Josh unexpectedly had the day off yesterday so we spent most of the day at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, close to Saguaro National Park (West). We bought the family membership last year when we first moved to the area and it is definitely worth the $125 a year for all 8 of us! The single-use admission tickets would have cost more I think.
The Desert Museum is a unique experience: a zoo, botanical garden, an aquarium, natural history museum, and art gallery all rolled into one. We loved every minute and even though it was our second visit, we still were not able to see everything. We will have to come back again to see the aquarium, art gallery, the raptor free flight and walk the full desert loop trail. The museum’s high rating on TripAdvisor is well-deserved!
This was Josh’s first visit to the Desert Museum. It was actually quite busy today because of the federal holiday (Martin Luther King, Jr.) but the park is so large that everyone filters through and it wasn’t too crowded once we were inside.
Because the Desert Museum covers so many different areas of interest, I will be focusing on mostly the animals in this post.
We stopped by the reptiles and invertebrates building first. The kids are always fascinated by the snakes, lizards, frogs, toads, and bugs here.
Sonoran Green Toads having a meeting
There are often volunteers throughout the park who have tables set up with animals or objects of interest that they will talk about. I highly suggest stopping at these because there is a lot to learn from the volunteers! This tarantula was in the reptile and invertebrate building.
While we were in this building, Josh was able to show a volunteer a picture of a toad he had seen in our driveway during monsoon season last year. We have been wondering for months what type it was but couldn’t identify it. The volunteer told us it was a spadefoot toad. Hurrah! We were very happy to find this out.
Next, we stopped by another exhibit table and learned about saguaros.
We learned that the holes we often see in saguaros, including some of the ones on our property, are made by either a Gila woodpecker or a Gilded flicker. They dig out a cavity in the saguaro and leave for a little while. When they come back, the saguaro has formed this hard covering around the cavity, a perfect home for the woodpecker or flicker. The saguaro “boot” is one of the things that remains when a saguaro dies.
These are baby saguaros! The oldest of these baby saguaros is about 13 months old. Baby saguaros have a hard time making it. There are many things that can keep them from growing up into the saguaros that we see in the desert.
This squirrel was hanging out by the saguaro talk area. At first, we thought it wasn’t real because it was sitting so still!
There is a simulated cave that the kids love to walk through. It’s one of our favorite areas. At the end, there is this digital microscope that you can use to see the structure of different minerals as well as a few insects. Right outside the exit from the cave is a simulated mine dump area where the kids love to go searching for interesting rocks. You are allowed to take one or two samples home with you too! This time there was a volunteer who was able to help identify rocks. She was so patient with my kids and they were glad to have the help!
We had to wait a few minutes to see Strawberry the Black Bear since she was in her back enclosure. A zoo worker set up some food for Strawberry to eat in the outside enclosure, like marshmallows, mango, a boiled egg, and some grapes. It was fun to watch Strawberry eat the marshmallows.
Our next stop was Cat Canyon where we saw an ocelot, two bobcats, and a gray fox.
This ocelot enjoyed eating a dead rat. Afterwards, it went and took a nap!
This handsome gray fox wandered around its enclosure before climbing the tree to take a nap.
The rest of the animal pictures are from various other areas of the park. We were having so much fun just wandering around that I forgot to keep track of where we were!
Bighorn sheep taking a break. It was after lunch by this time and I think most of the animals, even the birds, had decided it was naptime! Smart animals!
Josh took some of the kids down the desert loop trail a little way to find some javelinas. They saw these two taking a nap.
There was a neat exhibit that is especially good for kids called Life in the Rocks. You could see the exhibits above ground and below ground (or underwater). This was a stream exhibit and there were a lot of frogs to see! We also saw a skunk in its burrow underground.
The next few pictures will be from the hummingbird aviary.
The hummingbird aviary was fun to walk through. We tried to be quiet so we wouldn’t scare them away. I think the hummingbirds above are broad-billed hummingbirds.
This cute rufous hummingbird was hiding in a tree. At least, it didn’t fly away while we were looking at it.
There were so many things to take pictures of at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I can’t wait to come here again in the spring! I can only imagine what the flowers are like!