San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Sunday, December 20, 2009



I was homeward bound following a nine-month odyssey in the Southeast United States and had just one day to photograph the spectacular evening fly-in of the Sandhill Cranes that winter over in the marshes adjacent to the Rio Grande River near San Antonio, New Mexico. It was November, and I happened to arrive in the midst of the annual Festival of the Cranes; the area was jammin'!

This was my second visit to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, this time armed with a digital camera with an auto-focusing "telephoto" lens. Well, to be sure, there are downsides to trying to photograph moving objects in low light with the electronics set on "auto"! As a matter of fact, out of dozens, I kept only a few of the shots I took of the birds as they floated into the marsh by the hundreds to roost for the night. Although unable to capture it on "film," the jaw-dropping sight from the refuge's "Flight Deck" remains one of my most vivid of this adventure.
The reeds and willows turn a lovely saffron color this time of year.
Geese, duck and many other bird species also call Bosque (woods) del Apache home for Winter.
A juvenile Bald Eagle. Yeah, I know -- just looks like a brown blob!
Little FLOATING brown blobs are hungry Pintail Ducks diving for food in shallow water.
Hungry Pintail Ducks in deeper water!
When the sun starts its descent, the Flight Deck begins filling with humans carrying cameras with HUGE telephoto lenses that look like bazookas! These folks are serious birders and photographers! Until the sun drifts below the horizon, the waiting animated group exchanges bird lore and identification, photo tips, camera details, where to have dinner and jokes about lens envy.
Birders with bazookas...
Something spooked these Red Winged Blackbirds...
Settling back down again -- click to enlarge and note the flashes of brilliant red.
Heads comes one! Still light enough for me to sort of stop the action!
A Mallard pair.
Cranes and Little Brown Blobs bobbing for food!
Peaceful, harmonious surroundings. AAAhhhhhh, sweet!
Considering their size, I think Sandhill Cranes are graceful, elegant and delicate.
A few more -- still barely enough light.
The marsh is beginning to fill up; it's still several minutes before the sun completely disappears and the mass fly-in begins
Geese, not Cranes -- impressive nonetheless.
What a lovely preserve this is. And one of the few places where crowds of jostling people didn't annoy me!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Missing a few, but it looks like everyone's just about back to normal again. Whatever "normal" is!!!

Hmmmmm, could it be Joan is casting about for another project? January birthdays? Anyone?!!! There's devilment in those eyes!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


There I was taking low-light, blurry pictures of the Lazy Daze Caravan Club's Past Tents comrades enjoying themselves and a fabulous feast at the annual holiday Live Oak Caravan in Santa Barbara. As you can see: perfectly normal people delighting in good friends, good food and good wine in a lovely Central Coast woodsy setting....
I must have blinked. SUDDENLY! There I was, surrounded by kinky coneheads, tunelessly blowing on kazoos! What tha???...

Did they stop with the kazoos? OH no! Dressed me in finery, they did -- flashy jewelry, a rainbow boa, and a sparkling, jewel-encrusted wand.

Then this tattling mistress of mayhem regaled the kazoo symphony band with some enhanced versions of my exploits on the road!!!

Do you think these two pixies might have been part of the Party Posse? No doubt about it!
These two movers and shakers rounded out the Magnificent Seven, all orchestrated by...
...the bearer of flowers. Quick! Bookmark this page -- you may NEVER again see Joan in a party hat!!!!!!!!
A serenade sung by Barbara the POET, Miss Past Tents herself, a hilarious original composition sung to Beverly Hillbillies theme music...
...followed by testimonials and roasts...

...champagne, more songs and presents too, that made for...

Eyeball incontinence and ...
... non stop guffaws!

The Ultimate Party Planner, no stone left unturned, no detail too small...

...Joan obviously had as much fun in the planning as in the execution! YES, I WAS SURPRISED. VERY surprised!

"Let them cake," I said as I waved my glamorous wand. And they did. And we all lived VERY happily ever after!
Thank you dear Past Tents friends, for the most enchanting and memorable evening! You make me smile, and you made me feel incredibly beauteous! When the rest of you catch up with me, I sure hope you'll have a Party Posse to conjure up as much fun for you as I had on my 70th birthday!
P.S. Birthday Party pix by Larry Wade. Not bad for someone who claimed not to know how to work my camera! My guess? Larry was probably just as content behind the camera so's not to be remembered in perpetuity as the birthday photographer with a pointy head!