Wintering Sandhills (12 photos)

Tall yet graceful, social yet independent, Sandhill Cranes have long fascinated people.

Sandhill 9

Sandhills are named for their breeding grounds on the Nebraska prairie, which bleeds into Sandhill Region of the state. Huge flocks migrate to winter in such places as Florida, Texas and Mexico.

Sandhill 4Sandhill 3Some 10,000 Sandhills migrate to southeastern Arizona for the winter. These birds were photographed at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, near Wilcox, AZ.

Sandhill 5Sandhill 1Sandhill 2

The sight of thousands upon thousands of Sandhill taking flight is awesome. Yet that’s not what was most memorable about the cranes. My friend Tom and I parked a good half mile from the wetlands where we hoped the Sandhills were congregated. As we hiked toward the water, we started to hear an unfamiliar sound. Before long the loud, rolling, raucous sound stopped us in our tracks. It was the cranes.

Sandhill 10Sandhill 11Sandhill 12The cranes left the wetlands in small groups, heading to feed before nightfall.

Orchard Orioles (7 Photos)

On a trip to Folly Island, SC I had to get 30 feet off the ground for decent photographs of Orchard Orioles. Once elevated, the yellow and olive female was easy to photograph. She preferred to preen and sun on exposed branches. In the lower right photo, she shows off her specialized tongue, useful in gathering nectar.

The chestnut colored male spent almost all his time hiding in the canopy. When he did finally come into the open, he was so far away the quality of photos suffered. Still, a beautiful bird.