LOTS of tumbleweeds out here....and a very creative shot by Paul.

LOTS of tumbleweeds out here….and a very creative shot by Paul.

A simply stunning sunset over the barn by our boondocking spot.

A simply stunning sunset over the barn by our boondocking spot.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not much of a birder. It’s not that I don’t have the interest. I’m actually quite fond of birds and thoroughly enjoy a relaxing afternoon glass of fermented grapes with the sweet sounds of tweets around me (I mean after all, environment is what I’m all about).  It’s just that I don’t quite seem to possess the correct bird-espying skills. Unless you’re pointing out the rather bleeding obvious (say the difference between duck, eagle and owl..oh and I do recognize flamingo’s too) I’m mostly more of the “oh what a pretty little bird” observer.

But these minor details do not deter me….oh no they don’t. I’m an eternal optimist you see and sometimes just being in the right place creates the spark that builds the character. At least that’s the idea…

2 lone birders take in the view by the water

Two lone birders take in the view by the water

Hundreds of sandhill cranes near dusk

Hundreds of sandhill cranes near dusk

Last rays on Whitewater Draw

Last rays on Whitewater Draw

And it was with this determined attitude that we decided to boondock at Whitewater Draw ~20 miles east of Bisbee, AZ. Just for good measure we decided to bring along some actual birders, the kind with books and binoculars you know, mostly so I could look good on the blog (well OK, we like them too..and we like their dogs..and their cocktails…and their company…)

Oh hell, it wasn’t for the birds at all, but the fancy bird terms were a definite bonus, what little of them I could retain anyway..

Paul and Dave hang by "the beast" at our boondocking spot

Paul and Dave hang by “the beast” at our boondocking spot

Walking around the pathway at Whitewater Draw

Last warm rays on the pathway at Whitewater Draw

So there we were Beluga, Sue, Dave, Lewis, Sasha and the Wheelingit bunch all by our lonesome at a simply gorgeous boondocking spot. We were surrounded by miles of sweeping grasslands and TONS of tweeting, chattering, fluttering birds, not the least of which were several hundred slender and elegant Sandhill Cranes.

You see Whitewater Draw is an oasis in the high desert. This little 1,500-acre wildlife habitat remains one of the few remaining pristine Riparian habitats in Arizona combining native grassland with a unique seasonal water source. These fertile strips of land comprise less than 1% of AZ yet harbor the greatest diversity of plant & animal of any habitat type. Simply put they….are….amazing!

Evening view of our 2 rigs at the boondocking site

Evening view of our 2 rigs at the boondocking site

From the first moment we arrived we could feel and hear life around us. Whitewater Draw is most famous for its Sandhill Cranes, up to 30,000(!) or so that winter here from Oct to Feb. In the middle of March we’re actually post-season so there were only a few hundred left, but there were tons of other birds and smaller mammals, as well as 2 very cool Great Horned Owls in the open barn (see how I threw that birding term in there?). We spent our days walking around the water, hanging at camp and watching the sunset theatre of birds coming to roost for the night. I got so at ease with the place that I was informing the (very few) visitors to the site of current bird status (who knows what I told them, but it sounded good and they seemed impressed).

And the cherry on top of everything? We actually fell asleep to the sounds of Sandhill Cranes (do you know how cool that is??) and woke up to the silent breeze of wind in the grass. I may not have become a birder, but I sure did appreciate the birds…and that may well be close enough.

We said (sadly) goodbye to Beluga yesterday and headed to yet another great, and even more remote boondocking spot, but that story is yet to come. In the meantime I leave you with our brilliant and colorful impressions of Whitewater Draw. What a magical little place!

And some last warm hues at the draw

And some last warm hues at the draw

Sandhill Cranes coming to roost at sunset

Sandhill Cranes coming to roost at sunset

Simply spectacular grassland and skies

Simply spectacular grassland and skies

Bird in water...and I stand by that statement

Bird in water…and I stand by that!

The Great Horned Owl...what a beauty!

The Great Horned Owl…what a beauty!

Grassland view

Grassland view

Paul on the viewing deck

Paul on the viewing deck

Weeeeee! It's flying Lewis!

Weeeeee! It’s flying Lewis!

Reflections in the draw

Reflections in the draw

And a few lone birders at sunset

And a few lone birders at sunset

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39 Responses to Birding & Boondocking – Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, AZ

  1. Sue says:

    I’m not sure what I liked more about White Water Draw….the birds, the palomino colored grasses, the wind, the skies or the company. Great pictures Nina (and Paul). Could your Bird in Water picture be a Greater Yellowlegs? Sue

    • libertatemamo says:

      It could well be Sue…it could well be :)
      Thanks for coming along for the ride. Loved the company & miss you guys already!
      Nina

  2. Sheila says:

    You guys are just having way too much fun!!! Beautiful photos! We will have to put this location on our list of places to visit. I am one of those crazy “birding” people. You guys continue to enjoy life!!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well as a birder you would LOVE this place! Sue said they saw alot of new birds they hadn’t seen before (I would list them for you, but it would be unwise of me haha). Lots of stuff to see just sitting outside your rig watching the grasslands.
      Nina

  3. Beautiful shots of Whitewater Draw, as always. Looked like there were still a few cranes left!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup a few hundred I would estimate. Actually most of the local birders were kind of surprised they were still there. Mid-March is usually well past season. We were very happy we got to see them!
      Nina

  4. Jeff and Cheryl says:

    Nina,
    I can relate to how you bird. In the summer here we sometimes hear a bird that sounds like a tepephone ringing. We call it the Pnone Bird! When Cheryl tells me she heard a phone bird, or the tweet bird, memories of Stargate SG-1 come to mind.

  5. Donna K says:

    I’m not much of a birder either but I am slowly learning to recognize a few. Great pictures and another place to add to my list of “someday”…

  6. When you guys were at the Whitewater Draw you were only 1 mile south of where we did all our Ranch sitting the last 4 years or so. It’s the only Ranch between the Whitewater Draw & Davis road on the same side. Every day we had thousands of Sand Hill Cranes overhead coming & going from the Draw to up around Wilcox. Nice that you got to see all the wildlife there. Neat place for sure & I was glad to see the Owls are still alive & well up in the old barn rafters. Cool:))

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh how fun! You know as we were driving in I said to Paul “I think this is exactly where Al&Kelly used to Ranch-sit”. In fact I was looking at all the ranches wondering which one it was. Now I can pinpoint exactly where you were. What a fabulous place to stay!
      Nina

  7. geogypsy2u says:

    Gorgeous site! You could yet become a true birder.

  8. Karen says:

    You just might be on your way to becoming a birder. All the signs are there!

  9. Dymphe Perry says:

    I haven’t been following you for long, but really like your blogs. Especially the boondocking tips and sites. Like this one. Definitely on my “list”.

  10. jil mohr says:

    Glad you liked one of my favorite places…and I think you are a closet birder… great pics….

  11. Thank you! I was beginning feel like I was the only non-birder out here. Everyone posts these wonderful bird photos with names and I have never seen or heard of most of them. But I do know the owl and sandhill crane!!!
    Guess I am more of a rock chick!

    Great creative words! Had to laugh a few times. So nice you are having such fun with Sue, Dave, Sasha, and Lewis.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I fear I’m just as poor on rocks as I am on birds…but I appreciate both visually if that helps any! It’s good to know I’m not the only non-birder either!
      Nina

  12. Sherry says:

    These photographs are just simply stunning. What great photographers you two are. You have certainly put Whitewater Draw WAY up on my list of places to boondock. I want to be exactly at the very same spot you were in so I can go to sleep with the sounds of sandhill cranes and wake up with the sounds of the wind in the grass. Can’t wait to see the place you would leave all this for. ps….keep flying Lewis

    Sherry
    http://www.directionofourdreams.blogspot.com

  13. mnwool says:

    Great description of so many of us (would be) birders.

  14. LuAnn says:

    Looking at these photos and your descriptions I wish we would have taken the time to stop here. Lovely! :)

  15. I sincerely hope we can find your notes on all these wonderful places when we head south! We’ve heard a bird out here for years–it comes at the first crack of dawn & thus we’ve named it the onomotopoetic (sp?) ” F***ing Two-EEE-HEE” bird….no doubt in most birdy books….love yer blog!

  16. Ha! I didn’t know how to create the loud, piercing “EEEEE!” middle syllable in print, but you’ll know ‘er when you ‘ear her! ;)

  17. Mary Klinger says:

    I love your pictures!

  18. Wonderful! Love your pictures! We have put this location on “our list”. Thanks, as always, for sharing! -Linda

  19. […] ← Birding & Boondocking – Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, AZ […]

  20. Leigh says:

    Hey Nina, did you guys have cell service here?

  21. […] were spent boondocking around SE Arizona discovering cool & funky Bisbee, the amazing birds of Whitewater Draw and the hidden gem of Las Cienegas Wildlife Refuge (what a find!!). The beginning of spring had […]

  22. […] of seasonal water create unique little biomes that, in turn, attract the birds. We’ve visited some of the spots in SE Arizona before, but have never explored the Arivaca area. Turns out there are two excellent, partially shaded and […]

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