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Tag Archives: Great Egret

SW trip part 3

 

We left the Desert Museum and drove to Kartchner Caverns State Park, SE of Tucson. The caverns are still alive and and wet, growing new features that take 1000’s or millions of years to change. The state park gives very closely guided tours to the two different areas of the underground landmark but forbids visitors from taking anything into the caverns for fear of damage to the surface. If a visitor should accidentally touch something, it is marked with flagging and later someone comes along and cleans the surface with water from the cave. So no pictures are allowed. If you want to see what they look like and what we saw you will have to visit the place yourself or else see the website. It was quite lovely and I very much admire the original founders of the caverns for being such good stewards and protecting the place for future generations to see and learn from.

After that we went in search of wintering Sandhill Cranes. I’d been told that the Wilcox area was good for cranes and it was on our way to the next planned destination. However when Judy, the expert navigator was studying her smart phone to figure out where to go, she read about Whitewater Draw. The information said it was the best place to see cranes so off we went. To get to Whitewater Draw we drove in the opposite direction – south, nearly to Mexico through some fairly dreary-looking tiny towns and agricultural areas. At last we were on the final stretch and I think the descriptive words that were going through our minds were ‘out in the middle of nowhere’. We were arriving the night before to see the cranes at sunrise and we had no idea where we would stay. Luckily when we finally got to the parking lot near sunset we found eight or ten other rv’s of various shapes and sizes in a rough circle and Jennifer, our excellent driver ably assisted by Judy on the walkie talkie, was able to parallel park the coach in between an old converted bus and a tear drop trailer attached to a SUV.

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Outside, the cranes’ calls were all around us. It was getting to be dusk and we walked over to the wetland and sure enough, there they were – many thousands or even tens of thousands birds I would guess. All night they serenaded us with their continuous musical calls. It was magical. I made this cell phone video more for the audio than for pictures.

 

After dinner I went outside and made a images in the dark. It was quite lovely with the star-filled sky and a glow on the horizon from the closest small town. Even the glow of the surrounding RV’s was a little surreal. Early in the morning, I rolled out of bed and pulled on my big pack full of gear and went out to the dike that overlooked the wetlands. It was cold. Really cold. I had no idea I could be that close to Mexico with the temperature hovering around twenty degrees! Whitewater Draw is a former cattle ranch in the Chihuahuan Desert now owned by Arizona Game and Fish. From the information I could gather it is managed for wintering cranes and waterfowl and other wildlife. Not only were there many cranes but also lots and lots of waterfowl – Northern Pintails, Mallards, Green-winged and Cinnamon Teals, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers and more. I saw one American Avocet and showed it to a birder from Alaska who was delighted to add it to his list. Jennifer brought me a cup of coffee to warm me up a bit and she pointed out a Great Egret. As I walked along the dike I saw a Loggerhead Shrike. There were lots of Wilson’s Snipes, Western Meadowlarks, White-crowned Sparrows and other common birds too. It was a delightful find in the desert of SE Arizona.

Last week I got to watch this stately bird preen and preen some more in the morning sunshine. The bird didn’t mind me watching and taking pictures and was a lot more cooperative than the Mallards in the nearby pond. Great Egrets nest south of here in central Washington and after they fledge, they disperse to various areas, some going north like this one. Hopefully it will get some sense and migrate south soon, before the beaver ponds freeze over. There was a skim of ice that morning when I watched it and we’ve had smatterings of snow twice this week already.

After two and a half weeks on the road, we are back at home in the Methow Valley. Here, a warm day is sixty degrees and wildflowers are beginning to bloom and the snow is gone. The trip to the southeast was quite an adventure taking us, mostly me, to new places and climates; seeing new birds and other wildlife.

All of these images came from one small pond at the Six Mile Cypress Preserve near Fort Meyers. It has been a dry winter and spring in Florida so birds are concentrated in some locations. This pond was maybe fifty yards across and when we arrived there were at least 70 white birds and one Great Blue Heron. The white birds were White Ibis, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets and Wood Storks.

 

Lots of end of the day grooming

 

 

 

Spanish moss makes for an especially pretty stick. It might even attract a mate.

 

 

I wonder if she will like me if I bring her a stick?

 

Yup, still gorgeous.

 

Every feather in its place

 

 

This one took grooming lessons from a dog I think.

 

 

 

These Wood Storks in the trees above us were very restless, constantly moving about. The two are engaged in active noisy bill clacking at each other. I don’t know if that means they like each other or they don’t like each other.

 

 

 

 

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