Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sandhill Crane Watch Willcox Arizona 11/26/10

On our way to check up on the Sandhill Cranes we decided to stop at the Cochise Lakes which are actually reclaimed water ponds that the City of Willcox uses to water it's public golf course. I always chuckle at what passes for a lake in these parts but non the less it's always nice to be near water, any water and we had heard that this was an exceptional place to see birds.

As you will see in the these photos the wind was blowing hard and steadily and kicking up dust from the playa which is the dry lake bed that we usually hike when we come here. We decided that under these conditions we should skip walking out onto the lake bed and instead head to Kansas Settlement Road after hiking around the pond to see what wildlife this place has to offer.

Shovelers and Widgeons in the hundreds and about a dozen or so Kildeers, Horned Larks and meadow larks as well as many sparrows which were very difficult to spot until they flew away because of all the movement of the grasses from the high winds. We also saw two Northern Harriers which seem to be everywhere we go in the southern tier of Arizona along the border.

There are two blinds that have been built on the shore and the walk around the pond was longer than it looked at the beginning but even with the wind it was very pleasant.

As we headed to Kansas Settlement Road to check out the farms the wind continued to blow and sometimes blocked out the sun. Dust storms are not uncommon here in Arizona but it is unusual to have them last all day long.

We searched the farms along Kansas Settlement Road and saw no evidence of Sandhill's anywhere. Not a single crane was seen flying or feeding, they just weren't in this area. We speculated that perhaps the high winds had keep them on the ground at their roosting spots but it was unclear where they actually were.

There were lots of other birds along the road including hundreds of sparrows,black birds and dozens of hawks. Our last hope to see Sandhill Cranes was Apache Station which is owned by the local utility that has provided a viewing area that is open weekends. We headed over there and finally found what we were looking for!

Between the dust, the wind, the distance and not being very familiar with my new Canon 7D camera getting good shots was a challenge but it surely was worth trying. There were thousands of Sandhill's visible and they all seemed to be eating and riding out the wind storm. There were also untold thousands of birds that were not visible except for further up to our left as we could occasionally hear them calling.

There were a couple of Snow Geese, A couple of hawks and at least one kildeer mixed in with the Cranes and thousands of blackbirds putting on an absolutely exquisite aerial display.

Most but not all of the Blackbirds were Yellow Headed Blackbirds

We had pretty much concluded that the cranes had settled in for the night when a few birds rose up and headed in the direction of the farms or Whitewater Draw beyond. This was the beginning of an absolutely spectacular hour or more of Sandhill Cranes taking flight in various sized groups.

At first they all pretty much headed in the same direction. As time went on more and more birds took to the skies and they were now headed in multiple directions. It was quite an amazing sight to see and we stayed until the sun had set and the full moon was high in the sky.

Information on Sandhill Cranes can be found in the following places:

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos! Wow the blackbirds! very cool...
    Hope you and Nan had a wonderful Thanksgiving day!