Whitewater Draw AZ G&F refuge makes a wonderful stop as a place to relax and enjoy nature. It is a major winter stop for thousands of Sandhill Cranes, along with some Snow Geese and various ducks. In March it isn’t as cold as it is in January and the birds are still there.
The geese fly out to feed in the morning then return to relax before flying out for a late feed. Sometimes you get lucky and see them dance. Other times they’re just resting.
This visit there is a large flock of Yellow Headed Blackbirds. At one point they flew over the cranes and for some reason that caused many of the cranes to leap into the air very briefly.
While a lot of folks think “ducks are ducks” I have to admit some of them are very handsome with their vibrant coloring.
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The last few days I spent in Arizona were at a state game & fish wildlife refuge. What a wonderful place! It is home to thousands of Sandhill Cranes in the winter. There is also a variety of ducks and a pair of resident Great Horned Owls.
The cranes fly out early so getting up before down to capture them as they fly out can be challenging. It’s usually pretty cold, but definitely worth the effort as the sun rises and highlights the birds.
They return late in the morning, coming back in great groups. Then the sun is high and it’s more a matter of looking for interesting behavior as they mingle.
The ducks are very fast, hard to capture. The owls were a different matter entirely. She was sitting on a nest and he was perched at the opposite end of the shed high up so the challenge wasn’t in capturing action but getting the lighting right.
There were a also some Snow Geese there but they tended to stay pretty from from the berms where watchers can stand.
The last evening I was there there was a spectacular sunset. As I and others watched it just got better and better, the colors so strong. Then some of the Cranes flew across, making it even better!
This was my second visit to this refuge and it was well worth the time. It was also a lot warmer this time than in mid January last year!
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Different hours of the day (or night) at Quartzite give you very different views. Sunset is peaceful, colorful or bland depending on the clouds.
A very early morning (0545) can provide an opportunity to see the Milky Way.
A bit later when the sun rises the colors can be spectacular, changing constantly.
Late afternoon lights up the stately Saguaro cactus and highlights the bright green of the Ocotillos.
The last image is of a small percent of the RVs that come to Quartzite to spend the winter on the BLM land. It’s inexpensive and you get to pick your location, close to others, sort of close but not too, or way out in the desert.
Monument Valley is east of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, roughly a 2-3 hour drive, depending on your speed and stops. Mostly dry desert with a few tiny towns along the way. This area is by far the dryest and windiest so far. I checked into Gouldings Campground, across the road from Monument Valley Tribal Park around mid day. After settling in I went into the park to get a map and feel for the layout. There is a 17 mile drive you can do on your own, if you want to see a bit more you must take one of the tours. I decided to return around 6 pm or later (drive closes at 8 pm) so I would get better late day light. I checked into the tours and from what I could see most are conducted during the hottest, sunniest, windiest, dustiest part of the day, from around 9 or 10 am until late afternoon. That isn’t conducive to the best photos so I decided to skip the tours.
My trip late on the 29th yielded some nice shots. I was up early on the 30th and got over to the entrance road to the park, stopped and got some striking sunrise shots, then did the loop drive so my photos were all early morning that day. Around mid day I decided to take a drive to the 4 corners area, where NM, CO, UT & AZ meet. It was a long drive in high winds with extreme dust blowing. Now I can say “been there, done that”.
Gouldings (motel, campground, trading post, etc.) has a long history in the area starting from the 1920s when Harry Gouldings and his wife Mike arrived and opened a trading post. Among the places to visit here is a very nice little museum with history of the area. Many movies were filmed in Monument Valley and along with photos and other items of interest you can watch various John Wayne movies in the little theater.
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Got here Monday around lunch time, Checked into the Page-Lake Powell RV park, right on the road into town and very convenient to the Antelope Slot Canyons. Was given an end site right near the dog walk area. These sites are huge, big enough for my Casita and truck unhitched, plus a picnic table and on the other side of the picnic table you could park another truck or rv. Seems like lots of folks just stop here for an overnight or 2 so the section where I am (for the transients maybe?) is pretty empty. First thing I did after settling in was to go get my name on the list for the photographers tour Tuesday morning at the local office for http://www.navajoantelopecanyon.com. The photographers’ tour is not cheap but you get 2 hours with an experienced guide (knows the canyon, knows photography) and a small group (limit 7). You get to take photos without people in them. Lionel Bigthumb, our tour guide was great, making sure we got the shots we wanted, etc. (first 2 photos totally natural light in daytime, second 2 shots done taken at night with some artificial light). More photos at my Slot Canyons Gallery, http://www.borderbrae.wordpress.com/slot-canyons-gallery/
Some nights Lionel leads a night tour of the canyon and as it happened he was leading on that night. I decided it was a chance I didn’t want to pass up so at 9 pm 4 of us from the day tour and another couple met Lionel and Raymond and headed to the slot canyon. What a great time! It was extremely cold but we managed to enjoy ourselves and got some great photos.
They lit the various ares up by shining led lights on the ground which was very yellow/orange/red sand so the walls were lit by the reflected light.
As we prepared to go Raymond went inside the entrance to the canyon and lit it up and Lionel lit it outside, this is the final shot.
When the shined the leds directly on the walls it was totally different.
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