Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wings Over Willcox!

Our friend Dick was visiting Tucson from LA this last weekend, and we met down in Willcox, AZ, where he lived until a few years back. It was the weekend of the local celebration "Wings Over Willcox" (WOW!), a nature and birding festival, mostly triggered by the annual migration of Sandhill Cranes, who winter in nearby fields and riparian areas.

We met Dick, girlfriend Nancy, his daughter Elizabeth and her husband at the Willcox Community Center. While relatively small, there was a huge turnout of local attractions (Chiricahua National Monument, Amerind Foundation), as well as professional wildlife photographers, artisans and conservation groups. As soon as we traded greetings, a woman from Gray Hawk Nature Center handed Nancy a cornsnake, and offered to take group pictures, as well as talk about snakes and other "scary" resident creatures and the good they do for ecology. And while I got my "ultimate" closeup of a Sandhill Crane, it was, indeed, a stuffed version of the beast...

However, another group had a collection of rehabilitated birds of prey that had been injured and could not be released into the wild (supremely unstuffed!). Most magnificent of these was a 24-year-old bald Eagle named Libby. Libby had been shot long ago and had her left wing partially amputated and relegated to education programs. She was a beauty, though she was uncomfortable with my getting too close with the camera and she showed her displeasure! She liked Melinda much better, so she took these pictures. Also in the bird collection was a Western Screech Owl and American Kestrel, among others - all just spectacularly beautiful!

Finally, it was time to head out and see some cranes! Normally, Melinda and I head down to Whitewater Draw, where large numbers of the birds congregate. However, it is a good 45 minute drive from Willcox, so we headed out for the 12 minute drive out near the Apache Generating Station. There are areas of standing water and an observation berm for viewing. This location didn't have the sheer numbers or proximity to the cranes, but it was fun to get Dick and Nancy out birdwatching with us. In the picture of the cranes, there are also some interesting mirage effects of distant buildings off the warm air of the Willcox Playa. even though there is no water on the flats, the warm air layer reflects blue sky making it look like a body of water.

Dick and Nancy headed back to Tucson to meet up with friends, and Melinda and I took the scenic route back, exploring some back roads, but it is always a great day being out and about on a warm winter day!

1 comment:

David A. Harvey said...

Hey guys! Nice to see someone else goes to WOW. Went last year. This year - heading over to Bosque del Apache for some "real" Sandhill Crane venues. Willcox and Whitewater are too restrictive in the angles and distances you can get on these beasties. I'll let you know if BDA is better.