Wednesday, October 13, 2010

sandhill surprise

October 2007, Whitewater Draw, Southeast Arizona

Speaking of migrations, seeing all those tarantulas on the move last week reminded me of another epic journey we were lucky to witness several years ago. After visiting Bisbee, Arizona we wandered in the Sulfur Springs Valley just a bit further East. There we stumbled upon Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area and its seasonal wetland.
The wetland is a stopover point for many migrating birds making their way along the dry valleys. Among the most spectacular mass visitors are the Sandhill Cranes. We found our selves at Whitewater Draw a bit late in the morning and we didn't expect to see a bonanza of birds as most activity typically happens in the cool mornings and evenings. Boy, were we surpised when shortly after making our way to the short boardwalk the Cranes started to arrive from the North in wave after noisy wave. Here's mrs. a-go-go's short sound bite of the squadrons arriving:

Crazy luck! The short fuzzy video doesn't do it justice. The sky was quite clear and we could see far to the north the narrow bands of more birds following in the wakes of those already partying in the shallow water. Surprisingly a few groups of birds decided to start the next leg of the journey within the hour or so that we were there. More were still arriving from the North while small groups began to wade away from the mob and take off for the South, chattering and squawking the whole way.

In addition we had a fleeting glimpse of the Vermilion Flycatcher. Now I'm no birdwatching expert, but I hear tell that the little fellow is rather elusive on most birders lists.
The photo really didn't catch the color. When he flew it really was a vermilion flash.

If you're a bird nut and you are traveling this part of Arizona in the Fall or Spring, don't miss Whitewater Draw. It may take a bit of dead reckoning to find it. Some of the lonely straight roads in the valley are poorly signed and we took a route requiring some dirt road. So, do a bit of map research before you go, and bring plenty of water.


  1. Amazing! What luck to be there to witness it in person. I bet it was spectacular! I"m not a birdwatcher per se, but I do enjoy the show they put on. I love watching them fly concurrent with each other, as though choreographed beforehand. We have parrots here in Long Beach, and their beauty makes up for that horrendous sqawking they do. Oh, and it is completely adorable when two are in love, they sit on the wires and snuggle, really sweet.

  2. Forgot to mention that I, also, love the photo of the abandoned shack. I see another structure behind it, but I'm curious, were there other structures around? Was it off a main road? Or was it just out in the middle of nowhere?

  3. These two little buildings were by the side of the road on North Central Highway near the town of McNeal. There was barely a town and very few structures in the valley. It looked like mostly open ranch land so these were quite lonely.



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