I had heard that there were up to 30,000 Sandhill Cranes that winter near Willcox, AZ. I also heard that at sunrise, they leave the playa to go feed in mass. That sounded like something I had to see. I didn't really want to go spend the night in Willcox and so that left getting up at 3am in order to get to Willcox in time for sunrise.
It rained a lot on the way there, but wasn't raining when I got there, thank goodness. This is what it looked like when the sun was just starting to come up. I could hear lots of them out there in the dark. They were very vocal.
I think I got better pics on my phone than my camera. I posted the videos and other pics on facebook. They didn't leave in one large group, but lots of smaller groups. But it was still cool to see them. They were vocalizing the whole time. And they are so big! They stand 3.5 to 5 feet tall and have a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet. That's a big bird.
This was maybe starlings? It's not a good photo, but they were doing that "thing" called murmuration where they morph into different shapes as a flock. It was cool to see in person.
I saw lots of other birds, but didn't get pics and I am not sure what they all were. After sunrise I drove in the larger circle around the playa. I stopped at one other viewing place. As I was driving out, I drove through what I thought was a puddle. It turned out to be a big hole and I was stuck! My brain was frozen temporarily. I couldn't quite process what had happened and what I needed to do to solve it. I called a tow truck, but luckily a good Samaritan stopped and pulled me out. I cancelled the truck. They were going to charge me 125$ to pull me out and he did it in just a few minutes. I was so unbelievably grateful to him!
Glad I got to see the cranes though.