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Sonoran Desert Museum, Part 1

Here is an Arizona riddle for you — when is a museum not a museum? When it is a zoo. That is the mystique of the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson. It is, in fact, a zoo featuring the plants and animals from the Sonoran Desert — that part of our country encompassing the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix area) and south into Mexico.

From the country road leading to the museum, look west and check out this view of Tucson Mountain Park.

To the north is a hill with the tiniest sign of human intrusion into the wild desert — a small building near the top. Sorry, I did not climb to take a closer look since I was anxious to get to the museum.

But here is a preview of some of the flora to expect in the museum — a saguaro cactus complete with flowers.

In case you are not familiar with saguaro you might find interesting the following information from Wikipedia — "Main pollinators are honey bees, bats, and white-winged doves. In most years, diurnal visitors are the main contributors for fruit, most of them honey bees. Other diurnal pollinators are birds such as Costa's hummingbird, the black-chinned hummingbird, the broad-billed hummingbird, the hooded oriole, Scott's oriole, the Gila woodpecker, the gilded flicker, the verdin, and the house finch.

The main nocturnal pollinator is the lesser long-nosed bat, feeding on the nectar. A number of floral characteristics are geared toward bat pollination: nocturnal opening of the flowers, nocturnal maturation of pollen, very rich nectar, position high above ground, durable blooms that can withstand a bat's weight, and fragrance emitted at night. Further, the amino acids in the pollen appear to help sustain lactation in bats."

A few miles later, I parked in the museum parking lot next to a large bird nest. I am not sure what type of bird constructed it and there were no signs of birds, chicks or eggs so I guess it will remain a bit of a mystery.

Upon entering, I encountered a view similar to the one I shared above but this one included the flora planted inside the museum.

It was the end of flowering season for cactus but there were a few holdouts. This appears to be a variety of hedgehog cactus.

And I believe this is a barrel cactus with perhaps its last flower of the season.

Next I encountered a nice stand of Lantana.

Plants and animals of the Sonoran desert — a Queen butterfly dining on nectar from milkweed with blanketflowers in the background.

Here's an interesting fact I just discovered — the Queen butterfly is a relative of the more famous Monarch buttery — but does not migrate. Both feed on the nectar of milkweed.

When I first loaded this photo into the computer, I was disappointed because only the one butterfly and two flowers were in focus. However, as I studied it for a while, I was able to crop it in an interesting way and it gave it an artistic touch — and then solicited Johnny's opinion — two thumbs up. Hope you like it too.

Wow, I was lucky to get this close to another Queen butterfly before I scared it away with my big imposing camera and lens. Love it.

These beautiful flowers are Autumn Sage — hummingbirds love them.

Look but keep your fingers away from this Pincushion Cactus — it will "bite" you.

Yucca, a common sight in the Sonoran Desert. Exotic and beautiful.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com