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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
WhitewaterDraw_MuleMts

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area
Sulphur Springs Valley, Cochise County, AZ
Dec. 18, 2013

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area is one of Cochise County's premier birding sites and one of my favorite spots to see wildlife that I'm not likely to see in my backyard. I've been making the 40 minute trip at least once for each season. I had such an unexpectedly fine outing that I thought it might be of interest to the good folks here. Follow me over the orange tumbleweed to see some more photos of the evening.

We set out late in the afternoon on an overcast day. To reach the wildlife refuge, we turn on Central Highway, the road I affectionately refer to as raptor road. Sure enough, three hawks were perched on telephone poles. I believe all of them were Red-tailed hawks. You might be wondering if it is a windup toy. I assure you the wire loop is a part of the telephone pole.

Red-tailed Hawk

Pulling up to the parking area, I noticed a man with a monster photo lens focusing toward the back end of the pole barn. In April, a Great-horned owl was perched there so I was curious. This time it was a Barn Owl that was tucked up into the eaves.

Barn Owl

There were a lot of small birds taking advantage of the last light for an evening meal. The ones I recognized were the Vermilion Flycatchers, Tree Swallows, House Finches, White Crowned Sparrows, House Sparrows and Black Phoebes. I heard the voice of a warbler and watched a sparrow that I didn't recognized.

The Sandhill Cranes were congregated on the far shore and with the light fading it was very difficult to see them. I turned my attention to the ducks closer to our path. Unlike my previous visits, the ducks were not particularly concerned about my presence. In the first photo, I think we have a Northern Pintail. The Green-winged Teals were calling it a night in the second. The Northern Shovelers were not going to give it a rest and every picture showed their heads in the water.

Northern Pintail Duck

Green-winged Teal Ducks

Northern Shoveler

Looking northeast, we noticed four sets of Sandhill Cranes flying toward the refuge.

WhitewaterDraw_ChiricahuaMts

Oh, ho, a small group of cranes began to settle in a pond that was visible from a foot path.

Sandhill Cranes wading 2
Sandhill Cranes wading

While standing on the observation deck, a fellow enthusiast remarked that it was odd for the cranes to return to the ponds so late in the day. Typically, the Sandhill cranes begin to forage for waste corn in the surrounding fields at first light and fly back from mid-day to late afternoon.

Sandhill Cranes Flying in

The colors of the sky began to shift from gray to brilliant hues of gold, splashed with fuchsia and vermilion against the undulating indigo sky. Out of many pictures taken of that sunset, I will present you with this one.

Sunset

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area is managed by the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

The daily bucket is ready for your contributions. I'll be standing by throughout the day to encourage the conversation.

*****

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Originally posted to Backyard Science on Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 06:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

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