Tag Archives: Bisbee

Sandhills on My Horizon

Each spring and fall, sandhill cranes migrate over our home on the west slope of the Sierra.  Like so many of my friends and neighbors, I run outside to hear their calls and witness their grace.  So, imagine my delight on vacation here in Abbey  Country, when my friends Sheri Williamson and Tom Wood, who run the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, asked me if I’d like to take a drive and see sandhills in their “loafing place”–Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near the Mexican border in Cochise County, Arizona. I met up with them on a cold, clear day in Bisbee. Snow had dusted the town the night before.

The cranes leave this loafing area around dawn to go feed miles away.  Here, we can see them on the distant horizon as they return to rest and digest their meal.

The cranes leave this loafing area around dawn to go feed miles away. Here, we can see them on the distant horizon as they return to rest and digest their meal.

The Whitewater Draw is in a riverless basin. The water is accumulated rain water from  the last monsoon season. The cranes bathe in it and use the water to soften the corn in their crops--corn they gleaned earlier in the day over 10 miles away.

The Whitewater Draw is in a riverless basin. The water is accumulated rain water from the last monsoon season. The cranes bathe in it and use the water to soften the corn in their crops–corn they gleaned earlier in the day over 10 miles away.

The viewing deck is quite a distance from the cranes; the only close up view is with a scope.  Here's my attempt to take a photo through the scope.  Not elegant, but at least you can get an idea of what they look like up close.

The viewing deck is quite a distance from the cranes; the only close up view is with a scope. Here’s my attempt to take a photo through the scope. Not elegant, but at least you can get an idea of what they look like up close.

Each day, dozens of people come to visit the cranes, ducks, geese, falcons, hawks, and doves that frequent the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.  Here, Sheri and Tom adjust their scope for this young birdwatcher.

Each day, dozens of people come to visit the cranes, ducks, geese, falcons, hawks, and doves that frequent the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. Here, Sheri and Tom adjust their scope for this young birdwatcher.

Through her work at Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, Sheri teaches hundreds of children each year.

Through her work at Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, Sheri teaches hundreds of children each year.

The cranes rest and digest near the ducks, with whom they live in harmony. The crane's most significant predator is the eagle.

The cranes rest and digest near the ducks, with whom they live in harmony. The crane’s most significant predator is the eagle.

Noon approaches and more birdwatchers arrive. Sheri spontaneously fields questions and offers fascinating bits of information.  For instance, within the huge flocks, the sandhills travel in family pods of three or four birds. Sadly, if a youngster is orphaned, he or she will not be adopted by other adults.

Noon approaches and more birdwatchers arrive. Sheri spontaneously fields questions and offers fascinating bits of information. For instance, within the huge flocks, the sandhills travel in family pods of three or four birds. Sadly, if a youngster is orphaned, he or she will not be adopted by other adults.

Tom explains to fellow birdwatchers about the daily migration of the cranes from the cornfield--their feeding place--to Whitewater Draw--their loafing area.

Tom explains to fellow birdwatchers about the daily migration of the cranes from the cornfield–their feeding place–to Whitewater Draw–their loafing area.

More and more cranes kept arriving.  Tom estimated there were about 10,000 cranes on the ground and in the air. Each crane consumes a pound of corn a day.

More and more cranes kept arriving. Tom estimated there were about 10,000 cranes on the ground and in the air. Each crane consumes a pound of corn a day.

The cranes will feed and loaf in Cochise County until midwinter, when they will begin their migrations. Some will travel as far as Siberia.  These aren't the cranes that pass over my house in the Sierra, Tom says.  Those sandhills winter in California's central valley.

The cranes will feed and loaf in Cochise County until midwinter, when they will begin their migrations. Some will travel as far as Siberia. These aren’t the cranes that pass over my house in the Sierra, Tom says. Those sandhills winter in California’s central valley.

Reluctantly we left Whitewater Draw a bit after noon, stopping on the way to glimpse some doves camouflaged in the brush, then to attempt to photograph elusive Merlins and hawks. “We’ll have to come back tomorrow,” Sheri said to Tom, “for a hawk stalk.” For twenty five years they have been visiting here, first when they were stewards of the Ramsey Canyon Nature Preserve, and now as administrators of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory–SABO. For more information about their work, or to make a contribution to SABO, visit them at http://www.sabo.org.

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Filed under Abbey Country, photographs

A Walk Along the San Pedro River

Photographs from Abbey Country

“It pleases me, loving rivers.”  Raymond Carver

The San Pedro River flows north from Mexico into southeastern Arizona.  It is one of the last free flowing rivers in the Southwest.  At the San Pedro River Riparian National Conservation Area in Cochise County, the river winds through a grove of cottonwood and willow trees at the juncture of four distinct geologic zones.  I visited the San Pedro about a month before locals expected summer rains, and at times it was reduced to a healthy trickle. (My friend in Bisbee said he’s recorded 17/100ths of an inch of rain since October, 2010.)  Below are some images I captured along the San Pedro in mid May, 2011.

Looking from San Pedro House toward the river.

The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is visible for miles around: a luscious green strip of cottonwood and willow in the midst of the high desert.

lone, brave thistle flowers in the high desert wind

Suddenly, an oasis.



a little rapid, and it made a lively gurgle despite the algae




Green Kingfisher Pond is an old sand and gravel quarry.






One of the many giant cottonwoods gracing the San Pedro. Some measure over 35 feet around.

The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is visited by birders the world over. The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) bands hummingbirds here in the spring. Next time I visit I’ll try to bring a birder friend and get some photos for you.

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Filed under Abbey Country, Education, Sustainability

New Co-Op Deep in Abbey Country

Twenty years ago, my parents moved from the Sierra–near where I still call home–to a town called Sierra Vista in southeastern Arizona, near the Mexican border. For two decades I’ve visited–first them– and then just Mom after my dad crossed over.  This last year, since Mom was sick, I visited more often, and found myself driving great distances just to get to a farmer’s market or to a health food store. (The foodie revolution came later to Abbey Country than it did to Cali.) See my previous post “One Farmer’s Market in One Little Town” [https://lightcapfarm.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/one-farmers-market-in-one-little-town/]  to look at the now thriving weekly farmer’s market in Sierra Vista.  It was at an informational table there that I met the handful of dedicated volunteers trying to get a co-op up and running.  The two nearest co-ops at that time were Tucson and Bisbee.  Tucson is 150 miles round trip, Bisbee is only sixty, and so I’d go to Bisbee to get my mom her soy yogurt and other healthy foods she needed to recover.  Recover she did, and is now zipping around months after her 90th birthday.   On this most recent trip to visit her, we were excited to see that the dream of that dedicated handful of foodies had become a reality. Good food is now ten minutes away from my mom–seven days a week.  We were both more than impressed by the inventory, spaciousness, and downright good vibe of Cochise County’s only alternative to a corporate market, the only outlet for truly healthy groceries, and the only place to find fair trade coffee and tea.  Three cheers for the Sierra Vista Food-Co-op.  Here are some photos of my now-favorite store in Abbey Country.

96 South Carmichael Avenue, adjacent to the vacant lot where the Farmer's Market is held Thursday mornings, and right next door to the Peacock, a Vietnamese restaurant

The bulk section, featuring several kinds of oats, beans, rice, nuts, and much more.

The Sierra Vista Food Co-op's inventory is impressive. It often takes co-ops five to ten years to get to this point.

There were few fresh vegetables available at the Farmer's Market (just a month before the rainy season here in the high desert). But now folks in town have access to organic, recognizable produce in Sierra Vista.

Woot! Soy yogurt for Mom without a 60 mile drive!

Yippee!!! Kombucha for CC!

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Filed under Abbey Country, Community, Farmers Markets, Sustainability