Raptors and Monsters and Snakes – Oh My!

Tucson  073Tucson  059It seemed as if everyone that had ever been to Tucson and everyone that lives in Tucson recommended that we visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  The Desert Museum is actually a combination of a zoo, a natural history museum, an aquarium and a botanical garden.

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We were especially interested in seeing the raptor free flight presentations where multiple handlers get the birds to fly outdoors in nature but up close to the guests.  There are two a day, and we caught all of one and most of the other – they were amazing.

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It was the New Years holiday week so the museum was packed, in fact, one of the  ladies working at the gift shop told us this was the largest crowd she’d seen – yikes!  Fortunately, the only place where it felt super crowded was actually the raptor free flight, as people were packed into two specific areas.  Even so, the way this demonstration was set up, each bird flies back and forth and perches on different trees all around various spots where the crowd is gathered, and so everyone has an opportunity to get multiple good views of each bird – well done!

Tucson  042The Desert Museum is the only zoological park that features plants and animals from one region, the Sonoran Desert, demonstrating their interdependence.   Since a large part of the desert is in Mexico, the museum collaborates with organizations in Mexico to provide educational programs and conduct research.  This place is awesome!Tucson  097

Beep Beep

Beep Beep

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The museum also has lots of very knowledgable docents spread out throughout the exhibits.  All docents complete a rigorous 15 week training, and they are very friendly and informative.

One of our favorite exhibits at the museum was the hummingbird aviary; I never knew there were so many types of hummingbirds! Another was the desert loop trail, which has lots of agaves and palo verde trees, and coyotes and other animals in their natural settings.

Tucson  055And my favorite animal from the desert loop trail was the javelina (pronounced as if in Spanish havelina).  Javelinas are peccaries and they are members of the same suborder as pigs, Suina.  They have tiny dainty legs and big eyelashes and are truly adorable.  We keep hoping to see them in the wild since they are not aggressive.

Tucson  067Tucson  051 (1)Last, but not least, we saw an interesting presentation about gila monsters and rattlesnakes.  Both animals were brought out and placed on a table while the presenters provided fun, interesting and scary facts about them.

Since the audience included kids, part of the presentations was a bit basic, but it was cool to see these very dangerous animals up close.

Tucson  108One basic thing I learned was how to spell gila monster – I always thought it was helimonster!  Ok, the rattlesnake was cool but I found the little gila monster – named Diablo – pretty cute.

We also learned that about 3/4 of the incidents of people getting bitten by gila monsters or rattlesnakes are caused by the person wanting to interact with the animal.  What???!!!  And the three most common characteristics of the majority of those unfortunate people are:  1.Male 2.Young and 3.Intoxicated.  Gila monsters are actually shy and slow moving, but, if threatened, they will clamp on very tight, and, what probably makes them so scary, they have to chew in order to release their venom.  That’s one way to sober up!

Tucson  002 (1)Unbelievably, after about seven hours at the museum we still missed quite a few exhibits.  So, along with tons of others, I highly recommend a visit, but do plan to get there early and stay late!

Update:  We’re currently in Phoenix, having visited Sedona after Tucson, but are catching up on the blog and two more posts on Tucson area visits are coming up – lots to see there!

~ Brenda

17 thoughts on “Raptors and Monsters and Snakes – Oh My!

  1. Cool shots, as ever. Loved the raptors coming at me shots. Disturbing info since of the 1.Male 2.Young and 3.Intoxicated characteristics, we have one who fits the first two and, since it’s not our first rodeo, may well fit the third at times. We take some solace that he’s in the Northlands (although there, too, has its threats for those of such characteristics! 🙂

  2. Funny how various posts stand out with great photography in the midst of all the posts having great shots. Loved these photos.

  3. It truly is an wonderful place to get up close and personal with the desert. I always find it interesting to see what areas of the museum people enjoy. Every post I see is very different than ours. We all have our favorites:) Hope you caught the gorgeous crested saguaro outside the entrance.

    • I just checked out your post, love your photo of the javelina and the coyote. The fact is we missed a lot of the museum, the reptile presentation was longer than we expected and cut our time even more, but we enjoyed everything we did see. And, yes, we did see the crested saguaro, I’d forgotten where I saw it!

      • Like I said, we all have our interests. We didn’t hit either show. But…now we have a reason to return next year and I can’t wait. Many have loved the demonstrations. I am sorry we missed them, we were with friends.

  4. Awesome shots Hector. Wow, you really captured those raptors. I’m so glad you two enjoyed it as much as we did. Al could’ve stayed amongst the hummers for hours. I had to pull him away to attend the raptors in flight – as it was we were a tad late. Love those Javies….they too have eluded me.

  5. Love, love, love the ASDM!!! My dad retired to Tucson years ago and my stepmom and I are still very close. I’ve been to the Museum many times and I’m still amazed at the conservation ethic it gives unassumingly. Getting ready to donate some paintings to ASDM for their annual gala and fundraiser in April. I cannot think of a better cause to promote love for the Sonoran Desert! Awesome post and awesome images. Thanks, sweet friends!!! Warm hugs!!!

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