Squaw Creek NWR
Well not quite the pile of spring 2009's 1.2 million, but really, a pile of 100,000 will provide tons of ops. At the time of the above image that is about what the count was. It really only peaked around 300,000 this fall. Seems to take a miracle to get a million+ there. This time around I was there for eagles almost strictly, given I rented the Canon 800mm for them and some action shots....an $11,000 price tag if you wanted to buy it. I should stop renting those big lenses lol. But it did provide some cool ops for the geese. The above obviously not taken with an 800mm.
They had a small area of water open here. That along with the fact they like to land near large groups already down, made them really want to land right here. Yet heck if they wanted to land back down once an eagle spooked them up. Instead they went round and round and put on an amazing display. Even in that "empty" hole on the right there you can see some further out. This is just one of those deals everyone needs to see, but not just see they are there and on the water or out a bit flying around. Everyone needs to a time or two be right near a mass that is looping around overhead, even if crap is involved...which it most certainly is! Take "just" 100,000 snow geese at 5lb a pop and what do you have, 500,000 pounds of birds lifting off and flying around you. It's interesting to think of the weight in this sense. Or 160 regular sized 3,000 lb cars. Probably a solid 100,000 birds in the above picture. You can start to half tell, by seeing what space what type of counts take up. I saw the 1.2 million period and just try and go off that. Probably a 1/10th of that in the above image/time....or less even. I just have a hard time when I try and visualize this in the weight it must be. When that much weight takes off and soars around, it just has a way of being amazing.
Must have been one with the 800mm on now. That thing is quite the piece of glass. Was hard to ship it back. But really, you get into big reaches, you will have issues with air compression like heat waves and whatnot. But even that stuff shows up on wide angles too. It can drastically kill images. I have a lot where their wings look warped. The next one down was one of the nicest I got in that regard, as more often than not, you shoot a mass in cold air you will have distorting heat waves.
So often I'd do one of these and their wings would be wavy/warped. There must have been just enough, just far enough ahead, that I was focusing on them without too much heat distortion.
The scene about to unfold rivalled many of the other insane displays I'd seen there. Again the one pile on the ice was near the shore. Get a bunch come back from eating or a bunch spooked up needing to come back down, and they'd just float back and forth in layers overhead. The video is a must watch if you want to understand this better than the images, even if I didn't hold it still enough. It shows just how quickly they are going by when they are going opposite directions in multiple levels. For reference I did these first ones with a 50mm on. The later ones you see, I guess in the other account, are telephoto'd with the 800mm on. It was so hard to do that and pick something to focus on or take it at a most interesting time, the scene was changing excessively fast. Watch the last parts of the linked video.
So cool, but oh so poopy. Look at these full size and you can see all the poop on the way down. Tyler was here this day and rapidly our cars were caked in poo. It was almost like a sprinkle out there. You could look out and always see a streak somewhere nearby. Taking shots up had its risks.
It's funny to look at this still and imagine how others probably visualize that site was at the time, nice gradual flying group up there. No. Take your hands and rapidly slam them together interlocking your fingers. This is what made the display right now so damn amazing. It was so chaotic how it was going rapidly in criss crossing directions on so many levels/layers. It's not stagnantly cool in any one location either. You have to anticipate a hair by finding a big group and seeing where it was going and when it would cross another. Then meet them and be ready to snap fast as it would again change. But doing the 800mm stuff on this, well was sooooooooooooooo frustrating to try interesting angles. More on that in that account.
If it wasn't crazy enough already, a big fat group was coming in lower at the same time as the stuff up above doing its deal.
Web sized images just don't do the scene justice. Bout need a wall sized print to really be mind blowing.
And one shot from the car as I drove south one of the mornings. Before sunrise a whole lot of them head out to eat as these are doing.
The other more telephoto account is HERE.
2010 When Eagles Attack account is HERE.