28,000 wintering sandhill cranes are poised to thrill those attending Wings Over Willcox

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January 15th, 2009

There are 28,000-plus wintering sandhill cranes taking center stage with a supporting cast of other birds, bats, rocks and plants to delight and enchant those attending the 16th annual Wings Over Willcox nature festival during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend on Jan. 17, 18 and 19.

This annual festival in the Town of Willcox tucked into the fascinating Sulphur Springs Valley of southern Arizona has become one of the state’s preeminent nature festivals.

The Sulphur Springs Valley, which includes two major wildlife areas operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, attracts one of the largest wintering populations of sandhill cranes in the nation.

This year, Game and Fish biologists recently surveyed 28,814 winter sandhill cranes in the valley, including about 8,000 at Crane Lake in the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area, 5,000 at the Apache Generating Station viewing area, and 10,000 at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.

There are also new tours for this year’s festival covering astronomy, wildlife of the Chiricahua Mountains, and the inner workings of the Apache Power Station. The seminar speaker topics include such topics as rainwater harvesting, jaguars, wildlife tracking and Siberian cranes.

Come visit the Willcox Community Center to see what Wings Over Willcox is all about. During the Nature Expo portion of the festival there will be live animal displays, educational exhibits, and vendors showing a wide variety of nature-related items for purchase.

Liberty Wildlife and the Game and Fish Department’s Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center will share the center stage at the Nature Expo with live hawks, raptors, and other amazing birds.  Wildlife experts from the Game and Fish Department will also bring along creepy, crawly critters to interest and thrill kids of all ages.

For the younger kids, there are also special activities, such as nest box building, face painting, nature art, and more.

For more information on this festival, visit www.wingsoverwillcox.com.

If you would like more information about where to view wintering sandhill cranes, be sure to pick up the January-February edition of “Arizona Wildlife Views” magazine that features an article about the Triple Crown of Wintering Sandhill Cranes.

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