It has been a month since my last blog, but as you can see, my editor has been ruthless. This is not as easy as I had hoped and it just reinforces my admiration for Julie Zickefoose, Bill of the Birds , BirdChick and Wildbird on the Fly and their daily updates. I used to think that indecision was my biggest problem, but now I just don't know. Maybe lack of discipline. It has been a busy month with lots of cool sightings so I'm back to cyberspace again.
Weekends find us in the Sulphur Springs Valley on "Hawk Stalks" and valley tours. Rural Arizona is a trip in itself.I grew up in west Texas and out there first you meet the goat, then you pet the goat.........
Oh yeah... birds. The sandhill cranes have been spectacular in the valley this year. With over 20,000 cranes at Whitewater Draw, 30 minutes from Bisbee, I feel like I need to be there as often as possible to soak it all in. They will be leaving in about a month and I miss them when they leave. The valley seems unnaturally quiet without their bugling. Some of our winter cranes have been tracked by radio transmitter from Whitewater Draw all the way to nesting grounds in Siberia.
We've had a couple of really nice groups lately, which always make the trip more enjoyable. The first was a group from Liberty Wildlife in Phoenix, a wonderful wildlife rehabilitation facility. These folks spend hundreds of hours volunteering their time to help injured birds of prey and it is really gratifying for us to show them wild, free, healthy raptors doing their jobs. We had Bald Eagles harassing the cranes both days and on Sunday watched two Golden Eagles lock talons and spiral towards the ground in a territorial dispute. Even the common birds can be exciting - we had Red-tailed Hawks of almost every imaginable color morph including a stunning dark morph that drew gasps of appreciation from the group. A couple of the Liberty folks are avid photographers with bazooka-sized lenses so I may be able to share some even better photos of the trip in a later post. We found owls all over the valley, over a dozen birds of three different species by the end of the day. A great weekend with a great bunch of folks.
The next weekend brought another full bus including a returnee from an earlier trip this year. We particularly enjoy birding with Tony because he's a fun guy and about as far from the stereotypical "little old lady in tennis shoes" birder as you can get. As "Tony Pointless", he is lead singer for an anarchist punk rock band (Rambo) that tours the world. He birds all along the way and points out birds to his bandmates. He's even listed as resident "ornithologist" on his band's website. He brought his father this week and we all had a great trip. That's Tony with the dreadlocks standing next to Sheri as they watch 3 Golden Eagles play on the wind. We broke our all-time owl record with 16 even though we didn't visit all our regulars. Many of the owls were paired off, sitting side by side, including a pair of Long-eared Owls at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. Love is in the air. --TW