Two White Pelicans fight over fish for lunch. The photographer writes: “I stepped down in the hole by the rice field and set the camera on the top rail. I had to lie down so I was almost eye level with them. I could not believe how close they came to me. It was a magical moment. There was a school of fish, so they all got fed very well.” Photos by SOPHIA SCHADE

Looking back, I never envisioned being fortunate to find a new hobby in photography, one that I love. When my husband Dennis Schade, and I retired to the Lowcountry six years ago, I truly didn’t know how beautiful an oasis was our new home.

I have discovered many places to practice my new hobby, and one of my favorite is Donnelley Wildlife Management Area near Green Pond, in Colleton County. It is truly magical. At different times of the year, a variety of wildlife and wildflowers are abundant.

Their website describes this beautiful place well: “The unique property is a cross-section of the Lowcountry, and encompasses a diversity of wetland and upland habitats including: managed rice fields, forested wetland, tidal marsh, agricultural lands, and a variety of upland types, including a natural stand of longleaf pine. The driving tour of the area provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities for those who are mobility impaired.”

The reason I like to go during the winter months is that this area is a haven for migratory wildlife like the White Pelican.

I find that the prime time to go is in the early morning hours. The photos on this page were taken Dec. 12 around 10:30 a.m.

Pre-sunrises are spectacular as you enter the property. About one-quarter mile past the gates, you can see an incredible reflection on the small causeway. Be on the lookout for bald eagles, Peregrine falcons, Cooper’s hawks and red-tailed hawks. This is a favorite spot for raptors.

You might want to park before reaching this spot and walk to the area. This is also a great place to stop before you leave.

Following the tour signs will bring you to the main house. Make a right and you will be at the famous area of “the tree.” This is where you will find spoonbills, herons, cormorants, white pelicans, seagulls, terns, ibis, grebes, blue-winged teal ducks, little blue herons, egrets, and more.

Don’t forget to take some landscaping photos. The colors are wonderful this time of the year.

If you decide to make the trip to Donnelley, first check the website for hours, as they change seasonally.

When you go, it’s a good idea to bring your lunch, bug spray, and water.

Also, consider making your plan so you can visit neighboring Bear Island Wildlife Management Area too. Drive to the end of the island so you can photograph the shrimp boats and, during the fall season, the hunters coming off the river.

And don’t forget your camera!

Sophia Schade is an award-winning photographer and resident of Sun City Hilton Head.