Friday, January 16, 2009

Wings Over Willcox

Let the birding begin! We took our first official trips with the Wings Over Willcox Birding and Nature Festival today, with Dick going in one direction and myself in another. Since I'm taking his trip tomorrow, we'll see if our lists come close.

Tom Whetten, a professional nature photographer, lead us on an all day photography adventure. We started waayyy before the crack of dawn for Whitewater Draw to catch the Sandhill Cranes leaving their roost for the day. They flew over by the raucous thousands, as I shivered in the cold. Having worn extra warm clothes needlessly at Muleshoe, I decided to tough it today, and regretted that decision until the sun actually warmed us around 9:30. After that I was glad the thermals were still at the motel! I suffered a setback when my memory card failed during the morning, losing what surely would have been award winning photos of a Great Horned Owl, some White Crowned Sparrows, two Shrikes in a bush, and the eagerly awaited Vermilion Flycatcher. Sigh... Replacement card inserted, I reshot those birds I could find again, except the Vermilion Flycatcher, but tomorrow is another day.

RTP means Red Tail on the Post, and we saw scads of them. I suspect that Red Tails were not as populous before people started putting up power and telephone poles in this treeless country. Two Red Tails treated us with an aerial display, ignoring the Harrier who harassed them throughout the morning. The Great Horned Owl sat on a tree branch snoozing in the warm morning sun. Although Barn Owls often roost in the same area, none were around today.

Although the Sandhill Cranes were off foraging, Pintail and Cinnamon Teal ducks joined the Snow Geese sharing the lake, along with a Sora - my surprise find! One of the other people on our trip promised to send its photo, since it ran into the cattails before I could get operational.

Just sit back and enjoy the Sandhill Cranes from the comfort of your computer chair.

Stargazing has changed a lot since I last tried it in high school. We joined a group on a dark hillside to watch the stars, serenaded by the Friday night Coyote Chorus just over the hill. The International Space Station sped overhead shining as brightly as Venus. Our leader used a telescope with a GPS finder and built in data on each item queried. As a motor aimed the scope at the correct part of the sky, the leader used a laser pointer to outline each constellation. The stars filled the sky and we examined several star clusters and the Andromeda Galaxy easily with our birding binoculars. We Star Wars and Star Trek fans tend to forget how far away those stars really are. Standing in the Arizona Desert in the cold makes it much more real.


Kathiesbirds said...

You did a great job of photographing the cranes. I love the phrase "coyote chorus". Aren't pintails one of the prettiest ducks you've ever seen?

Anonymous said...

Your pictures are terrific. I was just in SE AZ in October. I only got 20 lifers but what an amazing place, right?

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.