Sandhill Cranes

January 7-8, 2012

Talk about your snowbirds! Each year in October, sandhill cranes arrive by the tens of thousands to spend the winter in Arizona's Sulphur Springs Valley south of Willcox. The huge, raucous birds breed and raise their young far to the north in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Alaska. Once the chicks have fledged, the cranes begin the long flight south, with stopovers along the Platte River in Nebraska. They fan out across Arizona, Texas and New Mexico in shallow water roosting areas near harvested grain fields.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 cranes share the wetlands of Whitewater Draw and Willcox Playa with countless other birds including local hawks, ducks and waterfowl such as the long-billed dowitcher.

We spent a moonlit winter night at Cochise Stronghold, bracketed by evening and morning trips to observe the cranes at Apache Generating Station Wildlife Observation Area and at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. Thanks to Ann, Kit, Wade and Matts for a fabulous weekend!