Thursday, January 04, 2007

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

I miss Florida for certain things - hibiscus and red poinsettia bushes blooming all winter, live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, and nearly continuous sunshine and warm temperatures. In contrast, it has been unseasonably cold here in Tucson. A valley rainstorm dropped a foot of snow on the mountaintops from about 4500 feet and higher. From downtown, it looked like Mt. Everest up there for a few hours! But the desert has a unique beauty that Ed and I love as well- the Rincon mountains, located east of our park, turning shades of red and pink in the light of the setting sun; the majestic Saguaro cacti, arms outstretched, unique to the Sonora Desert of southern Arizona and adjacent parts of Mexico; and the cactus wrens and western cardinals that flock from the desert to feeders in our park.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is the ideal place to learn to identify and appreciate the variety of plant and animal life that live in the desert. Located just west of the city of Tucson, you could easily spend an entire day walking through the outdoor exhibits and not see everything.

The web site at sums it up:

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place! Exhibits re-create the natural landscape of the Sonoran Desert Region so realistically you find yourself eye-to-eye with mountain lions, prairie dogs, Gila monsters, and more. Within the Museum grounds, you will see more than 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. There are almost 2 miles of paths traversing 21 acres of beautiful desert.

Ed & I visited with the Camera Club from Cactus Country RV Park. Our group of about twenty focused on two very different types of birds; first, the raptors, then the hummingbirds. "Raptor Free Flight" showcases three birds of prey during different shows twice daily, running through April 15, 2007. The trainer releases each bird for a demonstration of their flying techniques and hunting and feeding behaviors. Remember that you can click on each photo for a larger view. Here is the California raven...

and a white barn owl perched on a limb... out, here he comes....

...and he's hungry!

This "photographer extraordinaire" (Ha ha, NOT!) forgot the extra batteries for the camera and so missed getting photos of the Peregrine falcon. Bummer. But I ran to the gift shop after the Raptor show and picked up AA's at the gift shop. This is the very reason why I decided to not buy a digital camera that uses proprietary batteries. I am hoping to learn to properly use all the settings available on my Canon Power Shot A630 and learn to edit with Adobe Photoshop

Elements - these are the reasons that I joined the Camera Club.

At the Hummingbird Aviary, I quickly realized how difficult it is to photograph these fast moving guys. By the time you center and focus, they're off. But I got a couple of decent shots. Back east, all our hummingbirds are of the ruby-throated variety. In the west, there are five varieties; black-chinned, broad-billed, Costa's, broad-tailed, and Rufous. Wish I could tell you what these guys are but I'm not sure which is which.

Many other native birds and animals inhabit the desert museum, usually brought in because of injury and unable to survive in the wild. One of these bighorns casually skipped down the nearly vertical 30' rock ledge right after I snapped this.

I didn't get pics of the javelina, the coatimundi, nor many others, so a return trip to the museum is definitely in our future.

Our route home took us through Gates Pass, providing this unique view of Tucson in the valley below.

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