One of my favorite migratory waterbirds is the Sandhill Crane. Sandhill Cranes are tall, elegant but also gangly birds, with gray-blue bodies and a crimson cap for adults. These birds display mating rituals that include exuberant dances in the hopes of securing a mate. The mating dance can include pumping their head, bowing, leaping into the air and a stretching of wings.
Sandhill Cranes mate for life, which can mean 20 or more years together. Some start breeding at two years old, but a crane may be seven years old before it breeds. A mated pair stay together year-round and the juveniles stay close by the parents for about 10 months after hatching. The chicks, called colts, can leave the nest within eight hours of hatching, and can swim at that time.
These birds live in small bogs, marshes, and prairies across North America and the southeastern United States. They gather in various areas by the thousands, and into the tens of thousands, and can easily be heard from a distance as they call out to one another. The early spring gathering of Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River in Nebraska is among the greatest wildlife spectacles on the continent, with over a quarter of a million birds present at one time.
There are four major north-south flyways in North America. The Pacific Flyway, through California, is one of the four major North American migration routes for birds, including waterfowl. The flyway extends from Alaska and Canada, through California, and on to Mexico and South America. The migration of many bird species takes place annually, north to south and south to north. Most species travel the same route each time, although the spring or fall route might vary, and at the same time each year, although routes are often predicated upon existing food sources and available water.
The three other main routes for waterfowl are the East Atlantic Flyway, the Mississippi Flyway, and the Central Flyway; a lesser route is the Allegheny Front flyway in the central Appalachian Mountains. These flyways, or migration routes, are like freeways in the sky. Often these flyways merge at various points and sometimes are not well-defined. Thousands and thousands of birds travel thousands of miles each way to arrive at breeding or over-wintering grounds.
I've been photographing with serious intent for about 14 years. Twelve years ago I started learning about wildlife photography and I've been hooked on it since then. I still photograph many different subjects, but not usually people unless it's street photography.