Saturday, October 9, 2010

From San Pedro River to Whitewater Draw

Our plan was to head to Whitewater Draw to see if the Sandhill Cranes had begun to return to the farmland that provides food for the thousands of birds that winter in the area. It's over a hundred miles from Tucson so we decided to stop at San Pedro River Conservation Area which is on the way just to be able to stretch and take a break from the car.

We were greeted by several majestic cottonwoods which are prevalent in riparian areas here in the south of Arizona. I was immediately amazed by the stature of the trees and the many different birds that were everywhere we looked.

This was the tree with the largest trunk which I would estimate to be at least 25 to 30 feet in circumference. It was simply magnificent with branches that were as large as many trees and I couldn't help be amazed that it had survived so many years in this place.

The San Pedro House serves as the gift shop/bookstore which is run by the Friends of the San Pedro River.
It boasts a pretty good reference library and has a great selection of books as well other gifts you would expect to find in a place like this. You can find more information on the San Pedro River here:

The San Pedro House is nestled under this one tree that is quite impressive.

There is an extensive trail system the runs along the river and of course we couldn't resist taking a walk out along one of the trails to see what this place was all about. As you can imagine when you don't really have to be anywhere on the clock time sorta slips away and we ended up walking the trail for about three hours. It is a beautiful place with a huge number of species of plants, animals, birds, insects, reptiles, etc. We were greeted by the ever present signs warning that "snakes may be present" which makes you keep a close eye where you walk but we did not encounter any poisonous creatures during our walk.

We did see several hawks including this Red Tailed Hawk that was being harassed by a couple of Western Kingbirds. It put up with it for quite a while and then all at once decided that enough was enough and took to the skies with the Kingbirds hot on his tail.

The vegetation along the trail was quite high and in some areas we had to push the grasses aside but for the most part the trail was wide and easy to walk.

Butterflies are very hard to get decent pictures of because they seem to be moving most of the time. This Checkered White was cooperative probably due to the 50 degree temperatures in the early hours of the day.

We took half a dozen side trips on trails that got us closer to water. We saw several deer here that moved quickly away from us.

This dragonfly was hovering above the first pool that we were able to get right next to the water.

A Great Blue Heron was fishing on the other side of the pool and paid little attention to us as we were a good distance from him/her.

Insects were everywhere but there were almost no mosquitoes or biting insects the whole time we walked. This Queen Butterfly paid little attention to the Grasshopper that was right next to it.

I don't know a whole lot about grasshoppers but I thought this was a great shot that shows some interesting grasshopper behavior.

Sparrows! Sparrows were everywhere including Song Sparrow and Cassin's Sparrow. There are over thirty different variations of song sparrow in the west so it can be interesting trying to identify them.

The valley goes on for an eternity here in the southwest and mountains are frame the landscape here.

After our detour we headed to Bisbee for lunch and then off to Whitewater Draw to see if there were any Sandhill Cranes that had returned to their wintering spot.

For those of you who know Arizona you know that the sun at midday can be brutal even if the temperature is comfortable the sun is extremely intense. This would mean a purposeful walk around Whitewater as there is very little shade to be had.

The first pool was really quiet but extremely peaceful and very pretty. There were no Sandhills to be found.

On our second stop there were 50-60 ducks but still no Sandhills anywhere in sight.

As we moved toward the next location we heard the familiar call that we had hoped to hear.

The Sandhills had begun to return. Granted there weren't 40,000 but there were 30 or so and they made our trip worth while. They were several hundred yards away but I didn't mind because they were there and the season had begun and I knew there would be many opportunities to get some great pictures.

We will return often to record the Sandhill Cranes but in the meantime you can find more information on them here:

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