landscapes?
I use a Nikon 10-24. I reviewed here- http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... 15&t=12400.

Matt Buckingham
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by Matt Buckingham »

NICE! Really enjoyed this post. Your cormorant looks like a Neotropic. They turn up regularly at Bosque del Apache.

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Andy Avram
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Location: NE Ohio

Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by Andy Avram »

This is exactly the kind of posts the bird forum needs! I just need to get better at lugging my camera out for bird pictures. It's just so cold out right now, and I would prefer to get a longer lens. Excellent post though, and a wonderful place and I only visited it in August 10 years ago or so. A winter trip there would be outstanding.

Yellowlegs looks Lesser to me too.

Cormorant looks Neotropic to me too.

Andy

bgorum
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by bgorum »

Thanks Andy and Matt for the comments and the Cormorant I.D. I'm also told that my Chihuahuan Raven is an American Crow.

Matt Buckingham
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by Matt Buckingham »

Yeah those are American Crows. Your yellowlegs is a Lesser as well.

Keep up the good work, I look forward to seeing more!

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Hunter-MX
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by Hunter-MX »

Thanks so much for this post...

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chrish
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by chrish »

Outstanding. Very nice photography. Your photos are excellent. I think pixel-peeping is overrated. There may be sharper setups in the world in the $3000+ range, but you are getting great photos with the gear you have.

As for IDs...

Lesser Yellowlegs
American Crow
Olivaceous Neotropic (whatever) Cormorant

and I think some of the geese on your dust cloud goose flying shot might be Ross's Geese. Ross's are found in fair numbers at Bosque.
I think the two geese that are in the middle but at the bottom (one right above the other, one wings up, other wings down) look particularly Ross-like.

oh, and your meadowlark could be the desert subspecies (lilianae) of the Eastern Meadowlark. I can't be sure from that photo.

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by Antonsrkn »

Awesome, I'm glad I decided to check out the bird forum and see if there was anything to look at. Too bad alot of folks on the main forum are going to miss this, you don't have to be a birder to appreciate the outstanding photography here. Great work!

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dery
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by dery »

Great post. Imo you could get away w/ this on the "forum" subforum. Great sandhills, elk bones, and BBS

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Rags
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Re: Winter, (mostly Bosque del Apache)

Post by Rags »

Lovely photos, thanks for posting.

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