In 1997, the Arizona Game and Fish Department purchased this 1400-acre site to support the wintering population of Sandhill Cranes and waterfowl. Over 600 acres are intermittently flooded to provide the cranes with a roosting area of shallow water. According to a sign posted here, the Sandhill Cranes of the Sulphur Springs Valley represent two populations, the Rocky Mountain and the Mid-Continent.
After watching the cranes, Gaby retreated to the truck to get out of the cold. Geniece and I walked around in search of a Swamp Sparrow and a pair of American Bitterns. Both are rare in Southeast Arizona, but had been seen here recently. I pulled up an image of the bittern on my phone and showed Geniece what we were looking for.
At least seven species of ducks were around.
Two minutes later Geniece says, "Is that a stick over there?" She knew it wasn't a stick, she was just thinking out loud. "There it is!" she finally blurted out. I looked where she was pointing and could hardly believe my eyes. Among the reeds, an American Bittern was motionless with its bill pointed straight in the sky!
We enjoyed fantastic looks at the bird with the sun at our back. As I got some images of it, I told Geniece to go get the gentleman we had met earlier who was still on the platform. Just before they returned, the bittern disappeared into the reeds. But luckily it reappeared a few minutes later and we enjoyed watching it soak up the sun's rays. He set up his scope and I had the most incredibly crisp, close-up views of any bird I've ever had. It was breathtaking!
The three of us continued on together in great spirits and continued to talk. Well, mostly Geniece and I just listened. It turns out the gracious gentleman was Texas birding legend Ben Feltner. He told us about his Eskimo Curlew sighting of 1959 on Galveston Island. It was incredible! Luckily I'm not the only one that enjoys sharing the wonder of birds with others. What a treat! Not only had Geniece's first look through a scope been through Ben Feltner's Kowa, she had found him a new state bird! We will always remember this as our best birder sighting ever.