Snowbirds

Tourists seeking warmer weather aren’t the only ones wintering in Arizona.

An increasingly common sight from Avondale to Tucson are the American white pelicans, normally seen in coastal waters around Mexico and California. These large clumsy birds normally migrate to Great Salt Lake and the west coast of Mexico, but hurricane storms, mild temperatures, and man made lakes & ponds stocked with fish have made Arizona a desirable stopover.

The pelicans typically head to their breeding grounds in Canada and Upper Midwest in March, but more are expected to migrate to the Phoenix area in winter months.

Even the more ‘out of place’ brown pelicans have been found to escape coastal storms and enjoy Arizona’s mild climate.

We saw these brown and white pelicans hanging out enjoying ‘chilling’ in the waters of Alamo Lake. They seemed out of place in AZ, but apparently are becoming more commonplace, as they too find being a snowbird in AZ has its advantages.

Birds a feather…

What do they say? Birds a feather flock together. That is no more true than at Whitewater Draw, where thousands (we heard numbers anywhere between 20,000 and 47,000) sandhill cranes flock to this lush marshland in southern Arizona.

But it’s not just sandhill cranes. The area is rich with all sorts of birds, including the blue, green, and cinnamon -winged teals, Northern pintails, red-winged blackbirds, Northern shovelers, grebes, egret, hawks and owls.

Cinnamon teal at Whitewater Draw
Green-winged teal
Northern shoveler rests in water at Whitewater Draw

We saw quite a variety of waterfowl during a trip to Whitewater Draw for a Photo Workshop sponsored by Arizona Game and Fish. (See my post here… https://kritterspix.com/2022/02/06/whitewater-draw-workshop/)

Pintail duck at Whitewater draw

We saw birds I never heard of, like the colorful Vermillion Flycatcher and Northern Harrier.

Vermillion Flycatcher
Juvenile vermillion flycatcher in the weeds along Whitewater Draw

Not to mention the very entertaining sandhill cranes.

Sandhill crane graze at Whitewater Draw
Sandhill cranes chatter

Whitewater Draw has had increasing numbers of sandhill cranes year over year. This area is the best sandhill crane-viewing site in Arizona, and one of the largest migration sites in the country. It’s a thrilling sight to see and experience.

I got a lot of trigger time with my camera, and practiced my Birds-in-Flight (BIF) photography. Check out my post of BIF photography here.. https://kritterspix.com/2022/02/06/birds-in-flight-bif-photography/

Eagle Fest

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It’s that time of the year when the eagles are nesting, breeding generally in January / February.  Pinetop / Lakeside in Northern AZ hosts an Eagle Fest hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish for an educational experience to learn about the eagles, their habitat, behaviors, and a field trip to see the eagles ‘in action’.

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Female bald eagles lay between 1 – 3 eggs, with only a 35 day incubation period.  The fledgling(s) only stays in the nest for 45 days before being kicked out to fend for itself.

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The juvenile bald eagles, or eaglets are born a light gray and turn brown in color.  It isn’t until they are 4 – 5 years old that the iconic white head and tail feathers appear.  Bald eagles can live to be 35 years old or more.

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Our field trip was at Rainbow Lake, in Lakeside, AZ.  It was fascinating to watch all the waterfowl ‘walking on the water’ as the ice melted on the lake.

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We watched mergansers catch fish and chase each other around to try to steal the fish from one another.

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That is… until the bald eagle got hungry and dive bombed the mergansers to make their catch their own.

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Just goes to show… the bigger bird gets the worm, er… fish.

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