Denise Goldberg's blog

Sunday, December 15, 2013

a museum day

It's hard for me to believe that we spent most of the day at a place that had museum in its name.

The day started with a good B&B breakfast, blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup, plus some granola and yogurt, yum. Denise chatted with John and the other B&B guests for a bit, then we packed up and headed from our temporary home east of Tuscon to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum west of Tucson and across Gates Pass.

When I heard museum I thought it would be inside, but it's not. The brochure for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum says it is a zoo, aquarium, garden, museum, and gallery, almost all outside. We arrived at about quarter to 10, 15 minutes before the first raptor free flight of the day. Of course that was pretty far from the entrance but Denise really wanted to see the birds so she walked quickly and I rode in the camera bag. The birds call the museum home; that's where they live. They really were flying free, and they sometimes flew low right over our heads. The morning demo started with a pair of ravens, then an owl, then a falcon. The last bird decided it didn't want to play - apparently she saw something that was more interesting than the people waiting to see her. Wow, those birds are really impressive.

Next we walked and walked and walked some more. We saw some animals but some were hiding. Denise took a picture of a bee drinking from a flower, and she tried to catch a coyote inside of his enclosure. And then we found pure magic - a hummingbird aviary. We watched some hummingbirds feeding from the plants outside but it was hard for Denise to catch them with her camera. But oh! the hummingbirds in the aviary even did a little posing. She didn't catch any in flight but I'm hoping she has some of the little birds standing still. One of the docents showed us a hummingbird nest that they kept after the last nesting season. They are really, really tiny! Denise was so fascinated with the hummingbirds that we stopped at the aviary more than once. That was fun!

There was a second raptor free flight in the afternoon; we went to that one too. This time we saw a gray falcon, a barn owl, and some red-tailed hawks. The owl was very cool, and it was making noise too. The docent told us the story of how the owl came to live at the Desert Museum. An owl couple had made a nest and was raising their baby above the entrance to a store. They were protecting their baby by diving at customers, so the nest was moved to another location. Unfortunately at that point the mom and dad owls abandoned the baby so it was "adopted" by the museum. When the owl was flying today it was crying out - we were told that's baby owl behavior when out of the nest, to let the parent owls know where the baby is flying. Apparently this young owl imprinted on the keepers.

The birds are wearing transmitters in case they don't return. They are not restricted at all, but if a bird takes off the keepers try to find it because they are not accustomed to living in the wild.

After we left the museum we headed into the Tucson Mountain section of Saguaro National Park. Denise wanted to do a little more walking in the park, plus she wanted to ask a question that she figured the ranger could answer. As we looked out from the park we could see squares of what looked like water. It almost felt like an optical illusion; after all we are in the desert! It turns out that they are recharge basins, holding water diverted from the Colorado River that then seeps into the aquifer to recharge the water supply. If you're curious, click to the Recharged Water page of the City of Tucson web site.

We started back to Phoenix a lot earlier than we needed to given that our flight isn't until just after midnight. (It was scheduled for 11:42 PM but Denise got a text from the airline saying the new departure time is 12:07 AM.) Denise wanted to drive the back roads to the highway while it was still light out, and we were both getting tired so we knew it was time to stop. Our plans were to find a restaurant before the airport exit but somehow the airport exit jumped out at us. We followed the signs for the rental car return, then went a bit further to find a gas station. After filling up the car Denise asked if there were any non-fast-food restaurants in the area - with the added request that the restaurant be easy to find. We were directed the Mariscos Vuelve a la Vida. What a good find! Denise ordered a pescado (fish) burrito; it was enough for us to share (and still have some left over). She was more than a bit surprised at the price, $6.75 for a nice sized burrito, rice, beans, and a bit of salad. That's pretty amazing, isn't it?

We arrived at the airport way earlier than we needed to be here. Denise figured the airport would have free internet access (it does) and that it would be a good place to sit for a bit. She's not much for wandering in a strange city at night, and I'm happy to be able to write our blog entry before we fly.

--- Rover
hanging out at the visitor center, Saguaro National Park
a friend of mine, hanging out at the visitor center
Saguaro National Park

photo by Rover