East of Bisbee, Arizona, where I’ve been staying, is a vast flat valley floor surrounded by mountains. It covers about eight hundred square miles. There is abundant groundwater in the valley and thus much irrigated agriculture, some of it using center-pivot rigs which make those odd-appearing green circles which can be seen from the air. Here is a view of the valley from a mountain right behind the house I live in:
The Bureau of Land Management owns and manages a well-watered tract of land in the valley called Whitewater Draw. It is open to the public and there are a few amenities for visitors, such as a toilet and raised causeway-like paths which wend their way through shallow ponds and pools.
So why do people come to this place? It is a wintering area for many thousands of one of North AMerica’s most impressive birds, the Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis). The genus name “grus” is rather unimaginative; it’s simply Latin for “crane”. Linnaeus must have had a headache the day he named the bird.
The color of this crane, one of the tallest birds in the world, is a remarkable blend of blue,gray, and silvery highlights. Watching a group of these birds walking about and mingling with each other reminds me of watching a group of bipedal dinosaurs.
It is quite a dramatic sight to see Sandhill Cranes coming in for a water landing. The cranes seemed oblivious of our presence; evidently the word has gotten around in the crane community that Whitewater Draw is a safe place.