Tag Archives: flock

Quartet of Geese

Quartet of Geese
Four closely-spaced Ross’s geese in flight above the California Central Valley.

Quartet of Geese. © Copyright 2021 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Four closely-spaced Ross’s geese in flight above the California Central Valley.

This is a somewhat straightforward photograph of a small group of Ross’s geese in flight over California’s Central Valley. I made the photograph on a cold January morning back in 2013… which is the sort of thing you might find me doing on January mornings in just about any year.

I often try for some kind of landscape context with these bird photographs, or perhaps some unusual light or color or atmosphere. But this photograph is pretty straightforward — just four geese against the winter sky. One thing I like about it has to do with the positions of the four birds. You can press the shutter a whole lot of times as geese fly by before you get a photograph where four of the birds stand out this clearly and are this visible.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books, Amazon, and directly from G Dan Mitchell.

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Sandhill Cranes, Winter Morning

Sandhill Cranes, Winter Morning
A large flock of sandhill cranes in a wetland pond on a winter morning.

Sandhill Cranes, Winter Morning. © Copyright 2021 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A large flock of sandhill cranes in a wetland pond on a winter morning.

The routine on this (almost certainly ) final day of migratory bird photography for this season was much as it always is, though it started at an earlier hour to accommodate the late winter sunrise. Up at three-something AM and on the road after a quick cup of coffee, I arrived here before dawn. I was pleasantly surprised to find a bit of fog in the air as I began to look for a sunrise subject, and before long I found a very large group of sandhill cranes. When everything works out just right there is a short period of beautiful, warm light as the sun comes up, especially on a morning when a bit of fog or haze softens the light.

This group of cranes was part of an extremely large group of them — perhaps as many as I’ve seen at one time. They have a routine, too. At some point around sunrise they typically begin to take to the air in small groups and fly away, and that process began soon after I started to photograph them.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books, Amazon, and directly from G Dan Mitchell.

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Sandhill Cranes, Morning Light

Sandhill Cranes, Morning Light
A group of sandhill cranes, flying in morning light above California’s Central Valley.

Sandhill Cranes, Morning Light. © Copyright 2021 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A group of sandhill cranes, flying in morning light above California’s Central Valley.

The sandhill cranes are still my favorites among the migratory birds that I photograph every winter. They aren’t quite as abundant, as noisy, or as active as the geese, but they have other attractions. Their characteristic cry is often the first one I hear when I arrive in the field, and their morning take-off often starts my days of photography… and their twilight return concludes it. Their flight patterns are a bit more sedate than those of geese and are characterized by a slower pace of wing motion.

Photographing a group like this can be a bit challenging, and a lot of pieces have to fall into place to make it work. In my experience, flying cranes often tend to divert from their trajectory rather than fly over a photographer, often breaking to one side or the other at the last minute. They also tend to not pay a whole lot of attention to photographic considerations such as orienting themselves ideally to the sun’s light. And when groups do fly overhead they often block one another from view. This little group, however, did everything just right! The flew almost into the early morning light, diverting just enough to put a bit more light on the side facing the camera, and they managed to do so while lining up so that all of their heads were visible!


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books, Amazon, and directly from G Dan Mitchell.

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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Goose Bedlam

Goose Bedlam
A large flock of geese in twilight flight above California’s Central Valley.

Goose Bedlam. © Copyright 2021 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A large flock of geese in twilight flight above California’s Central Valley.

Today I’m back from what will likely be my last opportunity of the season to photograph seasonal migratory geese here in California. I know that I photographed them on about this date last year… and that about a week later (on March 13, 2020) when I went to look for them they had left. I remember that date well, as it was the last such trip I took for a long time, as California was in the process of entering a fairly hard lockdown as the trajectory of the pandemic became clearer. In any case, these geese should be heading back to the arctic for the warm month any day now.

Near the end of their California visit they seem to become increasingly active, and that was the case this week. Although they did spend time on the ground feeding or settled on ponds, they were frequently in the air. As darkness approached a huge group of them — snow, Ross’s, white-fronted, and probably other geese — was in constant motion in an area of recently cleared fields. I like to photograph them at slower shutter speeds in the twilight since it seems to me that the motion blurring effect may suggest this wild activity better than pure stop-motion.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books, Amazon, and directly from G Dan Mitchell.

Blog | About | Flickr | FacebookEmail

Links to Articles, Sales and Licensing, my Sierra Nevada Fall Color book, Contact Information.

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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.