Douglas, Arizona – January 2023 – Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area

The Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area is about 15 miles north of Douglas, Arizona and the Mexican border.

We passed fields with Sandhill cranes foraging as we drove south to the site.

As we arrived the first wintering birds we found were the ubiquitous snowbirds and their RVs, all with out of state license plates. Fortunately we were able to find a place to park and start the short hike down to the wetlands.

The area is known as a winter home for the Sandhill cranes but other wildlife spend time here as well, including this Northern Shoveler ducks.

The cranes all take off at dawn and return around noon. We arrived about 11:30 so most of the birds present were Snow Geese, with a few of the cranes hanging out in the background.

A short time later a hawk flew over, causing the geese to take off en masse. It was an impressive sight and sound.

Eventually the Snow Geese settled back in, and the show of the thousands of cranes returning began.

Each wave appeared to settle in different areas around the wetlands.

Wave after wave kept returning. They estimate there are 20,000-30,000 cranes in this area.

Some settled in close enough for very clear photos (with a 400mm lens) of their resting spots.

The cranes are scheduled to leave in March, but if you have the chance to check out the scene before then it is a very impressive sight.

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