Who spends 6 ½ hours at an outdoor museum and feels it just wasn’t enough time? For us – the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was a perfect day: walking in balmy weather, seeing desert plants, looking at animals, seeing birds – and best of all – the raptor program. Raptors? You think we’re kidding, but believe us, this was a great show.
Visitors gather and hear an introduction to the raptor birds we would see (very) close up: a barn owl, grey hawk, Harris hawks, and Peregrine falcon. The birds have been trained to swoop down and land on perches a few yards away from the visitors, then on signal to fly low over the crowd to another perch. All the while, a guide is telling us about these amazing birds.
These weren’t the only birds to catch our attention. As we walked from the parking lot and before we even reached the museum our search began. We heard a loud screechy bird. It sounded a bit like a creaking door. What was it? It came into sight and then dove under bushes — elusive. Finally, we gave up and went into the museum. No sooner did we start down a path, than the same screech came from a tree. We sprang to attention, binoculars in hand. Again, we couldn’t find the bird. This happened over and over again until finally the bird landed on a bench right next to us. We got its photo. We questioned other visitors with huge camera lenses who seemed interested in birds. What was this bird? No one knew. In the end, we asked a museum staff-person when she walked by us. “Oh, that’s the Arizona state bird, a cactus wren.” Of course… but, no, we didn’t know that.
Just when we thought we couldn’t possibly see any more photo-worthy sights, a volunteer pointed us toward two hummingbird nests. One was a tiny nest with the mother sitting on the eggs. The other had two baby birds in it. Wow! So, the moral of this story is: always be on the lookout for the next great thing. It’s there, ready to happen.