Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wings over Willcox

On the spur of the moment, David and I took a road trip down to Willcox to see the Sandhill Cranes. David had not seen them before and it was fun for me to watch him try to get some good pictures. Our first stop was Cochise Lake where we almost immediately saw some cranes landing in a field beyond the golf course. There were a few ducks i the lake - mostly Northern Shovelers and American Coots, but also a few Common Mergansers, some Ruddy Ducks, and a lone American Widgeon. Two Northern Harriers swept the fields surrounding the lake - one pale and the other brown.

Next we headed to the AEPCO (Apache) power station ponds. We were able to get closer views of the cranes - there were maybe 2 or 3 thousand of them here. There were also more ducks at the forward edge of the ponds, including Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal, a couple of Canada Goose, and Mallards. We spent a fair amount of time here, David trying out digi-scoping and me trying to get a fix on the swans in the neighboring pond (I vote for Mute swans, but I seem to be outnumbered). More Northern Harriers and a Red-tailed Hawk here.

Finally, we drove down to Whitewater Draw. At last we had found the hordes of cranes! More and more came in as the afternoon wore on. This time David got some very excellent pictures as the cranes were flying right over our heads. Also seen's at this location were: Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, American Pipit, Killdeer, American Kestrel, Black Phoebe, and four Greater Yellowlegs that were doing a bang-up job of imitating Hudsonian Godwits! It took me over an hour to convince myself that they were, in fact, yellowlegs and not Godwits. Dang! The Vermillon Flycatcher stole the show as we were leaving. He practically burnt up in the setting sun. So beautiful.

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