Monday, March 19, 2018

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

We started out our morning enjoying the company of our hosts.  They are such a sweet couple and they are amazing cooks!  After breakfast we visited with the javelinas that were gathered outside their patio.


Javelina are also known as collard peccary and they are simliar to wild boar.  These are quite friendly and they visit here regularly for food scraps.


We also got a special treat when we got to watch a hummingbird come to visit.  Nicholas captured him on this video below:


We eventually headed out to spend the morning at a the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum then spend the afternoon hiking on our own in the Saguaro National Park.  On the way to the museum, Nicholas decided to roll down his window and make a said with a bedsheet.  I'm not sure how he came up with this idea but he had a great time...until we told him to get his head and arms back in the car!


It is called the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum but it is really more like a zoo and a botanical garden.  It is amazing!

We arrived just in time for raptor free flight demonstrations.  They can include hawks, falcons, ravens, and owls.  They were beautiful to watch.  I'm amazed that they fly in and out of the viewing area unleashed.  They are well-trained on how to perform for the audience.


Here is the closest picture we got of one.  It is a Harris Hawk.  They are very social birds and often fly in groups and work together on nest building.


I found a blooming ocotillo cactus.  One of my favorites.


The animals were in zoo like enclosures.  Some were cage-like and others, like this cute little gray fox, were enclosures you could look down into or peer at through a window.


We all took a moment to gaze at this bobcat.  We recently had a bobcat come into our backyard and eat one of our chickens.  It looks much like a regular house cat except much bigger and stockier.


I'm not sure what kind of cactus this is but it's long waving arms out to the side make me think of Doctor Octopus from Spiderman.


The kids found an adorable little desert otter climbing on the rocks.


There are little ramadas (or kiosks) set up around the trails.  I was excited to find a jojoba ramada.  I love jojoba and use it in some of my natural skin care recipes.  So I was happy to learn all about the plant itself.


What an interesting plant.  Its leaves stand upright and the female plants have flowers that hang down below.  


A nearby male plant will pollinate the female's flower and it will become a seed.  The seed is what is used to make the jojoba I buy at the store. It's really a fascinating and beautiful plant.


This picture below is a beautifully blooming agave.  They are monocarpic which means they will bloom once and then die.  What a unique plant!


Lots of baby agaves waiting to grow up.


At first I thought this next cactus was a Christmas Cactus because of the sections in its arms but it is not.  It is called a Hummingbird Nopal.


Look at those buds waiting to bloom!  I bet it is so pretty when these blooms are all opened up.


One of the many creature Nicholas had hoped to find in the desert was the tailless whip scorpion.  He didn't find one on our hike this morning but he did get to see a live one on display at the museum.  They are lacking the tail that is so commonly thought of with scorpions.  I wasn't able to get a good picture of its face and pincers.  They are scary looking but the tailless whip scorpion is actually harmless to humans.


Of course we also had to look at a more common scorpion too.  This picture looks frightening but the scorpion is actually under a piece of plexiglass.


Next we saw a giant desert centipede.  Oh, Nicholas would have loved to have seen this in the wild.  Its head and tail are black and the rest of its body is orange.  They are carnivores and they will eat insects, lizards, and frogs.


Nicholas has learned a lot about the desert centipede from watching Coyote Peterson on the Brave Wilderness You Tube channel.  Here is one of his videos:


Yes, after seeing that video, Nicholas thought it would be fun to camp in a tent out in the desert to try to find interesting creatures like this.  No thank you!

While the creatures and plant life in Arizona was different than we had ever seen, we all loved learning so much about what seemed like a whole new world to us.  We had no idea how interesting a desert could be!





The Sonoran Desert landscape and scenery is just beautiful in its own way.

We continued on through the museum.  We learned about vultures.


We watched the cute little prairie dogs scamper around their habitat.  Rachel wanted one to keep for a pet!


Who knew there could be so many flowers in a desert?  March is actually the beginning on the Sonoran Desert's wildflower season.  Yes, this desert has a wildflower season.  I'm just so fascinated by this concept!


Look how well this Arizona Desert Sidewinder blends with the sandy soil.  He eats small mammals, birds, and lizards.  This was one of the snakes that Nicholas desperately wanted to see while we are here....except that he wants to find it in the wild while we are out hiking in the desert.


Below is a vinegaroon or whip scorpion.  It's tail looks like a whip and it serves as a sensory organ.  When the vinegaroon is in defensive mode, it will shoot a vinegar-like substance from its tail.  This is another fun creature that Nicholas wanted to find on his own in the desert.


This cool scorpion display demonstrates how scorpions fluoresce under UV light which can include blacklight as well as natural moonlight.  The picture on the left is of a scorpion in regular light.  The picture on the right shows him under UV light.  


This is a desert tarantula.  While its venom is harmless to humans, it does have hairs on its underside that are tipped with little barbs.  If it feels threatened it will brush those hairs against the threat to try to scare it away.  Just looking at this guy scares me away!


I found this beautiful aloe plant.  I love the mathematical wonder of the fibonacci sequence in its leaf arrangement.


Look how tall this cactus shoots up!


Here is a closer picture of the smaller one closer to the ground.  What a gnarly sight!


Everything in the desert is pokey and thorny.


Here is picture of a palo verde tree branch.  This is the state tree of Arizona.  It is spindly looking and so uniquely green all over.  It didn't appeal to me when I first saw it in the desert yesterday but now I've seen many of them and they are starting to grow on me.


The jewel of the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum is the hummingbird aviary.  We have been to aviaries in the Dallas-Fort Worth area many times to hand feed birds but we have never been to a hummingbird aviary.  It is an amazing 3300 square foot exhibit that you can walk into and stand right there among the hummingbirds zooming past you.  
 

Rachel spent a lot of time just studying this little guy.  He is green with a black head and a shimmery purple throat.  I'm not sure about its identification but it could be a Costa's hummingbird.  Rachel named it "Shimmer", of course.


I found a mama hummingbird sitting on a nest!  That was the most amazing sight to see! 


This picture below shows a dark bodied hummingbird with an orange beak.  I think it may be a Broad-billed hummingbird but I'm not sure.  I wish I had known that we would see so many different hummingbirds in the desert.  I would have done more research to learn more about the different species found here before we came.


I haven't figured out the name of this plant either.  It looks like some kind of spineless cactus and I have found some pictures online that are close matches but I haven't been able to confirm what it is yet. 


This cactus below is a silver torch cactus.  It can grow 8-10 feet tall but I think one is taller than that.




This is a type of torch cactus and soon it will have amazingly colorful flowers blooming on it.  I wish we were here just a little later in the season to see more flowers in bloom.


We spent several hours at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  It was a museum like no other we have ever been too.  We could have spent more time there but we were getting hungry for lunch and we wanted to make our way back to the Saguaro National Park to do some more hiking on our own.

Info on the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum:  The museum is located at 2021 N. Kinney Rd. in Tucson, AZ.  It is open every day of the year but hours vary by season so call ahead to find out.  Admission is $21.95 for ages 13 and up, $8.95 for children age 3-12.  For more information, please check out the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum website.

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