Phainopepla

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February Rocks

They say time flies when you're having fun, so I must be having a ball!  Where have the days gone?  First there was the trip to Bisbee, then the Gem and Mineral Show, out of town visitors to entertain, days at the Desert Museum, Super Bowl party, gardening, writing, neighborhood meetings and activities, political meetings, birding, hiking, photographing and golf.  Oh, now I see where they've gone.

So I'll do a little recap here.  First a note about the new gadget on the left.  Recently, Blogger's Word Verification has stepped up the difficulty of the words you must decipher before leaving a comment on a blog that has it enabled.  It was always a tad annoying, but now it's ridiculous.  The words are so convoluted that sometimes it takes me three tries to get it right, and frequently I give up in frustration and protest.  I've never had Captcha (Word Verification) enabled on my blog and have never (knock on wood) been plagued with spam.  I have begun seeing more and more blogs with the Word Verification Free signs and messages and I am now promoting that movement.  Please, be kind to your readers and don't make them work so hard to leave a message.

January, February and March are the Busy Season in Tucson, with snowbirds in town and lots of big events.  The biggest of them all is the Gem and Mineral Show which takes over the entire city for two weeks and attracts sellers and buyers from all over the world.  Huge white tents sprout like mushrooms in the forest and many motels are filled with room after room of all things gem, mineral, meteorite and fossil.  There is a cacophony of languages and food aromas, and so many delights for the eyes.  It's really hard to know where to start, and virtually impossible to see it all.

First came the Desert Museum's Mineral Madness, and of course I had to bring home a couple of great rocks. Mostly, I look for things that I can put in the yard, like a nice, large piece of petrified wood that I found in the Yard Rocks barrel, sold for a dollar a pound.
Great Prices on Minerals at ASDM's Mineral Madness

Then it was on to the big tents, outdoor vendors and finally to Tucson Gem and Mineral Society Show at the  convention center.  I didn't take any photos in the tents, but just imagine hundreds of booths selling everything from gold and diamond jewelry to huge amethyst geodes, giant meteorites to ancient fossils, gemstones of every type by the millions, tables heaped with pearls, beads, coral, jade, turquoise and agate.

The Desert Museum sponsors a booth at the TGMS show to promote the Museum and that's where I spent 4 hours on a Thursday morning, demonstrating our meteorite and mineral ID education kits and extolling the virtues of the Desert Museum.  After my shift I am free to roam the aisles on the floor of the show, taking in the amazing sights.  A wonderful feature of this show are the exhibits that always center around a featured mineral.  This year, in honor of Arizona's 100th birthday, the theme was Arizona minerals.  Famous for copper, Arizona is also known among mineral afficianados as the  producer of some of the world's finest azurite, malachite, wulfenite and turquoise.
Carole at the Desert Museum Booth


Bisbee Minerals

TGMS Show at the Convention Center

For the most part, this has been a very warm and dry winter.  Fine and dandy for our winter visitors and all the outdoor activities and events, but not so great for our wildflower display or the enduring drought.  Lizards have been seen scampering around as if it were spring and even a few snakes have ventured out of their winter dens.  Flowers are popping up everywhere and birds are busy building their nests.


My husband planted his vegetable garden this week, so far with tomatoes, squash and peppers.  We're hoping the threat of frost is past, although this morning was still in the 30's.


The Desert Museum is on just about every Tucson visitor's itinerary, which means that this is our busy season too.  There's a lot going on, with morning and afternoon Raptor Free Flight programs, new exhibits in the gallery, Running Wild and Live and (Sort Of) on the Loose in the theater, a morning bird walk, four tours,and many animal demos and docent talks throughout the day.

I'm always happy when my schedule allows me to attend the Free Flight programs and talk to visitors about the raptors and our amazing staff and volunteers who train and handle the birds. The morning program contrasts and compares some of the many raptors who call Arizona home - great horned owl, prairie falcon, gray hawk, ferruginous hawk, Chihuahuan ravens (not truly raptors, but pretty cool to watch fly) and red-tailed hawk.

Great Horned Owl comin' at ya!

Gray hawk, getting a little reward
The social and unique Harris' hawks take over for the afternoon program, flying so close to visitors that people dare not raise their cameras above their heads.  These beautiful birds hang together in family groups, hunting cooperatively and assisting one another in territory and nest protection.

Our longtime resident roadrunner has moved into new digs in the Life on the Rocks exhibit and seems to be adapting quite well, looking over his territory and interacting with visitors. The roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico, not Arizona, and is a member of the cuckoo family.  Watch his antics for a while and that family connection will be easy to see.


On my 1:30 tour I only had four people, all part of one family.  The elderly man and woman had been to the museum before and were bringing his sister and niece out for a visit.  They specifically wanted to see the animals, so off we went to find them some.  Along the way we talked about jojoba and creosote bush, saguaro and barrel cactus.  They were troopers and hung in there with me for well over an hour and a half, interested in everything we discussed.  Close to the end, the woman asked if I could guess how old Henry was.  Well, he looked about 80, but was really 92!  Amazing!  We can only hope to be that agile and engaged at that age.

Since Friday was the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count, I did my counting at the Desert Museum between all my other activities.  I got 17 species, which wasn't great but it will have to do.  There were lots of black-chinned, black-throated, white-crowned and Brewer's sparrows in one of the gardens, and the phainopeplas were courting.  Some of the usual suspects did not make an appearance for me, but I did see pyrrhuloxia and Abert's towhee, Anna's and Costa's hummers, cardinal, curve-billed thrasher, lesser goldfinch, verdin, Gila woodpecker, mockingbird and mourning dove.

Here's wishing you busy, happy days in February, and good endings to all your days!
The End

12 comments:

  1. Lovely photos. I was hoping to see some Gray Hawks this past weekend, but dipped on that regard.
    I'll have to stop by the museum next time I'm in Tucson. thanks for sharing.

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  2. Excellent, as always. I never pictured the RR as this. The image I have of these birds are the ones from the cartoons with Willie chasing it. :)

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  3. You have been busy!!! I have never been to the TGMS....in part, because rocks aren't my thing. BUT you are correct about February being the most awesome month of the year! March and April are pretty great too:) I have a 4 day now and I'd love to film that owl. They told me in the mornings....is it true? And is it regular? I know they usually do the Harris Hawks in the afternoon. I agree with you on the word verification bit. Tomorrow it's hunting for wildflowers at Catalina State Park:)

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  4. Yes, you have been busy. Love ALL the rocks. If Quartzsite isn't overwhelming enough, then go to Tucson. Wish I had space to display all my rock treasures.

    This, seemingly, early spring is very scary but your flowers are gorgeous.

    I'll bet volunteering at the Desert Museum is quite gratifying. Reminds me of my volunteer days at the California Living Museum outside Bakersfield. Great shots of the raptors. We had a very friendly Harris Hawk at the Seattle Zoo also.

    Keep having fun and post when able.

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  5. The beauty of nature. These are wonderful photographs. Glad I found this site like a treasure, it's full of amazing photographs.

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  6. It's looking like spring there in the desert! I enjoy your bird photos - the owl is a great action shot!

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  7. Beautiful photos! I look forward to reading more, going back in time.

    Roxanne
    The Good Luck Duck

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  8. Lovely photos, The flowers and mosaic are beautiful. The owl and raptor are awesome captures in flight. And I love the roadrunner, it is on my liswt of bird I really want to see. Wonderful post, thanks for sharing.

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  9. Your pictures are just wonderful! February is one of my favorite months in Tucson. :)

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  10. Wow. The list of what you do stuns me. And that owl picture. Wish I could get a flight picture that good. And thanks for sharing your wide knowledge with us.

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  11. I hope my blog doesn't have a captcha because I don't know how I'd turn it off!

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