Saturday, January 8, 2011

Coming in for a Landing! Sandhill Cranes flock to Whitewater Draw

On January 2nd, we trekked out to Whitewater Draw, a wetlands area maintained by Az Game and Fish, to watch the sandhill cranes come in.  They pass through along their winter migration, and can be seen here from December through March.

Clck the audio player above to hear a recording we made while there.  Perhaps hearing the cranes will add something to the photos below, and give you a little taste of the experience.

Was it ever an experience!!!  High noon they came, mostly from the north, where they were foraging for breakfast...

There were thousands of them!!!  I can't stress how many birds there were!  It was the most birds I've seen in the sky at once since watching them fly south in my early midwestern days- where a kid could lie on her back and watch the birds go by overhead for long stretches of time.

 Just when you got a grasp on the number of birds present, tiny dots of v-patterns appeared from the clear blue sky far away- coming closer!  They just kept coming!!!

 I was told that they travel in family groups

I love their long, long legs!

The clearest photo I got was of this pair of ducks, who patiently shared the water with the passers-through.

The water was mostly frozen over during our visit.  It was fun to watch the ducks walking/skating on the ice, and then suddenly break through and plop into the water.  Burrrrrrrr!

The viewing of these birds is so revered and anticipated by local birders and others, that the nearby city of Willcox hosts a festival every year during the cranes' stay, called, Wings over Willcox.  Educational activities and birding excursions are the focus of the festival.

Welcome, sandhill cranes!

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