Birding & Boondocking – Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, AZ
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…
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..
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!
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!