I have a chance to visit southeastern Arizona soon, does anyone have suggestions about the best way to view the Crane gathering? Has anyone been there/done that? I'd like to hear from you!
Willcox Sandhill Crane Watching
Go to Whitewater Draw!!! Early morning and early afternoon is breathtaking!
They take off shortly after dawn, so being there at 7:30 is good. They start coming back around 4:00, they keep coming back until almost dark.
If you drive around, (perhaps check ebird www.ebird.org ) to see where people are seeing them out in the fields around the area. You can then drive out and see them feeding in the fields. You can also see lots of hawks (now is when many species are hanging out in southern AZ), sparrows and other migrating birds. Check out where/what is being seen by looking around on ebird.
Whitewater Draw was the place to be, saw thousands of cranes! Great fun, and I'm also impressed with the many agencies working to preserve habitat across SE Arizona. Patagonia Lake is lovely, just missed seeing the trogan ("You should have been here Friday..."). Also visited San Pedro House, I'd recommend it, saw a vermilion flycatcher by the San Pedro River there. Lots of hawks around, not my specialty but impressive. For some non-birding interest, we stopped at Murray Springs which was the site of a Clovis culture archaeological dig, they found spear points and mammoth bones, 13,000 years old! I'd also recommend Bisbee Breakfast Club for refueling the humans, it was great.
So, had a great trip, thanks for the good advice, may have to return next year!
I am so glad you had a good time. The calls of thousands of Sandhill Cranes is beautiful music- I would like to have it as a ring-tone on my phone! Southern AZ is a beautiful place to bird or just to visit. San Pedro House in the spring is gorgeous, Empire Ranch in Sonoita is also a wonderful site to visit, nice birding, but the main attraction is the old ranch house, which is HUGE and has a great foundation of volunteers that work many hours to stabilize and improve all the structures. Being able to walk through the entire ranch house(s), with the signage and pictures to explain where you are and what you are seeing, is eye opening. Imagine living there over 100 years ago.... brave and tough people! They also have prairie dog towns that are being re-established around the ranch, cute little critters! http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/cultural/empire.html
There are several B&B's around, the Duquense House in Patagonia is awesome! The breakfasts are exquisite and the rooms and story of the Duquense House fascinating. The gardens are gorgeous, I have taken some of her ideas to heart and want to try them here at my house. http://www.theduquesnehouse.com/index.htm Patagonia is a lovely little (very little) town, the Gathering Grounds is a coffee shop/bakery that has dinners on certain Saturday nights.
Sorry to jump around to so many places- they are all fairly close and one of my favorite trips is to this area. :)