Sandhill Cranes (Canadese kraanvogels) winter in the southern part of the US in very large groups near water. One of these wintering areas is Whitewater Draw in the Southeastern part of Arizona, about 2 hours drive from Tucson. Whitewater Draw is a nature preserve around a lake, set aside mostly to protect the Sandhill Cranes. According to the signs posted, about 80,000 crane come together in the winter in this area.
The Cranes have a very predictable daily routine: around sunrise they leave to go feed on the fields in the area. They like corn and wheat. Given the number of birds, I suspect the farmers are paid to grow the food for the cranes, but I have not been able to find information about that.
When I arrive around 8 in the morning there are no cranes at all. A lady says who is walking her dog tells me ‘you are late’. For moment I thought she meant that the cranes left for Canada, but then she says they will be back at 10:30. And indeed they are.
It is harder than I expected to get good pictures, because the cranes are pretty far from the viewing areas. As more cranes arrive, however, the later birds do come closer to the boardwalk.
The birds gather in very large numbers. Thousands of birds that appear on the horizon like a black cloud, as if it is a group of sparrows.
After they arrive, they just relax.
Or they go look for friends on the other side of the lake. Or whatever reason they have to cross the lake.