Where We Be
Sonora Desert Museum -- Tucson, Arizona
It's official -- we're fans of the Sonoran Desert with its abundant and unusual plants and wildlife
We had a terrific day at the Sonora Desert
Museum. "Museum" is something of a
misnomer since almost all of the activities are
outdoors; it's more like a combination desert
botanic gardens and zoo. Whatever you call it,
it's incredibly well done -- and rightfully the #1
attraction in the Tucson area per TripAdvisor.

One of the highlights for us was definitely the
hummingbird aviary, a plant-filled enclosure full
of hummingbirds flitting freely among us. Often
they would hover just inches away from us. We
got to see hummingbirds feeding their young
and sitting on their extraordinarily tiny nests.

The other highlight was the Raptor Free Flight
exhibitions. At 10 am we saw Chihuahuan
ravens, a peregrine falcon, a prairie falcon, a
ferruginous hawk, and a great horned owl. The
rescue birds were totally free but used to being
fed. Their handlers would discreetly place bits
of meat in the crook of a tree or a saguaro then
duck back down. The birds would fly from perch
to perch to get the meat, soaring just inches
over the heads of the crowd to get to the food.
This was quite exciting. You could hear the
whoosh of their wings as they passed! We give
the Sonora Desert Museum our highest
recommendation -- this is a place not to miss.
This prairie falcon put on quite a show for us at the raptor free flight exhibition
This hummingbird is sitting in her nest keeping her chicks warm
Prairie falcons eat small mammals and birds caught in flight -- I wouldn't want to be a small mammal or bird right now!
Prairie falcons have a cruising speed of 45 mph -- and they accelerate in the chase
Prairie falcons often hunt by flying fast and low -- like right over our heads low!
Their impressive wingspan averages 40 inches
This coyote seems to be enjoying the cool morning air
This is a javelina (pronounced "have-a-leen-a"). Despite looking like a wild pig, it's actually a peccary. We also saw these in Big Bend National Park in Texas.
Because it was a relatively cool morning, most of the animals were awake and alert -- like this bobcat
Wild bobcats are frequently sighted on the outskirts of Tucson
These two bobcats keep each other company as they stare intently at a nearby bird
This amazing creature is a barn owl. We were blown away by its beauty.
This barn owl was very alert and stared right back at us. Barn owls have the best hearing of any creature ever tested.
Unusual desert bloom
The hummingbird aviary was a personal favorite -- we visited it twice!
This great horned owl seems every bit as curious about us as we are about him
Owls have spectacular binocular vision, allowing them to pinpoint prey in dim light. This one seems to be singling us out at the moment!
Here she is feeding her chicks. We could see their tiny beaks sticking up over the nest as they cheeped for food. Too cute!
Some of the most beautiful things in the world come in very small packages
Hummingbirds can beat their wings up to 80 times a SECOND!
This little hummingbird weighs about as much as a penny
Our favorite free flight raptor experience was having this horned owl fly just inches over our heads. We could feel the whoosh of air as he swooped by.
This ram has quite the set of horns -- which can weigh up to 30 pounds
We got to see this roadrunner being trained for future free flight exhibitions
Bighorn sheep like this one are found in the mountains and steep foothills of the Sonoran Desert
Here you can see the great horned owl's gorgeous wingspan as he lands with a tidbit of raw meat in his beak
The American kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America. We've seen it hunting in the wild by rapidly beating its wings and hovering over its prey.
Uh oh, he caught me looking at him!
Mexican wolves are the most endangered type of wolf in the world. This one eyes us warily through the branches.
This odd picture of two bighorn sheep looks like a Picasso painting
This tawny mountain lion has quite the perch on high
Don't do it!
Yikes! This bighorn sheep made it look easy climbing down what looked to my eyes like an untraversable cliff face
This is no "dead desert" but a desert richly alive with growth
On top of all the amazing wildlife, we really enjoyed the rich desert scenery at the Sonoran Desert Museum
We learned the larger female Harris hawk sometimes asserts herself by supplanting or pushing smaller males off the tops of the saguaros
For our final raptor flight exhibition, we got to see a family of Harris hawks soaring and hunting together – something highly unusual for hawks
Dead saguaros have a skeletal beauty all their own
This little fellow's heart beats about 1,200 times per minute
The Sonoran Desert has made us rethink what a desert environment can be like