Wrote an entire post about the snow we had to celebrate both the State of Arizona’s 100th birthday and Valentine’s Day, both on February 14th. 

Unfortunately, WordPress ate my oh so very insightful comments and I am not inspired to write them again. 

So for your enjoyment, without too many words to distract you from the beautiful scenery, here are some images of the Tucson Mountains viewed from the Visitor Center at Saguaro National Park West.



On the way home today I saw a desert tortoise attempting to cross the road, it was about half way across the pavement.  I made a u-turn as soon as I safely could, and slowly drove, with the flashers flashing, to where I had seen it, while a couple of cars barely missed driving over the tortoise.  With some trepidation, I stopped the car in the middle of the road leaving a bit of distance between me and the tortoise and hoping that no one would rear end my car.  But, that if someone did, the tortoise and I would be far enough to be out of harms way.

As soon as I got near the creature, its head and legs dissapeared into the carapace.  I sweetly murmured ‘hello sweetie, don’t pee on me’ (if you have ever attempted to move a desert torotoise, you will understand my murmurings) and carried it to the side of the road I thought it was heading for.  Obviously, I was wrong, because as soon as it was back on solid ground, out came the head and the legs, and after a swift u-turn, it headed back towards the pavement.  Once again I sweetly murmured to it and carried it to the other side of the road.  Apparently this is what it wanted, because once the head and legs were out again, it made a bee line for the brush.

You may now be asking yourselves about the heading of this blog and what it has to do with helping a tortoise cross the road. 

 The Arizona Game and Fish Department has an adoption program, administered in this area by the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, for desert tortoises that cannot be released back into the wild and I have been thinking of adopting one.  Adoption is not exactly correct, because when one adopts a desert tortoise, one becomes its guardian.  The desert tortoise is not yours, it belongs to the State of Arizona, and one cannot sell it or give it to anyone you please.  If one cannot continue as the tortoise’s guardian, it must be returned to Arizona Game and Fish. 

There are some very strict requirements as to the size and location of the enclosure, the location and shape of at least one artificial burrow within the enclosure, the substrate and the type of plants that can be in the enclosure.  Obviously there are also some very specific guidelines for their diet and water requirements and the importance of having shade during all times of the day for cover is very much emphasized. 

I think I have a good area that is already enclosed that would make a good home for a desert tortoise.  There is a lonely shrub growing there that, if appropriate, could be nurtured back to health, additional plants could be added and it is shady in the mornings and has a shaded area in the afternoon.  I know several people who have adopted desert tortoises and they are very happy with the arrangement.  The question is – do I want that responsibility?

Since desert tortoises are now going into hibernation, I would not be able to adopt one until the Spring of next year.  Plenty of time to make a decision and do some remodeling.

Who has seen a tarantula ‘in person’?

I had never seen one ‘in person’ outside some sort of container until I walked into my bedroom one night about a year ago, and  see this big, fuzzy thing walking on the wall over my bed.  I was glad I knew enough about them not to be scared, scream and run away, because they really are impressive looking creatures.

Tarantulas are basically harmless to humans.  Yes, they can bite you if you poke them, and you may wind up with a bunch of urticating ‘hairs’ in your hand, which will give you mild discomfort, if you try to hold them.  But other than that, they cannot do much to you.

Tarantulas are part of the spider family and like all arachnids, have 8 legs.  The desert tarantula is quite large and the male is much darker than the female which is sometimes known as ‘blonde tarantula’.  Females usually stay in their burrows while males will go out spring through fall searching for females with the sole purpose of mating . 

They are pretty long lived, it takes about 5-6 years for them to reach maturity.  The male will die young, in the year he reaches maturity, after he has mated with as many females as he can.  The female however, will live on a few additional years .

Oh, and what did I do with the tarantula that came to visit?  I swept him out the front door.

at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum came to an end last Saturday.  I am going to miss them!

The Desert Museum is a different place after the sun goes down.  The animals act differently, many of them become active when the sun starts going down and the day begins to cool off.  That includes both the animals on exhibit by the Museum, and those from the neighborhood that come to visit.  Needless to say, we had quite a number of snake sightings, mostly Western Diamonback Rattlesnakes and coachwhips, particularly during the month of August. 

But for me, the highlight was coming across a coral snake – beautiful, colorful and quite small.  Its venom is quite potent, but its mouth is so small, you almost have to put your fingers in his mouth in order to be bitten.  Not to alarm future visitors, the staff is very efficient at safely catching the snakes and relocating them to another area where they are neither a danger to the visitors, nor the visitors a danger to them.

Another creature that literally shines during SSE’s is the scorpion.  Under a blacklight, scorpions flouresce.  Visitors, particularly the younger set, which are quite awake and curious until 10pm when the doors close, become avid scorpion searchers.  They shine their black lights into every crevice of the stone walls to find these elusive little creatures.  Who would have thought scorpions would be such an attraction!

Then we have the flying creatures, mainly bats, moths and other types of insects.  I was fascinated by the ecolocator, which allows us to hear the bat’s sonar clicks as they hunt for insects around the Riparian area.  I was somewhat less fascinated (but that is a personal bias, others were enthralled) by the variety of moths and insects that were attracted to a white sheet and bright light set up just for that purpose.  I must admit though, that a lot of the beetles and moths I saw were quite beautiful.  The moths looked as if they had been gently painted in some muted colors.   And I never would have imagined that some beetles had such gorgeous colors and patterns.  Others I will just say were interesting and leave it at that.

As if that were not enough, I found some visitors to be as interesting as the animals they came to see.  This is a different crowd than the daytime visitors.  Rather than out-of-town visitors and tourists, they are mostly local, knowleadgeable and they love to do this every year.   They come every Saturday throughout the summer for a stroll around the grounds and dinner at one of the restaurants.  I am happy to say that I have made friends with some of them. 

I did not meet him, but I heard about a young boy that has been coming for years(!) – his favorite stop is the saguaro stew station.  Kudus to the parents for encouraging him to learn about something that obviously fascinates his young mind.  Oh, and what is saguaro stew, you ask?  It is the rotting remains of a saguaro that has died and is chock full of little creatures of interest.  Well, you did ask, and yes, we do look at EVERYTHING in the Desert Museum.

 One couple is as knowleadgeable about the Museum and the critters as anyone I have met.  And after the Museum closes, they stop on the way home at various pullouts on the road looking for more creatures!

Another individual is an extraordinarily good photographer that has perfected a technique for photographing scorpions under a mixture of black and white light so that the flourescense shows and one can also clearly see details, including the very tiny babies on a mother’s back.  I am delighted that he gave me a couple of prints of his scorpion photographs.  And by the way, his hummingbird pictures are some of the best I have ever seen. 

So yes, I am going to miss going to the Desert Museum on Saturday evenings and meeting interesting people and critters.  Something to look forward to doing again next summer.