Viewing tips: For highest quality viewing, view at full screen and select “1080p” in settings with gear icon, lower right. Those with slower internet speeds may experience optimal playback by instead selecting Auto. Moving your cursor to the side of the screen will make the time/progress bar at the base of the screen disappear. Video run time is 4:15 minutes.
About the Photographer: Tomy O’Brien
Minnesota-based Tomy O’Brien has been a professional photographer since he was 23. In the nearly four decades since then, he says he has photographed “just about every type of subject matter you could imagine: athletes and models, delightful children, charming teens, couples in love, jewelry you would adore, products no one would adore, the heavens, landscapes, soaring architecture and gloomy warehouses, even cow-pies—and finally—sandhill cranes.”
When he semi-retired four years ago, he continued to take his camera along on walks and drives, “to keep me company and to document the parks, states, and countries I found myself in. I began to see and hear birds, discovering that they were incredibly interesting and beautiful.”
The images featured in Where Sandhills Gather were photographed at two well-known gathering areas for sandhills: Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Wisconsin and Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. Crex Meadows is a major staging area in October for migrating Greater Sandhill Cranes from North America’s Eastern Population of sandhills, where they gather before migrating to wintering areas primarily (though not exclusively) in Georgia and Florida. Bosque del Apache is the southern terminus, or wintering area, of a different population of cranes—the Rocky Mountain population, where they gather in great numbers each year from late October to mid-February. [Find more on sandhill populations, staging and winter areas, below.]
Tomy’s fascination with birds has led to new endeavors. In March of 2022, together with friend and fellow photographer John Gregor of Coldsnap Photography, he’ll be co-leading photographic safaris to explore the birds, culture and landscapes of northwest Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Maybe you’d like to join him?
About the music: The Ardillo Quartet playing Strum, composed by Jessie Montgomery
The Ardillo Quartet includes first violinist Sophia Hefner, second violinist Ana Hall, violist Lily Bronson, and cellist Alice Ryan. The quartet is under the instruction of Ray Shows at the Artaria Chamber Music School. Strum was composed by Jessie Montgomery. Where Sandhills Gather features an excerpt from the first part of the piece. Watch and listen to the Ardillo Quartet play it in its entirety: a real treat!
With thanks and all due credit to Richard E. Webster and Paul Marvin, contributors to xeno-canto, for sharing their field recordings of sandhill cranes; and to Curt Meine for serving as a resource on all things crane. Video produced by Laurie Allmann for Agate.
More on Sandhills
Wildlife managers recognize different populations of sandhill cranes in North America, based in large part on their breeding areas, wintering areas and—in particular—their migratory flyways. (For example, northwestern Minnesota has sandhills recognized as part of the Mid-continent Population, which stages along Nebraska’s Platte River before headed south to the Texas’ Gulf coast.) Research continues to shed light on the lives and movement patterns of these striking birds with their distinctive calls. Find out more by viewing this great webinar by Anne Lacey, Senior Manager of North America Programs for the International Crane Foundation (ICF). The ICF Wildlife Center in Baraboo, WI, would also be a great addition to your list of summer destinations.