Willcox Playa/Cochise Lakes Important Bird Area (IBA) was awarded Global IBA status recently and on January 17, 2013 the community came together to celebrate this large IBA. There are only eight Global level IBAs in Arizona and this one was singled out for the huge numbers of Sandhill Cranes that spend their winters here every year.
This IBA celebration was part of the 2013 Wings Over Willcox Festival that emphasizes the Sandhill Cranes but celebrates all the native birds that winter in this scenic and remote area. The Important Bird Area is over 47 thousand acres and includes the entire Willcox Playa and the Cochise Lakes near the town of Willcox. The actual event was held at the Cochise Lakes consisted of a ribbon cutting of a new viewing deck that looks onto one of the lakes. This lovely viewing deck was built with Wings Over Willcox festival funds and is a great addition to this area and makes it much easier to see into the water over the cattails.
The ribbon cutting and IBA dedication ceremony was very well attended despite the wind and cold temperatures. Homer Hansen of Wings Over Willcox, Paul Green of Tucson Audubon, Raul Vega of Arizona Game and Fish, Kenn Kaufman and others gave very nice remarks about the importance of both birding festivals and Important Bird Areas. This was a very nice event and the two parts complimented each other perfectly. One of the most important aspects of the IBA program is its outreach potential and birding festivals really fit right into that goal. Many people attending this event were hearing about IBA for the first time, it was great that they were introduced to the program at one of its Global IBAs!