Friday, January 20, 2012

Sandhill Cranes

Yesterday I went to Whitewater Draw, near Willcox (home of Rex Allen!) on a tour with Tohono Chul Park to see the Sandhill Cranes, literal snowbirds who visit this area each winter. The cranes are so impressive. Around eleven every morning thousands of them come in for an early roost. They fly into the area in wave after wave—most in formations (a “V”), some in small groupings or singly. This goes on for about two hours.


I inserted the video so you can get an idea of the amazing calls the birds make while flying and landing. Their sounds filled the whole vast area. I wonder if they are calling out to their friends below, or just singing for the fun of it. I sat alone and watched them for about half an hour. I was mesmerized. I didn’t want to leave.

Cranes1 1-19-2012 1-13-06 PM 3599x1230

They arrange themselves in stripes across the vast semi-dry lakebed. Once they are on the ground they mostly quit calling.

The Crane Twins 1-19-2012 1-28-03 PM 703x617 This is out of focus, but shows their beautiful red heads and eyes.

We saw other shore birds—lots of ducks, teals, and wading birds. Here are pictures of a couple of my favorites:

Coots and Cinnamon Teal 1-19-2012 1-15-22 PM 3212x1108

American Coots and the head of a Cinnamon Teal (“Bring me the head of a cinnamon teal!”)

These guys below are called Northern Shovelers. Their bills look exactly like shoehorns. They have beautiful red eyes.

Northern Shovelers 1-19-2012 1-15-42 PM 1797x1243