Monday, April 8, 2013

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Our first trip while playing tourist in Tucson was to one of my favorite places, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  I had been here once before and was excited to show it to Left Brain.  He planned to bring a book to read in the car as he thought it was going to be walking around in the blazing sun reading markers describing which cactus we were looking at.

Oh no, no, no.  This is not like that at all!  It is a treasure trove of plants, animals, docent guided lectures, live raptor shows and more things to look at than you can possibly do in one visit.

The next series of blogs will be covering our visit to this magical place.  The first thing we did upon arriving was to race to the 10:00 live raptor show.  I knew from before that it was necessary to get there 20 - 30 minutes early, standing in the open sun to be in a prime position to see the birds.  This is one of Left Brain's least favorite things to do, sun or no sun.

But to me it was worth it.  At that show they flew several kinds of birds.  None of the birds are tethered and are trained with positive reinforcement.  They are quite free to fly off whenever they choose to.

The narrator describes the types of birds seen and the rules to protect them during the show.  This is necessary because they fly directly overhead of the crowd and it's not uncommon to feel the breeze from the wingbeat.  It is absolutely thrilling to have this kind of open encounter.

at the 2:00 show I changed my vantage point to be able to see the crowd

There are people positioned outside the crowd area that place small hunks of meat on nearby branches and signal to the birds where to land, causing the birds to fly back and forth over our heads and allowing for close up views of landing and taking off.

All throughout this show the narrator describes the behaviour of what we are witnessing and educates the crowd as to their hunting behaviour, what they eat, where they nest and so on.

The Peregrin falcons were the most exciting species to observe.  There were four of them flying at once and they would soar up into the thermals, often disappearing into the sky.

Then when the signal was given and when they were ready, they would dive straight down to the handler.  I figure the person waiting for this bird to land has to have nerves of steel.

my vantage point at the 2:00 show put me right next to the handler on the upper level

Even though they are small and weigh only about a pound they are capable of taking out sand hill cranes and bald eagles with their attacks that weigh ten times their weight.  They are like little commando jets when they attack.

These birds are amazing and I love the fact that they are free for this show and the way all the animals are treated at this museum.

Future blogs will cover some of the other sights from this trip.  There's just too much to cram into one blog for now.

Long Live the Queen of the Raptors


  1. I am drooling all over myself ... I love this post. You have seen three raptors that I have never seen in person and would love to see. The Harris Hawk, the Ferruginous Hawk and the Northern Hawk Owl. And, I love that they are not tethered. This must be a perfect place for them. We have flown raptors but they do have to wear equipment and they are kept in Mews when they aren't out flying. That is probably because we are in a metropolitin area and our birds are rescue birds that can't be allowed to fly free either because of an injury or because they are imprinted. But, oh, you have taken my breath away and what awesome pictures you were able to take. You should do more with your camera ... you are really quite good at it. So thank you for this treat ... I'll await eagerly for the rest of your posts. Loved it Queen of Raptors (can't find a different one that fits today ... Queen of Raptors is perfect!).

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  2. Yes, our dear Queen of Raptors, wonderful pictures. I was at this Desert Museum in February. Your feather details are amazing. May I ask what camera you are using. (I dropped mine in a pond in Costa Rica. U have my email, too. :-) )pond lois

  3. Wow! Much better photos than my Cannon Power Shot. Beautiful!

  4. Oh wow, I'm drooling with envy too!! What gorgeous photos! Oh how thrilling it must be to watch these fabulous birds up close. I can't wait to see more of your photos from this museum trek. Enjoy your day, hugs, Edna B.