Date: 11/30/17 1:40 pm From: Jason A Wilder <Jason.Wilder...> Subject: [AZNMbirds] NAZ: Sandhill Cranes at Many Farms Lake
Work took me to northeastern AZ yesterday and this morning I was up early in my motel room in Chinle and decided to check out Many Farms Lake (about 12 miles north of Chinle). I arrived at the lake just before dawn in perfect windless conditions and immediately heard the bizarre noises of Sandhill Cranes from the southeast corner of the lake. I drove around and got a good look at a flock of 92 birds. Just after dawn they departed to the northeast toward some agricultural fields. I drove around thinking I'd catch up to them foraging in a stubble field, but never managed to find them again. It strikes me that if I'd arrived 20 minutes later I'd have had no clue that the birds were there.
Sandhill Cranes are sparse all over northern AZ, with only a handful of records from the Navajo Reservation. Of course, the area gets very little coverage and birds may go undetected. I do wonder if these birds think they might spend the winter at Many Farms. The lake has a decent amount of water, with extensive mudflats in its southeastern corner. For anyone interested in planning ahead, it looks to be set for epic shorebird conditions in the spring. The lake is the only major body of water in the Chinle Wash drainage, which is a major north-south corridor squeezed between Black Mesa to the west and Chuska Mountains/Defiance Plateau to the east.