Sandhill Cranes may be my favorite bird to see in flight. Those slender necks and expansive wings set back on their bodies make for an impressive shape taking to the sky. We’re fortunate in West Texas to play host to thousands upon thousands of these migratory animals, as well as a couple species of geese, and one only has to make a short trip to the empty cotton fields surrounding major cities to see large flocks taking up residence during the day. At night, the cranes roost for the night among many of the area’s playa lakes on the caprock.
I spent yesterday evening traveling the rural highways about an hour and half northeast of Lubbock, Texas, in search of some material for an annual report I’m working to help finish. I ended the evening sitting just outside of a large flock of cranes in a stripped cotton field, waiting for them to make their move to a nearby playa. When the sun was about 10 minutes from hitting the horizon, I noticed in the distance a group of cranes and geese rise up in flight through my binoculars, and it wasn’t too long before the field in front of me erupted with the chortle of hundreds of Sandhills. I had positioned myself and the FJammer where I would be privy to a silhouette, and the West Texas sky did not disappoint!
Using an EF 400mm f/5.6 L, I was able to compress the distance and suck that sun in tighter to the cranes in flight, and the underexposure of the silhouette made for a fantastic mix of brushed fire colors and crisp outlines of the birds. I enjoy the group in the distance as well, giving those in front perspective. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re familiar by now of the magnificent colors the atmospheric debris in this part of the country exhibits, and this is certainly a prime example!
Not a bad way to start the week, huh?
If you’re interested in learning more about and visiting a prime location for observing Sandhill Cranes, make sure you stop over at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, just two hours southwest of Lubbock. This is, as they say, peak time for the bird’s appearance around their lakes.