Saturday, November 11, 2006

Is it possible to OD on birding?

I knew the day would be a long one, but apparently, I can still OD on birding which is an indication of the amateur I really am! Our leader, John Higgins was as friendly as any I’ve encountered. He assured us that the day was not about counting species, but about having fun! I carpooled with him, a very nice woman named Lois, and a gentleman named, Jerry. In all there were 6 cars and 16 participants. Of course, the weather was fabulous with a nice breeze out of the southeast all morning. It was decidedly warmer than the same trip two weeks ago. I never even put my heavier jacket on and needed my gloves for only a few minutes at Whitewater.

We birded several spots in the Sulphur Springs Valley including Whitewater Draw, Elfrida, Kansas settlement, Willcox, the AEPCO power plant and the Benson ponds. The best birds were the thousands of Sandhill Cranes. At the power plant they were close enough to see the red heads of the males and to watch the cranes stretch out their legs for a landing. John was careful to explain how the cranes land differently from the Snow Geese (which were also at the same spot). The cranes put their long legs forward, pulling their wings above themselves and drop like an elevator while the geese “whiffle” themselves by turning their wings to one side and “dumping” the air lift so that they drop down sideways. Then at the last second they right themselves to land on two feet. I’d seen this process hundreds of times before in the Snow Geese at Middle Creek, but really hadn’t given thought to it until now.

It would be too redundant to list all the species we saw as they were, for the most part, the same as two weeks ago with the exception of many of the sparrows, the Bendiare’s Thrasher and the Scaled Quail which we did not see this week. We did see several Ferregenous Hawks on this trip compared to the single one we saw two weeks ago. I did add Eurasian-collared Dove to my life list. There were many of them as we drove through Tombstone and then again at Kansas Settlement. Although it was good for the life list, it’s a little disturbing to see so many of them and know that they are quickly and quietly invading the country sides of many places in the US.

The best stop of the day, however, had to be Stout’s Cider Mill in Willcox where we had homemade apple pie. I had the apple-marionberry that was awesome!

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