Saturday, September 17, 2011

Season's First Visit to Whitewater Draw Conservation Area

We made our first visit of the season to Whitewater Draw on last Saturday arriving just after sunrise on a beautiful, cool ( upper 60's ) morning. Conditions could not have been better as it had rained the night before and no one else was around so at least for a short while Whitewater would be ours to enjoy in solitude.
As you might already know Whitewater Draw is a great place to see the Sandhill Cranes that winter here in the south of Arizona near the Mexican border. After some deliberation and an absolutely wonderful visit there I have decided to continue to my series that I began last October on the Sandhill Cranes.
As a photographer and nature lover I never tire of seeing these amazing creatures up close and although I have some great shots already I know that the quintessential moment is still to come and hopefully I'll be able to capture it.

There were no cranes spotted on this visit but there was plenty to see and it was such a nice morning that we went about our business encountering the small joys that a place like this is rife with including the tiniest frogs I have ever seen and a Great White Egret landing gracefully to feed in the marsh grass.

Bird watching at Whitewater Draw always provides some nice surprises like the flock of White-faced Ibises that flew around us and landed mostly beyond the reach of my 300 mm lens. White-faced Ibises are the western counterpart to the Glossy Ibis which would be considered rare if it was spotted here. It is not unheard of so I am hopeful that someday I'll have the chance to see one here in Arizona.

This is the time of the year that I have been waiting for, a time when the 100+ degree heat diminishes and the humidity begins to abate making outdoor adventures possible once again. If you have never experienced a southern Arizona summer it is hard to imagine a more hostile environment if you are not totally prepared for it. Although monsoon season can be oppressive it is also extremely beautiful with it's spectacular sunrises and sunsets, it's puffy white clouds that build into afternoon downpours and fierce thunder and lightning.

The most amazing thing about being here this time of year is the winged migration that is beginning all around me. So many amazing places to go and enjoy birds as they head back southward in search of food. While most people think of the desert as devoid of life just the opposite is true. There is so much life here including the millions of birds that pass through here each year.

I see quite a few Great Blue Herons in my travels but this one almost went un-noticed as they tend to blend into the marsh.

I have always seen flocks of blackbirds as a harbinger of autumn both in the northeast when I lived there  and here in the southwest. There is nothing that says fall like the large undulating masses of birds that seem to have a single mind in the air.

If you have ever been to Whitewater after it has rained recently than you know that the walking is a little on the difficult side as mud sticks to your shoes and ends up weighing about five pounds on each foot after a short distance. It does not take away from the beauty all around and we were fortunate to have the place to ourselves for our entire visit.

It takes some effort to get to Whitewater as it is not just off the highway but it is well worth the effort especially when there are thousands of Sandhills present but you never know when you might see, say a Great Horned Owl or two!

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I just found your blog and was hoping to go tomorrow, but it's raining! Do you know what that will do to the birding in the AM around sunrise? Sometimes the birds stick around or sometimes they hide....but this is a first with the cranes? Do you have any recommendations? Rain is supposed to clear out by mid morning.