February 24 & March 9 – 11, 2019.
I believe that I have mentioned that Greg (and subsequently I) has taken up the hobby of birding. It is a quite timely hobby in this era of COVID-19. A friend recently told me that she is glad to be at an age where she is just happy to take walks and hang out at home watching the birds at her feeder. We are too. And we are so lucky that the whole of the outside world is our feeder.
Unfortunately, although Greg had been saying he wanted to become a birder for some time, I didn’t really think about that when I bought my new camera. I had two choices – a more expensive one that had a longer zoom lens or a cheaper one that was better for taking pictures in lower light but had a shorter zoom. Since I like to take pictures in buildings, like museums, with lower light and love saving money I opted for the latter choice. If only I had known that the world was going to turn upside down and that we wouldn’t be going to museums or actually into any buildings except for grocery stores, I would have gotten that longer zoom. And you, my loyal readers, would never have to see a fuzzy bird picture on this blog.*
I have to admit we will probably never be the best birders. We like to keep moving. We might spot a bird in the distance but as soon as we get nearer the crunch, crunch, crunch of our footsteps on the road scares them away. To be a real birder I imagine you need to painstakingly stake out a place, get up before the crack of dawn, set out in your camos with your super zoom camera and tripod to your designated spot, and just sit and wait. This is not really our style (the sitting and waiting) although we have considered camouflaging Ballena Blanca, turning her into a rolling bird blind, parking her in a wash, and seeing who shows up.
So with the current restrictions on where we can go and what we can do and our new enthusiasm about this hobby, we are thinking that this blog may be going in a whole new direction. We may change its name to Make Like A Birder, or perhaps The Cynical Birder and his Photographing Sidekick or Birding About or Call It Birding (stole those last three from some blogging friends – see their blogs in the links in the sidebar). But no worries – I’m sure eventually we will get back to Utah and be enthused about rocks again or take up entomology. What do you think, Make Like A Bug-hunter?
*BTW – I actually love my new camera despite its limitations. And although you may be seeing a few fuzzy pictures here, my camera does take some very good shots especially when the subject is sitting still, well lit, and quite close.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is another one of those places, like the Biosphere 2 in our previous post, which I have been wanting to visit but felt the entry fee was too costly. This year we decided to shell out the bucks and go. I asked our friend Deanna, who lives in Tucson if she wanted to go with us. She did – and bonus! She is a member of the Museum and had two free passes.
The Desert Museum is more than just a museum. It is also part wildlife rescue, zoo, botanical garden, and immersive experience. The part of our day at the museum we were most looking forward to was the Raptor Free Flight. What is a Raptor Free Flight? It is birds of prey flying freely (untethered) right over your head in open desert. I don’t mean right over your head way up in the sky (they do that too) but literally you can feel the rush of air as they swoop over the crowd.
At the Raptor Free Flight handlers bring birds out into the open desert.
And let them fly freely.
They land wherever they like, usually on either side of the crowd who is packed together contained between metal railings.
The zoo part of the museum features desert animals in enclosed environments.
The museum also has indoor presentations. The one we went to featured a Gila Monster and a Rattlesnake.
And then there was the Walk-in Aviary & Hummingbird Aviary
Of course, we couldn’t miss the Reptile, Invertebrate & Amphibian Hall
The museum also has displays just for children, a gem and mineral exhibit, an art gallery, and more. And as you walk from one exhibit to the next you pass through an amazing botanical garden of desert plants. A whole day is simply not enough to see everything.
Cibola National Wildlife Refuge & Prieta Cabeza Visitor Center
A few weeks after our Desert Museum we found ourselves experiencing wildlife actually out in the wild. The first stop was at Cibola National Wildlife Refuge.
You can only visit the Prieta Cabeza National Wildlife Refuge by permit. We stopped at the visitor center in Ajo to find out the details in obtaining one (we now know the permit is free and available online). The visitor center has a nice museum and a bird blind out back. We were very excited about the bird blind where we got our first glimpse of a Gambel’s Quail.
*Click pics to enlarge and view in a slideshow.
**BTW – this is the second of our It’s A Wild Wild Life posts. The first about our experience at the Crane Fest in Mississippi and our visit to Davis Bayou can be found here.
Do you have any new hobbies? Have you ever thought about being a birder? We’d love to hear your comments about this post or anything it has inspired you to think about!