Thursday, February 12, 2015

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Gilbert Ray Campground

It required a firm decision to leave Organ Pipe. Such a beautiful spot!

But, onward to Tucson.

We follow Route 85 north to Why and then Route 86 east to southwest Tucson. One of the quietest roads in Arizona.

Not too far south of Route 10, it is a left into Tucson Mountain Park.

Within the area are a number of stops including Old Tucson , a preserved movie lot where a number of Western films and TV shows were filmed.  Old Tucson is a link. Also in the area, Cliff and Vicki, is the Tucson Toy Train Museum--check the link
Tucson Toy Train Museum
Also, a number of hikes, short and long. Most of them require some climbing.

Our stop is at Gilbert Ray Campground.  Nice, open sites with good spacing. We had our own little cactus garden. Electric hookup only for $20 per night.

Within a few miles of the campground is the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  According to, it is ranked as one of the top ten museums in the country.  With 98 acres, they describe themselves as a fusion experience. That is, zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium.
This being Arizona, 85% of the museum is outdoors.
Did you guess the car?  A 1960 Studebaker Lark.

This is the second place in Arizona that we unexpectedly found charging stations for electric vehicles.  The other was in Gila Bend.

Sign of the times.

All along the walkways are plants from the smallest cactus to the largest Saguaro and Palm trees.  Many bushes and cactus are in bloom even though the ordinary plants around Tucson are just beginning to show buds.

Even the bees are quite happy on a warm February day.

This picture show a Pincushion Cactus.

So many varieties , not all of them native to Arizona.

Jan and I stopped here two years ago and loved the museum.  We stopped here again this year and found more things to appreciate.  And not enough time to enjoy in one day.

Besides the plants and gardens are live animal shows. This fellow is a Gila Monster.  Lots of information in the Live and (sort of) on the Loose show.

As expected, the star of the show is a Black Tail Rattle Snake.

About three and a half feet long, this was an older snake that rattled on during most of the talk by the handler.

This picture shows the snake rattling and about to try a strike at the handler (who stayed a safe distance away using two metal sticks).  Can you see the split tongue?

Interesting information at this show:

Arizona saw about 270 snakebites last year.  About 1% of bites are fatal.  The typical person who is bitten?? More than 90+%???
About late teens to early 20's
With many tattoos.
Honest--that was the information.

One show we would see as many times as possible is the Raptor Free Flight.

These are trained birds that demonstrate wild patterns with the help of their handlers.

Arrive early for the show.  The nice part is that almost every spectator spot is a good one. Lined up in three rows with railings to lean against, the birds fly overhead within inches of some spectators.  This is a barn owl.

Motivation is provided by the handlers with plenty of raw food.

The birds waste no time finding the snacks.

The show used four Harris Hawks. This is the same bird as earlier in this blog with the handler.

The purpose of four was to show how social they are.  And also to show how the female is the bird in charge.

At close distances, it is amazing to watch these birds use wings, feathers, and tail to make sharp turns and cover distances instantly.
A lot of "Ooh"s and "Ah"s.

Talk about watching an air show.

Lots of animals to see.  The settings were well placed and natural.

This is the Javelina.  Looks like a wild pig but is of the "peccary" family.  A fairly new but numerous addition to Arizona.

We saw Bighorn Sheep in Utah, but keep missing them in Arizona and other states.

Unlike deer, the horns are there for life and are quite heavy.  We actually had a chance to pick up one horn----very heavy!!!!.

With all of the many animals, there are some wonderful exhibits like the otter exhibit where we saw the closeup of the otter and watched him building his home with leaves and swimming back and forth to get more.

Same kind of exhibits for beaver and coyote and cougar among others.
Above is a hummingbird.

The Hummingbird Aviary holds about 13 to 16 hummingbirds of different variety.

This is a tiny nest.  The birds use a lot of spider web to hold it together and attach to tree limbs.

There were all colors of birds.  You would walk around the exhibit and they would buzz within an inch or so of your ear.

Sometimes they stop right in front of you.

The docent indicated that the eggs are about the size of a tic-tac.

Other interesting facts  Hummingbird facts

A tiny hummingbird on an even tinier nest.  More information about the museum. Arizona Desert Museum

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