Thursday, March 3, 2011

Raptors Free-Flight

Thanks to Cindy & Ken's blog, Frerx Adventures we made a visit to The Sonora Desert Museum just west of Tucson, via Gates Pass. More than a museum, a visit here includes wonderful gardens, easy hiking trails, live animal exhibits in natural surroundings and special demonstrations such as the Harris Hawks free flight that we participated in. 5 of these birds were released to demonstrate their hunting skills, flight characteristics and bird family interactions. These birds swooped back and forth between Mesquite trees, Ocotillo plants and Saguaros, sometimes just inches above heads.

When a Harris Hawk lands atop a Saguaro Cactus it does so very carefully; first one foot, then the other. With both feet balanced on the Saguaro, the hawk faces into the wind, wings adding lift, so the full weight of the bird doesn't sit on the cactus spines below.

It was fun and challenging to photograph these fast movings raptors.

A bird handler with a shy Barn Owl.

The big horn sheep exhibit is so real you forget they're in captivity.

A fifteen foot asparagus plant? Not really; finally we get to see a Century Plant ready to blossom and then die after getting ready for more than twenty years. I just wish it wasn't 60 miles from our present camp so we could watch it daily as it grows this giant stalk that will eventually blossom.

Martha and the Joshua Tree, one of my favorite desert trees.

A tree house with an awesome view, built out of Mesquite wood, is just one of the many interesting things here.

We've seen a couple of these Javeilina's running free, but it was fun to see one up close. We didn't know their feet were so tiny.

This convoluted Saguaro has a crest, which may grow to more than six feet wide. On future visits to Tucson I hope to come back to photograph the progression of this anomaly.

Today we also welcome new follower, Jacqui Dean, from Connecticut. We're glad to have you aboard and appreciate your support.


  1. Have heard of the Century plant but never saw one.... guess I will be seeing a Joshua Tree today ! There are so many interesting & mysterious things in the desert. Just love it !


  2. Hi! We're also from CT and sold our house and belongings about the same time you did. We're in the Tucson area right now and weren't sure if we would have time to visit the Desert Museum - but after seeing your pictures we'll be trying to fit it in. Thanks!

  3. Century plants are an Agave that blossoms just one time during its lifespan after growing for about 20-25 years. They are along every roadside here in southern AZ, but they're all dead, having flowered some years ago. New younger plants can be found in the same vicinity but there's no way to know when they will grow a stalk and blossom. Having seen this one near Tucson I am now looking for a Century Plant getting ready to blossom here in The San Pedro Valley. I suspect this will happen later here because we are about 1000 feet higher than Tucson. If you happen to see an Agave that looks like it's growing a giant asparagus shoot please contact me. I'd like to photograph the weekly progression of this unique flowering plant.