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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Mornings start early here since I like to be out watching the cranes and snow geese before sunrise. Lately the temps have been in the 20s until close to 7 am. This young crane was having fun annoying the geese, they just moved away. As it gets lighter the birds start flying off to their feeding grounds.
There’s a white crane here, too, its beak and legs aren’t as dark as the others but it has some dark feathers so I’d guess it’s not an albino.
After getting up at 5, watching the birds for 3 hours or more I head back to the trailer for breakfast, then it’s back out again. The Snow geese have
gathered at one of the wetlands near the road in the refuge and there is a bald eagle on the dead tree in the background. I waited a long time there, watching the geese and wondering if the eagle would fly but he didn’t.
Back to the trailer for lunch then late afternoon back out with the camera. The late afternoon sun enhances the fall colors.
This I’ve seen a few herons around, this one was most obliging as it posed nearby.
In the other direction were the snow geese and as the sun went down it accentuated the colors in the wetlands. It also cast a golden glow on the birds in flight.
You know what they say about real estate, it’s all about location?! Well, this little RV park has it! Basic parking lot camping bu
t only 1 mile from the first ponds inside Bosque del Apache NWR. Quite a few Sandhill Cranes at the first pond when I got there at dawn. As it got lighter they started taking flight.
A little bit later the sun was on them and
the mountains in the distance.
As the sun got a bit higher I went into the refuge to the loop drive and found some Snow Geese.
That evening I returned to the pond and with the cranes’ sounds as a bit of background the Milky Way was in view.