Whitewater draw is a special place. I last visited almost two years ago and it was there I heard my first cow bird.; what a miraculous sound that bird makes. At that time it was March/April and the lake areas of Whitewater were all dried up/emptied; with only the central pond (photo above) holding any water at all. I had heard then about the famous sandhill cranes, but had missed them by a few months.
This year I didn’t miss them. I had seen a few hundred at Cochise Lake yesterday in Willcox, and this afternoon I saw many thousands here at Whitewater. They were, as at Cochise Lake, formed into a dense perimeter around the lake. In this case, more were near water than at Cochise, but many were in the grassy areas just beyond the water’s edge.
Whitewater Draw is a popular place; there were many large camper vans/mobile homes when I arrived. So, there are few places to find quiet from people talking and walking; but I found one spot that worked quite well. It was to the west of the site on a spit of land that, in later months, connects to the grassy area further west where the sandhills nest. So, there I sat on the dusty ground and listened to the water and the cranes and the other birds.
At Cochise Lake, near sunset many groups would rise and leave the area. And, this was the case here at Whitewater. This recording ends with one such group leaving. They also make an extraordinary sight, catching the sun as they set off overhead, mostly away from the sunset, and ever raucous as they go. In this recording the sound gradually builds into a crescendo; first subdued by the water lapping at the lakeside and with some other contributions from a number of ducks and other birds in the area; this sound is soon dominated by the calls of many sandhill cranes discussing with each other their departure, or chatting with each other in the midst of it.
Recording is here:
As with Cochise Lake, the evening departure is temporary. Some groups return that night; most I think are back by morning. I wonder where they go for those few hours?