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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Last Flight out of Tucson

Cactus Wren feeding at Saguaro Cactus blossoms

Yesterday started with me eyeballing a Harris Hawk that soared past my rental car as I headed for the north district of Saguaro National Park. Wish the bird had been heading for the park so we could rendezvous there. Despite it being largely Harris Hawk free, I enjoyed most of my morning, driving the 8 mile loop, taking short - and I mean short - hikes along the route. Of course, the only reason I ever set foot in deserts, now I'm not a field biologist anymore, is to take pix. In other words, I don't do it for exercise or for love of sandy gravel, I do it solely for the photo ops.
Managed a through-the-cactus shot of this little Harris' Ground Squirrel
A trotting and looking annoyed, a Gambel's Quail hen
Gila Woodpecker engaging in deep research

As I did last year, I checked every Saguaro cactus along that long, l-o-n-g route hoping to see an Elf Owl peeking out of a cactus hole: no such luck this year.

Post-Saguaro NP I decided to check out nearby Colossal Cave Mountain Park. The park was HUMONGOUS with two distinct areas to it. The first was, no surprises here, is the cave.

Cave and its Entryway on the left, HUMONGOUS rest of park, on right
I only spent a short time at the Cave area and declined actually taking its tour. Honestly, when it's too warm, it would take either the world's largest, calorie free ice cream sundae or something tempting and illegal in several states to get me hiking. I was willing to walk - a bit - in a butterfly garden. The garden was located in the far-off-reaches of the park as seen in picture above.

The butterfly garden was in the La Posta Quemada Ranch portion of the park. The ranch has a riding stable (no I also won't ride when the temperatures mean both the horse and I are sweaty at the stand-still). There on the Ranch stood the HQ, which in the 1960s was a ranch house with a family. Here's a view inside the HQ.
Today a park HQ, once-upon-
a-time ranchero living room

V. lovely building, and it must have been fun to live in, that is, not to beat a dead & ailing horse, if it had air conditioning. Anyway, had a modest sandwich centered lunch bought at the HQ, then headed off to the butterfly garden next door.

Butterfly Garden and teeny bit of desert tortoise habitat
Nice and shady, which meant there was less swearing than I normally indulge in when walking around hot areas. There were goo-gobbers of butterflies alighting everywhere. They seemed trained to take off as I approached however. Oh well. Here were new flutterbys for the week, the only ones that deigned to hold still for a shot.
I present her majesty, the Queen Butterfly
Mormon Metalmark
After the butterfly garden I did some touring at the southern Saguaro Park district, and the best sighting there was the mangiest coyote I've seen this year. I can't say it was the mangiest I've ever seen, as I saw one a couple of years go that was so astoundingly ugly and mangy it nudged me towards believing in chupacabras. I had considered posting that coyote's picture on line, but I didn't want to be responsible for children accidentally viewing it and developing a life long aversion to the internet.

The butterfly garden was a nice end to a short week in southeast Arizona. How much do you want to bet, the minute I leave for home, the Plain-capped Star Throats will invade once again?

UPDATE: Yes. In mid July, a Plain-capped Starthroat flew into Madera Canyon for a few day's visit. Hum... just how did that bird know I'd left?   

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