Wednesday, February 6, 2013

At the End of the Day in Willcox

1. Lake Cochise-kab Lake Cochise in Willcox, AZ 1-3-2013

The clouds continued to roll in and the wind continued to pick up as Chris and I headed north through the Sulphur Springs Valley and Kansas Settlement. Flat grassy fields spread in all directions as we kept our eyes open for raptors on utility poles and longspurs or pipits in the grass.

2. faria dairy pond-kab  A quick stop at the Faria Dairy Pond along Kansas settlement Road gave us a few more species, including our first Common Mergansers for Cochise County, though we had seen this species on the first day of January at Reid Park.

3. FEHA-kab Just a bit farther up the road we spotted our first Ferruginous Hawk!

The Flatlands of Kansas Settlement soon gave way to low rolling hills as we neared Willcox. Our destination was Lake Cochise, a place Chris had never been before. It’s an odd place, kind of out of the way, and it doesn’t look like you will find much there as you drive down the gravel road past a chain link fenced Border Patrol Station and abandoned farms and then Twin Lakes Golf Course. As you pass through a brick and stucco monument you usually start to see sparrows and meadowlarks alongside the road. But not today. It was just too windy! Then, as you drive up a little rise you can finally see the lake with the mountains beyond and you realize that you have entered another world.

4. duck blind-kab The silver water of Lake Cochise was being whipped into whitecaps on this blustery day in January. By now it was 3:45 PM and so cold! The wind was gusting so hard that it made it difficult to stand up and hold your camera steady. Wind whipped tears into our eyes and froze our cheeks. I put on every last bit of clothing I could find. I zipped up my coat over all my shirts and sweaters, put on my headband, pulled up my hood, and donned my gloves! Oh My goodness! What was I doing here, I asked myself! But then we turned the corner and I saw these birds…

5. curlews-kab What were they? Surely they weren’t geese or ducks or herons. My brain was racing to put a name to the birds I was seeing, and then it dawned on me…I have seen these before!

6. curlews-kab I saw them just last month in California near the Salton Sea, but I have never seen this species in Arizona. Were my tired eyes playing tricks on me? NO! These are Long-billed curlews!

7. curlews-kab As the wind beat and battered us Chris and I tried to get closer for better shots.

 

8. curlews-kab The Curlews were gathered in a flock of about 120 birds along a sandbar that stretched out into the middle of the lake. Many of them had their long bills tucked into their feathers to keep warm, but now and then a few did poke their heads out and we got a good look at those magnificent bills!

9. Sandhill cranes-kab Beyond the lake Sandhill Cranes flew over the open range.

 

10. light-kab As the sun sank lower and lower it painted our surroundings with light.

 

11. pink-kab Off to the east the Dos Cabezas Mountains were splashed with pink.

 

12. dos cabezos-kab Here you can see the two heads for which Dos Cabezas is named!

 

13. hunkered down-kab As the sun sank lower and the curlews hunkered down, we knew our birding day was over. I shook my head as I realized this was only Day Three of our Big January and I just knew that today’s excursion was going to add big numbers to our big list! Now it was time for a warm place with warm food. Then we needed to get home and go to bed because we already had plans to get up again the next morning and go birding at Florida and Madera Canyons!

14. sunset-kab

Big January 

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DSC_0211-kab Long-billed Curlews at Lake Cochise in Willcox, AZ 1-3-2013

Lake Cochise Bird List for January 3, 2013:

  1. Snow Goose-1
  2. Northern Shoveler-30
  3. Common Merganser-2
  4. Ruddy Duck-6
  5. Northern harrier-1
  6. American Coot-50
  7. Sandhill Crane-2000
  8. Long-billed Curlew-120

Notes: Total birding time: 30 minutes. Distance 1 mile. Temperature 37F, cloudy, with high gusty winds!

15 comments:

  1. Amazing scenery Kathie.
    I am lucky if I see one of our Curlew species at any one time.

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    1. Roy, they are so amazing and I was floored to see so many in AZ!

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  2. Beautiful shots Kathie. You're so right, Lake Cochise is a very weird, almost erie place, but hey, can't dispute the coolness of 120 Long-billed Curlews!

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  3. Lovely! Your photos make me miss the vivid colors of Arizona!

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    1. Birdworthy, AZ does have its own colors! thank you for your visit to my blog!

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  4. Hi Kathie

    You are seeing such wonderful birds and in such large numbers. I am sure this must be great fun for you.

    Regards
    Guy

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  5. Love the curlews! I can tell it is cold and blustery!

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    Replies
    1. Oh Kathryn, I had not felt this cold since last winter in New England!

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  6. Such beautiful colours in the landscapes where you are! The hawk is just gorgeous!

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    Replies
    1. Gillian, all the beautiful colors are inspiring!

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  7. Beautiful landscapes and birds, Kathie! The curlews are a great sighting. Happy Birding!

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    Replies
    1. Eillen, thank you! The curlews we a great find!

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  8. Kathie, I'm very jealous of the curlews, please send some my way!

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Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.