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!
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
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
It could well be Sue…it could well be 🙂
Thanks for coming along for the ride. Loved the company & miss you guys already!
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!!!
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.
The Lowe's RV Adventures says
Beautiful shots of Whitewater Draw, as always. Looked like there were still a few cranes left!
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!
Jeff and Cheryl says
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.
You definitely sound like “our” kind of birders LOL. I can relate to that!
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”…
You never know…I might get to be a semi-birder one day too.
AL from The Bayfield Bunch says
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:))
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!
Gorgeous site! You could yet become a true birder.
I may yet indeed!
You just might be on your way to becoming a birder. All the signs are there!
They are, they are…I certainly enjoyed this spot alot.
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”.
Glad you’re enjoying the blog…and the boondocking tips. Many more to come!
jil mohr says
Glad you liked one of my favorite places…and I think you are a closet birder… great pics….
I may well be LOL! This RVing business is bringing all kinds of stuff out of the closet 🙂
John and Pam Wright says
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.
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!
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
Great description of so many of us (would be) birders.
Looking at these photos and your descriptions I wish we would have taken the time to stop here. Lovely! 🙂
Well you’ll just have to put it on the list for one of your trips back out West one day.
We will do just that!
Kathi Williams says
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!
Hey I think I know that bird LOL!
Kathi Williams says
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! 😉
Mary Klinger says
I love your pictures!
Bear Tracks Blog says
Wonderful! Love your pictures! We have put this location on “our list”. Thanks, as always, for sharing! -Linda
Hey Nina, did you guys have cell service here?
For data we had 2 bars of 3G..stable enough with our external antenna/amp for use. Our cell service was similar….weak, but usable. You can see my full review here: https://www.wheelingit.us/2013/03/21/boondocking-site-review-whitewater-draw-wildlife-area-mcneal-az/
This is a gorgeous area! Can’t go wrong visiting.
Just spent 2 nights her at WWD. Loved it. Thanks for tip. Only 1other big rig and one small rig. Lived listening to cranes at night.
We have the new pantech device with Millenicom (Verizon) which worked well. 3 bars LTE. Fast.
And bisbee only 30 minutes away. We will be back
Excellent! Glad you enjoyed it!