This is why we RV

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes

When we pulled out of Corpus Christi, Texas, we spent three days driving before arriving in Benson, Arizona (965 miles – 1553 Km).  Our plan was to spend the week at an Escapees Park – SKP Saguaro Co-op – getting caught up on household chores.  We did the exact same thing last year and it worked out very well.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owls

We washed, we waxed, we cleaned, we fixed and still managed to get in some fine desert hikes along with a little socializing.

It felt great to be back in the desert and dry out from all the moisture we encountered along the Texas Gulf Coast.  And warm up…. darn that Polar Vortex!

Once our chores were complete, we were ready for a little boondocking and I knew just the place; a place I had been looking forward to visiting since leaving Texas.  I first heard about Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal, Arizona, from my friend MonaLiza and then again from fellow blogger Nina.  Nina did a great review on the place.

Pintail Ducks
Pintail Ducks

This 1500 acre wildlife area in southeastern Arizona is known as a major roosting site for 20,000 to 30,000 Sandhill Cranes.  That is not a typo… we’re talking twenty to thirty THOUSAND Sandhill Cranes.Sandhill Cranes

The arid grasslands, surrounding agriculture, and shallow waters provide the perfect environment for not only cranes but a bunch of other wildlife as well.  We saw several kinds of ducks, a huge flock of snow geese, a pair of great horned owls, hawks, other birds, and although we didn’t see any coyotes we sure heard them during the night.

bird photography
My RV is in the distance on the right…….. near the picnic shelter.
RVing lifestyle
That’s us on the left. Our home for 3 nights

But the main attraction at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area remains the cranes.  Imagine the sound of thousands upon thousands of Sandhill Cranes taking flight.  Imagine the sight of wave after wave of these magnificent birds filling the sky.  Imagine laying in bed at night falling asleep to the trumpeting sound of cranes.  Very, very cool…. and this is why we RV.  The nearest hotel is over thirty miles away in Tombstone, Arizona, but in my RV I get to sleep amongst the cranes.  For this craniac, it just doesn’t get much better.Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

After spending three days at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, I began to understand the behavior of these cranes.  However on day one, I did not know what to expect.  I awoke slightly before 6:00 a.m. and shortly thereafter I heard the start of the cranes distinctive rolling cries. bird watchingNot wanting to miss any action, I jumped out of bed, bundled up, and proceeded to stroll down to the viewing platform.  It was cold – 37 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was dark – almost an hour before sunrise. I was the only one out and about in our little neighborhood of about nine RV’s.  photographing birdsroosting cranesLook at all those cranes in the water in the above photo.  The cranes spend the night standing in the shallow waters to evade predators and each morning they fly out to feed and socialize in the surrounding fields.

I had heard the mass ascension of cranes at sunrise is not to be missed.

As I approached the viewing platform, a huge group of cranes took flight.  It was still pretty dark, thus they were silhouetted, but the sound…. oh my gosh, the sound.

wildlife in Arizona
All those black spots in the sky are Cranes

Roosting cranesAs hundreds of cranes lifted off, I could hear the rush of their wings.  It was loud.  In addition, their constant bugling made for anything but a quiet sunrise.

Their distinct trumpeting would continue until the group landed in a field.

Over the next hour, wave after wave of hundreds of cranes would take off, and shortly after sunrise, all the cranes had moved on.  By that point in the morning, I was no longer alone at the viewing platform.

A crowd had gathered to watch this  memorable sight and sound.

Wildlife areas in ArizonaRoosting cranesHaving left the nights safety of the water, they were off to forage for food in farmer John’s fields.  I’m not sure how the local farmers feel about this.roosting cranesSometime time between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. it was time for a coffee break and they would again return in waves to the waters edge.  I could hear them in the distance and ready my camera.  Very considerate of them to let me know they were coming, huh!roosting cranesAnd then there was sunset…. almost more spectacular than sunrise.cranes

In waves, they would return to the shallow waters as far from land as possible.  Mates will stand close together calling in a synchronized and complex duet.  Females make 2 calls for every one from the male.  Do I hear a “yes dear”?Cranes in the wild

Our three day stay was over way too fast (there is a 3 day camp stay limit within a 7 day period).  I do believe Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area will become a regular stopping point for us as our travels take us between Texas and Arizona.  I love RVing!Cranes in the wildCranes

RV
Entrance to Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area

boondocking

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