Monday, February 21, 2011

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

(Tucson, AZ)

We had an absolutely wonderful day on Sunday. The Desert Museum is our kind of attraction. 

The cost is $14.50 and worth every penny.  I’m sure they would have to charge more if it weren’t for the number of volunteer docents who spend months in training to provide a wonderful learning experience for the visitors.


We were there at 10:00 a.m. and took an orientation tour where the tour guide filled us in on interesting facts about the plants and animals during our  a one hour walk and gave us tips on how to make the most of the rest of our day.


It was really helpful that all the varieties of vegetation were labeled.

Desert Museum - easy way to learn the names of the plants

There were cactus such as this cholla, where we knew it was a cholla but now get a better understanding of all the different variations, like this buckhorn cholla that we had seen often in our hikes but could now put a name to.


There were also the rarer cactus we’d never encountered like these Boojum which is usually only found in the Baja.


There were well-known little critters like this squirrel skittering about


and desert animals like this coati that Ken and I had never heard of before.




There were desert dwellers  that we had seen but hadn’t before been able to photograph  like this bighorn






and the prairie dogs.


We have regularly been hearing coyotes late at night both in California and here. Just yesterday saw one at the campground but these beauties we sought out at the museum seemed more willing to stay in range for a shot.



So many of our RV friend mention having javalina right in their campground but Ken and I have never seen these guys live and up close before.  We were told that these animals are much more social creatures than pigs and seem to stay in herds, take care of each other and, as you can see, even like to cuddle together at naptime.



These Mexican wolves could have given those javelinas quite a wakeup call, I’m thinking!


And there were certainly some animals native to this desert that I’m very glad we didn’t happen upon in our hikes, like this gila monster


And, we’d even been told that there were mountain lion sitings around Why and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument trails.


That mountain lion is one magnificently noble creature but I’m still glad his relatives didn’t decide to hike with us.

Ken and I took a break and did a late lunch at the Ocotillo Cafe, sitting outside and enjoying the perfect weather and good food for this kind of venue.  There is also a full service restaurant onsite that is suppose to be good but a little pricey for us for lunchtime.


After lunch we took in the raptor free flight demonstration where they had a family of five Harris hawks flying out in the open.



The keeper explained how the families hunt as a team to track prey and surround it.  It just so happened that they honed in on a packrat when we were watching.

To the left is a juvenile, identifiable because of the speckling under the wings. The younger in the family must stay back and wait while the higher ranking family members get first shot at the food.






There was this black necked stilt hunting the shallow pools.








They have a great aviary with a variety of colorful and melodious birds.






There is a wonderful little home for hummingbirds where you can sit and watch as they swoop all around you.  The gentleman next to me referred to this little guy as an Anna’s hummingbird, but I’m not sure that’s right since he has a dark neck.



This tiny little hummer had an equally tiny nest.  A Costa’s hummingbird, maybe?


There was a docent in the hummer house.  I wish now we would have asked her the names.  There were at least a dozen different types of hummers swooping about.  One little pair actually took to wrestling under a push near us.  These little guys can be really nasty to each other!

(Any of you birders who can name these birds for us, we’d love to hear from you!)

Of course, we’re sure of the name of the one below, the barn owl.  This majestic bird can turn its head 270 degrees and studied us as we studied him.   This owl lives on every continent except Antartica.  I know it can be a bit creepy to be out in the woods at night and suddenly find that face staring back at you!


At around 4pm, Ken and I were beginning to wear down after 6 hours of trodding the museum pathways.  We covered all the major parts of the outdoor park.  We could have easily spent more time here.  I would definitely be a member of the museum if I lived nearby because its the kind of place you could come back to again and again.

As we drove the short distance back to the rig in Tucson Mountain Park, it was easy to see the rain headed our way across the mountains to the west.


Hugs, C



That desert museum is definitely a great place & we spent time there about 3 years ago. In fact it looks like Ken is sitting in the exact spot we did when we grabbed a coffee & snack. I have a lot of wildlife photos from that day as well.

Travelwithwhippets said...

Looks like a definite stop the next time we are in the area. Thanks for sharing.

luvglass said...

Isn't that park great? We always look forward to going there.

Jim and Dee said...

Thanks for the wonderful coverage you're doing on your sights. We're following every move. Love the barn owl,other birds and animals.

Levonne said...

You've just visited my favorite outing in Tucson (where John and I lived for fifteen years). I think that the Desert Museum is Tucson's best treasure! Thanks for the reminders of its beauty.