Saturday, January 01, 2011

Panic at the playa

It was early afternoon in the southern Sulphur Springs Valley, and the last few hundred of Arizona's largest flock of Sandhill Cranes were returning to their roost at the playa lake at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area after breakfasting on waste grain in nearby farm fields.

Suddenly, chaos erupts as thousands of cranes take to the air in seconds!

Normal crane chatter rises to a deafening clatter as a multitude of voices raise the alarm.

What could have caused this mass hysteria?

The answer comes gliding through, slicing the panicked flock in two: A Golden Eagle, one of the few predators an adult crane has to worry about.

This scene plays out almost every winter day at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, one of the lesser-known jewels in Arizona's birding crown.

The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes  On Ancient Wings: The Sandhill Cranes of North America (Natural History)  Crane Music: A Natural History of American Cranes


Kathryn (KL) Lance said...

Wow! What a dramatic photo!

Nature Chick said...

Fantastic shots! Great to read. Keep posting!