Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

On our first full day we left our Holiday Inn Garden – Airport at 8:15 after a buffet breakfast and headed to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. The Museum includes “21 acres with two miles of walking paths through various habitats”, 230 animal species (living in the Warden Aquarium; the Reptile, Invertebrate & Amphibian Hall; Mountain Woodland exhibit; Desert Grassland exhibit; Cat Canyon exhibit; Hummingbird Aviary; Life Underground Exhibit; the Desert Loop Trail; the Riparian Corridor and Birds of the Sonoran Desert), 1200 types of plants with 56,000 individual specimens, a regional mineral collection and an exhibit presenting prehistoric Arizona, including a Sonorasaurus. This is essentially an outdoor museum with enclosed exhibits scattered throughout the 21 acre park.

We made sure we got to the museum before the 10:00 Raptor Free Flight Show. “Raptor” comes from Latin meaning “seizing or plundering”. Common characteristics that distinguish raptors from other birds include: good eyesight, curved beaks, sharp talons and they are carnivorous.

For illustrative purposes a raven was released first. A raven is not considered a raptor in some classification systems (such as here) because it does not have strong feet with talons. Below are pictures of a raven.

Then they released other types of raptors. Because I was outside, with no way to take notes, I have no idea the exact species they released but you can see from the pictures below that these birds have much stronger feet with stronger “toes” than other birds and their beaks are curved.

Although other people in our group really enjoyed this museum it was not my favorite. I thought it was too broad and didn’t do any one thing well. They only had two animals in Cat Canyon. I did not see any birds in the Birds of the Sonoran Desert. The lights didn’t seem to work in Underground Life. I would not step foot in the Reptile, Invertebrate & Amphibian Hall so I cannot comment on it. I was too lazy to walk down the hill (necessitating a walk back up) to the Desert Loop Trail. I will admit I didn’t cover it via photos as well as other places so this posting is weak but hopefully you will find something you enjoy or can learn from.

Labyrinth Garden

Since I saw the Chartres Labyrinth (dating from around 1220 AD) on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France I have been interested in labyrinths. I was surprised to find a labyrinth at the Arizona Sonora Museum. I was curious about why I would find one here. Reading the explanatory boards I found out sketches of various forms of labyrinths have been found etched in rocks as petroglyphs in the American southwest that date back to 4000 years ago.

Labyrinths make use of the circle and spirals to create a meandering but purposeful path. There is one route to go into the center and come back out. Walking the labyrinth requires no thought. You cannot get lost, you can’t make a mistake – by staying on the path, going step-by-step you will reach the goal – the center of the labyrinth. Labyrinths were a symbol of journey and spiritual renewal in both cultures.

After lunch at the casual Ocotillo Restaurant (a pre-ordered box lunch with a turkey sandwich, an apple, potato chips and a cookie) we spent another hour at the museum and left for the Visitor’s Center at Saguaro National Park.