100 Desert Wildflowers in Natural Color

Dodge, Natt N. 100 Desert Wildflowers in Natural Color. Southwest Monuments Association. 1963. Available from the Project Gutenberg here.

Natt Noyes Dodge (1900-1982) was the regional naturalist for the Southwest Region of the National Park Service from 1935 to 1963. He was also an author and photographer – both of which are shown in this book along with his knowledge of the region. The version available from Project Gutenberg is from the third printing in 1967 which was a revision from the original in 1963.

I’m glad that the copyright holder has allowed this book to be available online....easy to enjoy the photos of desert wildflowers.

I had bought several of Dodge’s books is national parks when traveling to New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado from our home in Dallas in the 1970s, but I didn’t have this one.

YE Thinking: Favorite Images

Looking for a way to summarize my year in pictures for this last post of 2019, I selected 3 favorite photos from each month – not an easy task for me. Many of them are from at home…some from other places close to home…then Socorro NM and Carrolton Tx. It’s been a good year! Enjoy the slide show….celebrating 2018!

Festival of the Cranes – part 12

This is last post about our trip to New Mexico and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (unless my husband eventually wades through his photos and provides me some good owl pictures…or photos from when he went to the Very Large Array). Our last field trip of the festival was with a refuge biologist…to talk about endangered species they are providing habitat for. We spent the most time on the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse which are already hibernating in November. Winter is the time of year when the refuge managers tweak the habitats to help the endangered species; for the mouse they provide areas for day nests, maternal nests, food (the mice like seeds on stalks), saturated soils. The mice can swim the irrigation canals but have problems climbing up steep banks…and avoiding the bull frogs there that can eat them!

We saw a Great Blue Heron in an area that will be reworked with the mouse in mind and it will be better for other wildlife as well.

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The refuge has milkweed….and supports monarchs in season. The pods looked a little different than the common milkweed we have in Maryland…but I knew it was a milkweed relative as soon as I saw it.

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The Southwest Willow Flycatcher is also a species they manage for. The bird will nest in salt cedar but the invasive plant is a fire hazard (burns very hot and fast); the refuge is removing it and encourages the native willows to return. That is the natural progression from grassy meadows in the area so there is some balance to helping the mouse (that needs meadow) and having good stands of willows for the flycatcher.

We went back to a part of the refuge not on the wildlife loop and saw turkeys.

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One jumped over an irrigation ditch….the others went down into the ditch and back up rather than making the jump!

This field trip was the most detailed discussion of the festival about the behind the scenes work done on the refuge for the wildlife that makes this place home – for the whole year or just for part of the year.

Festival of the Cranes – part 11

After the fly out, we spent the rest of the morning driving slowly around the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge wildlife loop. We used our car as a blind since it was still cold, and we were seeing quite a lot right along the road. A meadowlark with plumped feathers posed for a portrait.

A coyote crossed the road and continued to follow its nose. We never did see what the animal smelled.

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A lesser goldfinch was eating seeds. The refuge leaves a lot of standing seed plants for birds like these.

A pair of white crowned sparrows watched us from a snag.

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The sandhill cranes were in the fields – enjoying the bounty of the refuge provides. Historically more of the cranes continued to Mexico but the Bosque’s management program provides reliable food for them through the winter…and the cranes stay.

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We found our way back around to the flight deck ponds and got out to watch the birds on the water. We watched the mergansers, other ducks and snow geese. Something startled the snow geese and they all flew away except for one that was struggling in the water. At first, I thought it was somehow stuck in the mud because the bird seemed to be trying to take off. Then it had a muscle spasm and moved its head to point to the sky in an awkward way. Within a minute the bird was still. Later in the afternoon I found out that the bird had probably died of avian cholera. The snow geese on the refuge are plagued by this disease and the refuge managers collect carcasses as quickly as possible to control the infection, but it’s a challenge with the birds being in such proximity to each other on the ponds. There are instances where birds have died in flight.

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It was a rather sad end to the drive around the wildlife loop but thought provoking. Refuges are not safe havens from disease and they are limited enough in size that congregations of birds are larger than they might have been before the diversion of the Rio Grande for other uses.

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Festival of the Cranes – part 10

We got up early for the last day of the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to see the flyout. There were more clouds on the east horizon than in previous days. They made for deeper color of the sunrise.

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The water around the sandhill cranes that were just beginning to move around was tinged pink.

A few begin flying away but most of them stayed put.

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It was a cold morning and a thin layer of ice had formed on the water. I took a series of pictures of a crane carefully walking and breaking through the ice.

The morning light began to fade as the clouds blocked the sun. A juvenile sandhill crane seemed to pose for my camera. The redhead feathers of adulthood are still to come for this bird.

I finally managed to capture the drama of the flock of snow geese leaving the pond. They swirl up into the air. Sometimes they come back to the same pond; other times they go somewhere else. I guess it depends on what caused them to fly up and out.

As cranes take off from the water – the legs are still down but they ‘point their toes,’ becoming more aerodynamic. I’m always in awe of how close together they can be and not get their wings tangled as they take off.

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Finally – I took some pictures of a single crane surrounded by snow geese – head pointed up and vocalizing, flapping wings. Was the bird celebrating the morning, calling other cranes to join him, or just starting a normal crane day?

It was a good conclusion to the last fly out of this festival.

Festival of the Cranes – part 9

After the Raptor ID tour, we had lunch then rested at our hotel until time for the ‘fly in’ at sunset. It was the only day we managed to be available at that time.  We decided to observe from the ponds along the refuge’s wildlife loop. There were other people that had the same idea but not enough to make it crowded. There was a crowd of snow geese already on the water and feeding on shore as well. I find myself drawn to the blue morphs…just to see something other than white mounds.

By the time the sandhill cranes started coming in it was too dark to get good pictures at the water level. I took a few images with the evening light…birds – cliffs – trees.

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Some Canadian geese were seeking their evening roost as well.

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Right before we left – I too a picture of the moon…pretty good shot for a bridge camera on a monopod!

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Zooming – November 2018

The last day of November. The month has been a busy one and I enjoyed selecting 13 images from when I enjoyed the zoom feature of my camera the most. The picks include fall leaves, a sunset, cranes grooming/snoozing/waking up, screwbean mesquite seeds, agave, a pruned prickly pear stem, barrel cactus thorns, cranes in the early morning, cranes in golden light with snow geese, northern mergansers in action, the moon, a snow goose feather, and some milkweed seeds.

And now we forge ahead into December and another month with a lot of the calendar.

Ten Little Celebrations – November 2018

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At the beginning of November, we had a short burst of color before the leaves fell off the trees. I celebrated a glorious fall day…wishing the season had not been so short this year.

HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment) graduation was this month after accumulating enough volunteer hours since finishing the class last spring.

And then came the Festival of the Cranes with so many little celebrations:

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Seeing sandhill cranes in flight – being close enough to their fly out to hear the first few high-power flaps of their wings.

Seeing two barn owls circle above the field where I was standing. It was a first for me….so beautiful and ghost-like.

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Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. It was my first visit to the place and it’s hard to choose the high point maybe it was the screwbean mesquite the herd of pronghorn playing a running game with our caravan or seeing a shrike with a meal.

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Hooded Mergansers. It was not the first time I had seen the birds (there were some on a local (Maryland) pond we visited during our 5th HoLLIE class). But they were not displaying like the birds we saw during the Festival of the Cranes.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. What an amazing place….and great hosts to the Festival of the Cranes. I am already planning to go again! There are so many sights and sounds to celebrate here.

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Home again. I celebrate returning every time I am away for longer than a couple days.

Bald Eagle seen from my office window. The morning we left to drive to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving, a bald eagle flew over the forest behind our house while I was shutting down my laptop for the road trip. It continued over our house. Since I saw a pair of eagles soaring a nearby shopping center recently, I think perhaps their nest is somewhere in the forest along the Middle Patuxent River near us. What a way to start the Thanksgiving holiday!

Thanksgiving….celebrating the day…realizing how much I am thankful for.

New Mexico Earrings

There are still more Festival of the Cranes posts to come, but I am taking a break for a few days to do post on other topics….and to do a little history of our travels to New Mexico via my earring collection.

I have some New Mexico earrings from as far back as the 1970s but I’m going to focus this post on the ones I’ve collected this century.

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I bought the pair of black and silver M design (like a pottery shard) at Bandelier National Monument in 2005. My husband, daughter, and I had met my parents in Albuquerque and used that as a base to see north central New Mexico: Santa Fe, Bandelier, Petroglyphs, and Chaco Canyon.

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On a road trip between Dallas and Tucson, we stopped at White Sands National Monument in 2013. I posted about the barn swallows and yuccas!

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During our first experience with Festival of the Cranes back in 2016, I bought some radio telescope earrings at the Very Large Array Radio Telescope,

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Two pairs of earrings including some stylized cranes at Vertu, the local artist store in Socorro,

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And three more pair in the Albuquerque airport.

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I bought four pair of earrings this year during our second experience at Festival of the Cranes. Starting at 12 o’clock position: there are the polished stones purchased at Vertu (they are thin enough to not be heavy), the dragonfly in cattails at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge gift shop , the bird flying over water and mountains from a shop on Socorro’s square, and the mosaic type earrings at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge made by an artist from the Santo Domingo Pueblo.

Overall – I don’t remember the years all that well (I must look back at notes), but I easily remember where I bought them. Earrings are still the best keepsake for me to buy, pack, and enjoy – savoring the memory from the time I bought them every time I see them.

Festival of the Cranes – part 8

After the fly out, we headed to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge visitor center to meet the bus for a Raptor ID tour.

The refuge is home to many red-tailed hawks…several different morphs. The basic ‘football’ shape is what we were looking for in the trees.

The bald eagle was in the snag in the middle of the flight deck pond. Nothing happened when the eagle opened its wings and moved all little (just as I snapped a picture…good enough to identify it as a bald eagle but not much else).

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Later the bird suddenly flew away….and caused a cloud of snow geese to rise all at one time from the water’s surface.

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There are a lot of northern harriers this year too. Every time we drove the wildlife loop, we saw a few. They fly low over the fields looking for their prey.

There were other birds that were not raptors that we saw too. The ravens seemed to pose of us.

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My favorite birds to watch were the hooded mergansers. At first there was just one pair interacting…then another male came along and then another female. They were almost beyond the range of my camera without the monopod. The first pair was acting a lot like is was time to breed but New Mexico is far from their breeding grounds.

The tour was an enjoyable 3 hours around the refuge wildlife loop.

Festival of the Cranes – part 7

The third fly out of our visit to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was back at the ponds along the road rather than the flight deck.  The thermometer said it was not as cold as our first morning…but it was still very cold. The pink morning light on the ponds gave the crane groups other world looks.

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Ribbons of snow geese flew in.

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A northern shoveller was feeding among the legs of the cranes. I managed to catch a picture when it swam into an open patch of water.

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There was an intermingling of the snow geese and cranes. I noticed when I looked at this picture more closely that there are white snow geese and the darker morph of the snow geese (all with a dark grin patch – always reminds me of a streak of dark ‘lipstick’) plus some Ross’s geese that are smaller and without the dark grin patch.

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But my photographic objective for the morning was to photograph cranes in flight. I picked two series for this blog post. I like to look at the wings….how the cranes change the configurations of their wings. It is obvious that is takes a lot more effort for them to land and take off (previous blog posts) than it does to stay aloft. 

When it’s two or three birds, it’s likely to be a family group. The group of five could a family group too since the birds have clutch sizes of 1-3 eggs. This could be a very successful breeding pair!

Festival of the Cranes – part 6

After the Point and Shoot Photography field session, I headed to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge's Desert Arboretum. The entrance was hidden by the large tents put up for the festival expo and a classroom, but I managed to find it. There was already a larger group than I expected for the tour. The garden has been developed over many years by botanists and horticulturalists from seeds. I didn’t take many pictures during the tour since there were so many people --- waiting until the area was quiet again afterward. Most of the plants were cacti and agave; I took two pictures that were other types….the legume type plant for the color of the flowers and the other for the fibrous tendrils.

Now to the cactus. There were several kinds of prickly pear – many that still had fruits. The horticulturist talked about the various kinds of spines and that some were so fast growing that they had to be pruned. I noticed one that had been pruned and that spines had grown on the cut surface – probably to keep animals from borrowing into the soft flesh of the rest of the plant.

The barrel cacti are colorful – fruits and spines. One specimen had yellow spines and fruits. Barrel cactus have been collected by so many people as whole plants rather than just the seeds which has caused some to become almost extinct in the wild…but prevalent in gardens. They evidently grow easy enough from seeds…with patience.

There were several kinds of cholla. My favorite had red fruits.

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The agaves have prickles on their edges and a sharp point on the end. There was a century plant that had bloomed two years ago but didn’t produce any seed since there was not another century plant nearby to cross pollinate it. The parent plant died after it bloomed but there is a ‘pup’ coming up under the dried parts of the parent plant…a little clone that will maybe grow up to bloom.

The garden also is popular with birds because of the feeders and the plants. There are white-crowned sparrows,

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The birds were not around during the tour….but came back as soon as the crowd of people were gone.

As I left the arboretum, I saw the sculpture of the crane nearby. Once the expo tent is gone – it will be easier to spot.

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Festival of the Cranes – part 4

Our first day at the Festival ended with a program about owls and then going out into the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge to look for owls along the wildlife loop. Our guides managed to help us see three species: western screech owl, great horned owl, and barn owl. I didn’t take any pictures and am waiting on my husband to process his to (maybe) write a post about the experience. The barn owls in flight over the field (beside the road where we were standing) were the high point of the evening.

I was glad our field trip for the next day was not an early morning. We got to Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in plenty of time for our 8AM start. There were screwbean mesquites growing near the entrance of the visitor center. For some reason, I had not noticed this type of mesquite before; the seeds are quite different from the mesquites I grew up with in Texas!

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The field trip was to a part of the refuge not open to the public. It turns out that the majority of Sevilleta is used for research. There is no wild life loop road and the part we would see during the field trip is not directly connected to the parcel that has the visitor center and refuge headquarters. The field trip group headed out in three refuge vehicles – down a highway and across some private land. As soon as we went through the gate to the refuge land the increase in vegetation was obvious. It’s still a dry place.

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Horned larks flew up along the road as our vehicles proceeded down the road. There was a solanum species with their tiny fruits.

Someone with sharp eyes spotted oryx (gemsbok) in the distance. They were imported from Africa to White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico and their numbers have been growing in New Mexico (they escaped the missile range). Their numbers seem to be stable on the refuge.

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We stopped to hike through a small canyon where sandstone that contains underground water abuts harder rock – forcing water to the surface – until the harder rock ends and the water goes underground again. I managed an identification-level picture of a Townsend’s Solitaire. There was a thin layer of ice on the water. The water was trickling through underneath.

Along the road, we stopped for birds. Most of the time I just got to see them through binoculars. I managed to get a picture of the Mountain Bluebirds

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And several of a Loggerhead Shrike – one with prey. Later in the field trip as we drove along the barbed wire fence, we saw desiccated insects pinned to the barbs by shrikes.

A little further along there was a Canyon Towhee in the top of a cholla.

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I couldn’t resist photographing the cholla!

A herd of pronghorn were just white rumps running away at first but then they turned and raced the vehicles. They would turn and cross the road in front of the caravan – forcing it to slow or stop until they crossed. Then they would run beside us on that side of the road before they crossed again. It seemed to be a game and only the pronghorn knew the rules. We all wondered whether it was the youngest in the group that decided to run…the dominant male was usually close to the back of the group!

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We stopped at another canyon for another hike. It was drier although during the monsoons there would be water flowing.

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The refuge staff has converted older style drinkers which worked for deer to shallow pools to work for other animals as well. The water pump is powered by a solar panel and there is a camera to document visitors.

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We returned to the visitor center a little before 4. It was the only day of the festival that I got my 12,000 steps!

Festival of the Cranes – part 3


We made our way to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center after the fly out. It was still a very cold day. We looked around in the visitor center and bought sweatshirts – giving ourselves another layer for later in the week – and then watched the red wing blackbirds near the feeder in the Desert Arboretum nearby.

There were still a few cottonwood leaves that had not turned brown.

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The saltbush was thick with seeds.

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We decided to take a turn around the wildlife loop. We saw quite a few Northern Shovellers

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And coots.

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My favorite water birds of the day were the pintails.

There were crystals still prevalent on vegetation; it was colder than it looked.

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The day was sunny – the sky clear blue – typical New Mexico in winter.

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Startled snow geese filled the air periodically. I took some sequences later in the week…so more to come about them in subsequent posts.

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Festival of the Cranes – part 2

Our first morning at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was before the festival officially started. We got up early to travel from our hotel to the ponds along the road just before the visitor center before dawn --- to see the fly out of sandhill cranes that roost there overnight. It was the coldest morning of the week! We bundled up with lots of layers (included snow pants), foot warmers in our boots, and handwarmers inside our gloves. I had a scarf with a hood and then the hood from my fleece too. We managed but I noticed frost forming on the head of my tripod where I breathed while I was taking pictures! I took pictures of a tree on one end of the pond that I remembered from 2016. The tree glowed with morning early light.

Some of the birds were standing on mud….others on ice. I noticed one juvenile (the bird does not have its red patch yet) on ice that quickly stood on one leg. I lost track of the bird in the moving mass of birds, but I wondered if it changed legs after a time…to let the other one get warm.

I took a series of pictures of birds landing and picked the two best sequences. It is interesting how they use their wings to soften their landing. The few birds that landed must have taken off a short time before from another roosting site. This is the first sequence.

And the second.

Some of them seem more alert than others. I like groupings where it is easy to see the iron dust they have on their feathers from their nest sites in the far north. In this picture there are the birds alert, sleeping, and preening….all close together.

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The fly out is all about the cranes taking off. Again – I picked two sequences. They don’t go all at once…but in small groups. The power of the first few wing flaps – to get them off the ground – could be heard across the small distance through the cold air.

And then they are in sky heading to the fields where they feed during the day.

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Cranes are paired for life, so it is not unusual to see pairs.

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Once the sun was up it was easier to see that the shallow pond was more ice covered than water and how some of the cranes looked so much shorter…but with the large body of sandhill cranes. The morning color of the ice…not the golden from sunrise…is a metallic blue.

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I started to look more closely at how the cranes were managing to walk on the ice. They did a little sliding but seemed to prefer taking off from the ice rather than the water.

Just before we left, I took some pictures of the frosted vegetation.

A cold morning…but a good start to our week in New Mexico.

Festival of the Cranes – part 1


We enjoyed our second Festival of the Cranes at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio NM last week. Registration opened in early September and we decided quickly on the sessions we wanted…were early enough to get into them all. My criteria for sessions was: 1) something that we couldn’t easily do on our own or 2) a topic new to us or 3) something we enjoyed so much last time that we wanted to do it again!


A few weeks before our departure, I started a packing list color coded by packing location and then marked off as it was packed.

We knew the early mornings to see the fly out of the snow geese and cranes would be very cold…so lots of layers and hand/foot warmers. There were several days that we needed to carry lunch so we took an insulated bag. There was camera gear too; the tripods were in the checked bags – cameras in the carry on.  I took three pieces of luggage: a suitcase that would be checked, a rolling backpack, and a duffel. My husband took four (two that were checked).

We didn’t forget anything…still have some ideas to do better packing next time.

I’ll be posting about the festival over the next few weeks. I took over 5,000 pictures in all because I set my camera on continuous shooting to capture motion (and I took some video too).

Blog posts about our 2016 experience of Festival of the Cranes: