Sunday, February 13, 2011

Whitewater Draw-Morning with the Sandhill Cranes

It might seem unusual for this post to start off with a picture of a large flock of Snow Geese but as we arrived in the parking lot these graceful flyers were in the air and in a very short time would be mingled with the in-coming Sandhills as they returned from feeding in the grain fields. With so many birds in the air at one time you would think that they would be colliding all over the place. It just doesn't happen and they manage to sweep and turn in unison or completely randomly without running into each other.

Once again our visit was timed perfectly and we arrived just at the beginning of the Sandhill Cranes returning to roost for the afternoon. They came sometimes by the hundreds and sometimes by the thousands and occasionally a few at a time. Their numbers were impressive but I did not try to count this trip as I just wanted to enjoy what is perhaps my last visit with the cranes this season. By the end of March they will have left for their summer breeding grounds and other important birds will take their place either to spend the summer or just passing through.

There were more visitors than we had encountered in our many visits to Whitewater this year but the cranes seemed oblivious to our presence. The way that the preserve is set up keeps most people on raised paths away from the birds. It is an arrangement that seems to work pretty well for both the birds and the watchers.

This trip had one major surprise in that the returning birds landed mostly in the first pool which put them in closer proximity to the people than you usually see at Whitewater. It was by all accounts a spectacular display and all of the people that I talked to were new to Sandhill watching and quizzed me once they realized that I knew a little about the birds behavior.

It has been a privilege for me to be able to observe the cranes on so many occasions this season and as a novice myself I did manage to learn a few things about their behavior.

The Snow Geese and the Sandhill Cranes seem very compatible even in flight and I frequently observed them together overhead twisting and turning before settling down to earth.

Snow Geese and a few Sandhills.

I hope that all of you have enjoyed the Sandhill series as much as I have enjoyed doing it. It's time for me to choose a new project to share here at Sonoran Connection and I hope that you will come back from time to time and see what adventures lie ahead.
This lone Sandhill Crane challenged all that I know about their social behavior. It landed in a pool separated from all the other cranes. For the most part cranes stay together for their protection from predators and this is the one time all season that I saw one on the ground by itself. On occasion I have seen single birds in the air but never until now on the ground.

Listen to the calling of the Sandhill Cranes below.


  1. Oh, my goodness, that's alotta' birds!! For me, it would have been a 'time stands still' moment or two!! Great shots. Thanks for sharing. ~karen

  2. Just tremendous work with camera and clause ... your work is so appreciated!

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