Birding at White Water Draw more than just Sandhill Cranes
Birding at White Water Draw is best done during the winter and early spring months. That is when the lake is full and the birds that winter in Southeast Arizona are in residence. The birding at White Water Draw isn’t as well known as the Willcox Playa where “Wings Over Willcox” is highlighted. In my opinion, the birding at White Water Draw, near McNeal, is better for close up photography of the cranes. Down By The River B and B is north west of White Water Draw and easily accessible by good roads. After you have a scrumptious breakfast at the b and b, you can be in White Water Draw to view the birds to your heart’s content for the rest of the day.
Angie and I took a day trip to White Water Draw, about an hour’s travel time. It can be reached by taking Arizona 80 through Tombstone and about 6 miles further south turning onto Davis Road. At milepost 22 there is a sign indicating White Water Draw is to the right just 2 ½ miles down Coffman Road. Once you reach the area you will find a parking lot near a large barn with picnic tables and bathroom facilities. A path leads to the two lake areas where there are benches and platforms available with some high powered binoculars for viewing the birds. The Sandhill Cranes may be at any part of this sanctuary but during our visit we were lucky. The cranes were very close to the southeastern end of the lake system near the parking lot.
As we arrived the cranes were returning after feeding in the fields north of White Water Draw that morning. Large flocks were circling overhead and the primeval cacophonic calls of the birds reminded me of sounds you might have heard in the Jurassic Era. The bird continued circling and in groups landed among the flock that were settled along the shore of the lake and the nearby grassland. The video shows the Sandhill Cranes that were circling overhead and finishes with birds landing among the other cranes. The Sandhill Cranes stand almost 4 feet tall, with a wing span of almost 7 feet and weigh about 10 pounds. These are very large birds and are so graceful in flight.
There is more to see than the cranes when birding at White Water Draw. After watching the show, we spent some time walking along the lake shore. We stopped at a spot where we could get photographs of the White Snow Geese with the cranes in the background. Last year we saw a Northern Harrier flying low over the fields and it came toward the Snow Geese at one point. The geese all scattered in flight to either side as the harrier kept on flying on past the geese. I could see what was going to happen and forgot to snap the photo. Another opportunity lost.
We went on further and spotted some Says and Black Phoebes, a Wilson’s Snipe, Killdeer, many American Coots and Northern Shovelers. There were other water birds and flycatchers to see as we wandered around the lakes edge. We also spotted a couple of unidentified species or as what is commonly known as an LBJ. I didn’t have time to get a photo nor did we get the binoculars fast enough to see which bird was there before it disappeared into the brush.
The area is home to many raptors and a Great Horned Owl was nesting in the barn as usual. West of the barn is a wooded area that contains the owl nesting area. The owls are hard to spot since they don’t move much, hide among the branches and really blend into the
background well. We did see some Hawks there but no owls. A Northern Harrier was flying over the fields and what we believe to be some Coopers Hawks were in the trees. A large Red-Tailed Hawk was on a post near the cranes but just stayed on the perch.
After three hours, we were getting hungry and we decided to go and find a place to eat. Bisbee is to the southwest of the Draw. We decided not to head straight home but to make a loop trip and stop in Bisbee for an early dinner. We did a blog recently on “Dining in Bisbee”. We stopped at Santigos before heading home. As we headed back to the b and b after birding at White Water Draw we were lucky to watch the sky start to turn colors with the setting sun. We stopped a couple of times for photos and so ended a very fulfilling day here is Southeastern Arizona. Come and find out for yourself what there is to see in this wonderful part of Arizona called Cochise County.