Monday, December 3, 2012

Tucson 2012 Part 2

By far one of our favorite points of interest in the Tucson area is the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. It’s a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden all wrapped up into one. Exhibits re-create the landscape of the Sonoran Desert Museum are cleverly blended in with the actual Sonoran Desert ecosystem. There are almost 2 miles of paths through 21 acres of beautiful desert.
Education, conservation, natural history collections, and ongoing research - all designed to promote and raise public awareness of desert stewardship. And, while doing so, in a fun and intriguing fashion for people of all ages.

part of our museum membership swag
just one of the several museum docents - this one displayed an American Kestrel
fuzzy wuzzy
While we were only going to be in the Tucson area for a month, we wanted to continue our support by way of renewing our annual family membership. Besides helping support the museum we benefited personally from our membership which granted us free access to the museum grounds whenever they were open. As members, we got invites to special members-only the members-only seasonal opening of the "Raptor Free Flight" program. Membership also included two free cups of coffee or tea each time we visited, discounts at the food courts and this year, when we renewed, we scored a swag bag that included a copy of the latest “Dining With The Desert Museum” cookbook.

a Prairie Falcon wowed the Raptor Free Flight crowd
Cactus Wren nest
desert view
Prairie Falcon
So what other fun things are there to do at the museum? The list is lengthy. There is the daily “Running Wild! Live-animal Presentation”, the daily “Live And (sort of) on the Loose” program, and the seasonal “Raptor Free Flight” program (Tom’s favorite). Skilled docents are scattered throughout the museum grounds at portable stations to hands-on demonstrate numerous desert plants and animals and to answer visitor questions.

headed toward the Desert Loop Trail
kids at the "Live and almost loose" program meeting a Gila Monster
There are two walk-in aviaries, one of them dedicated to just hummingbirds. Several permanent exhibits include displays about Earth Sciences, Mountain Woodlands, Desert Grassland, and Cactus Gardens.  There’s "Cat Canyon", a Riparian Corridor exhibit, and a Desert Loop Trail. The Ironwood Gallery offers a constantly changing series of art exhibits (the “Fiesta Sonora” Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild was open during October). The museum also conducts a variety of workshops that include art classes, photography classes, school and youth programs, adult programs, research and conservation projects, and “Earthcamp for Educators”. Want to become a museum docent? Their museum’s docent training program runs for several months! If we had more time we would volunteer!

Lilac-crowned Parrot
And while we frequently visited the museum grounds - on average three times a week because it was so close - seeing the same exhibits proved to be different every time. There were new entries to the Free Flight Program this year (Barn Owl and Peregrine). “Cat Canyon” was more active earlier in the day so it wasn’t at all unusual to find the cats active in their surroundings. As the month progressed we followed changes in plant blooms. And depending upon the lighting each day (time of day and cloud cover), the scenery changed dramatically. Get the idea?

Costa's Hummingbird
means business
If you’re in the Tucson area, a visit to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum is a must. It’s not only a terrific introduction to desert ecology but it puts you on an even footing with the desert landscape. We are looking forward to the opening of a new exhibit which was under construction in October: the “Warden Aquarium” which will incorporate a large wet component of the Sonoran Desert - the Sea of Cortez. Clearly, we're not done revisiting the Tucson area!

rattlesnake at the "Live and almost loose" program
Western Screech-Owl

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