One would think that the desert is a barren waste land full of sand, cactus and rock. Well that is true. What really amazes me is the number of creatures that live here beside humans. I have already mentioned some of the animals we’ve encountered on our bike rides in the Sonoran Desert, but lets talk about a few more. The Coyote is very common, our neighbor, Jeff, saw two of them, while riding on Yuma Rd, on base, yesterday. A more sinister and beautiful creature around is the Arizona “Mountain Lion” I took a picture of one while in the West Saguaro National Park. It was relatively easy to get him or her to pose because we had Sallyanne, “Black Lab, ‘Angel’ ” with us and the Lion never stopped eyeing her. Another beautiful creature was a “Mexican Wolf”. A note at this point. I took these pictures at the Sonoran Desert Museum. These animals are in a natural setting, some are actually are outside in the open desert. Yes, they are alive! The birds actually free fly for food.
The Raptors ~ Inches Above Our Heads
At 9am and again at 2pm, the museum, odd that it is not called a zoo, has a “Raptor Demonstration”. That is the coolest I’ve every seen! The first was of a Great Horn Owl. Here is how the museum crew work the Owl. We are all standing behind a fence, a crew member is about ten feet in front of us. Another crew member releases the Owl from its enclosure. The Owl comes to a perch close to the first crew member who has put a small bit size piece meat. Quickly the Owl finishes his bite size treat. Next, the Owl flies inches above our heads to another crew member in back of us. We were forwarned not to raise cameras or iPad above our heads. I now could see why. I could feel the wind from his wings as he swiftly and silently flew above.
The next Raptor was the Harris Hawk. A Hawk is more aggressive looking than an Owl. His beak, looking like “vise grips” could snap a piece of barbed wire. Well, it looked that way anyhow. The Hawk did the same routine as the Owl, but was more bold in his eagerness to get more food. The Owl was extremely cautious after seeing Sallyanne’s dog. She had to keep the dog at a distance from the rest of the spectators. Actually, dogs are not allowed in the park! Now we understand how an Owl can rotate its head nearly 180º. Their large eyes look forward and the head rotation gives them a wide range of view.
I discovered that it is nearly impossible to freeze bird wings in flight. Well, at least until I had a conversation with another neighbor who does bird photography. He told me to use a flash. That would freeze the motion of wings in flight. He knows what he’s talking about, you know those guys with a two foot telephoto lens on a tripod! He sometimes uses three or four slave flashes while he captures humming birds.
Snakes ~ 13th varieties of Rattle Snakes!
I am not a snake lover! I do respect them and I’m constantly on the lookout for them. I, or we, haven’t seen one in the wild, yet! Rattlesnake Types in Arizona
The Sonoran Desert Museum certainly has many species of the “Rattlers” 13 species in Arizona, this along with 50 different species in the State. They are not all represented, but enough to get a good idea of what is around in the mountains and desert. Did you know that Arizona has more mountains than any other State? (3,928 mountain peaks!) While we were in the snake exhibit building, we were able to touch a non venomous snake. I was really surprised to the feel. It was smooth, almost like feeling plastic gimp. The handler told us to not go against the scales. This snake was white with redish markings, nearly looking fake, but it was real.
That is what we saw and did!