Whitewater Draw Workshop

Sandhill crane fly across the morning sky in the distance.

Have you heard of Whitewater Draw? Whitewater Draw is a swampy marsh area in McNeal, in southern AZ, east of Bisbee and north of Douglas (pretty much the border of AZ / Mexico).

Because of the food sources (namely corn fields) and marsh ponds, the sandhill crane flock to Whitewater Draw in droves in the winter months, Oct – March.

They sleep in the ponds to protect themselves from predators. Every morning they lift-off and go to graze in nearby fields.

In the afternoon some come back (between 10 am – noon) to rest and socialize in the ponds.

Just before sunset there is a mass fly in when the cranes come back for the night.

It is a sight to see! The noise of the cranes is deafening. The shear quantity of birds is impressive to say the least.

We participated in a Photo Workshop put on by Arizona Game & Fish (AZGFD). We watched the cranes take off from a distance crossing the moon in their path.

George Andrejko, AZGFD’s professional photographer for more than 20 years, walked around with us through the walking paths, pointing out different birds, and ducks along the way. Where else can you get a one on one with such a gifted and renown Arizona photographer? It was a special experience, one I would do again in a heartbeat.

The mere $25 fee to participate goes to a good cause so that the AZGFD can continue to care for the site and put on more such events.

We not only learned about the site, but were able to speak with talented and knowledgable AZGFD personnel. We met new and interesting like-minded people, enjoyed the outdoors, and had a ‘show’ throughout the day.

See more bird pix here ….https://kritterspaw.com/2022/02/06/birds-a-feather/ and https://kritterspix.com/2022/02/06/birds-in-flight-bif-photography/

Big Horn Sheep Release

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Every once in a while you get the opportunity to be a part of something truly special.  That’s how we felt this week when we got the chance to witness (and photograph) the release of 30 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep into their historic habitat along Leonard Canyon.

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An amazing helicopter pilot with one eye on the sky, hands on his controls, and one eye on his precious cargo, lifted crates of bighorn sheep that had been collected from another habitat in Morenci.

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By moving this selected grouping of rams, ewes, and lambs, the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can become diverse across Arizona assuring their continued growth and health.

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Not only is Leonard Canyon / East Clear Creek a historic habitat for the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, but ironically, our recent Tinder Fire makes for ideal conditions.

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In the aftermath of our Tinder Fire, vegetation continues to grow back, which is full of nutrients for the wildlife that will return to our area for the new growth.

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Hopefully these bighorn sheep will make Leonard Canyon and the surrounding area their new home, and thrive and flourish in their new environment.

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I was delighted and honored to be part of such a tremendous and joyous event, where many hard working, caring people worked hard to bring these bighorn sheep back ‘home’.  It was a beautiful thing to witness the many professionals who brought this all together through their hard work, dedication, and expertise.  My sincerest thanks go out to AZGFD for allowing us to be part of this special treat.

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You can read AZGFD’s news release here …. https://www.azgfd.com/bighorn-sheep-restored-to-historic-habitat-near-tucson-payson/

They are not Buffalo

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You know you are retired when you start doing Bison Workshops for fun!  The first thing I learned, is they are not actually Buffalo… all American ‘buffalo’ are actually Bison.

Bucktooth_IR.jpg There are two herds being re-introduced into Arizona that are direct descendants of original bison that roamed the plains in the 1800’s before their virtual extinction.  One is in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is a growing herd.  The other is managed by the AZGFD at Raymond Wilderness Area outside of Flagstaff.

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We learned how to identify the boys from the girls.  Beside the obvious, the boys have a more thick curly fur on their foreheads, and their horns curl in.

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We were told that these big guys were a relatively young herd, and none more than 3 years old.  I can only imagine them when they ‘grow up’.

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We got this amazing opportunity to literally see them up close and personal… and it was a real thrill…. one that I would do again in a heartbeat.

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Thanks to Mike and Deanna for joining us on this fun adventure.

For more bison pix, see my post… https://kritterspaw.com/2018/11/10/bison-are-back/