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SW trip part 2


On my first full day in the SW we visited the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. This is an amazing place to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit the Sonoran Desert and it was high on my list of must-see destinations on this trip. We were there about five hours and could have easily spent two days exploring all the nooks and crannies of the place. There are exhibits of animals of various habitats – including aquatic animals, plants and how they cope with the desert climate, raptor flights, and so on. They had just started a raptor flight when we arrived so we saw a number of trained hawks and owls. I was surprised by the number of hummingbird species. They had their own aviary. I wish there’d been a docent there to help me identify all of them. I’ve tried to guess and I think I got the males right but the females, I just don’t know.

If you’re ever in the Tucson area, it’s well worth the time to see the Desert Museum.

A friend joined me for a full moon paddle on Pearrygin Lake last night. It was a perfect evening for it with glassy water, no power boats and warm weather. At 8:01, we could see the creeping light of the moon over the hills to east. As it came up and we watched with binoculars, we could see the fir trees silhouetted against the bright disk. It was truly an awesome sight. My photo does not do it justice.


Too high ISO, boat movement, lens not long enough but still, you get the idea!

We were also treated to a chorus of Poorwill’s from the back side of Studhorse Mountain; bats, some owls that were very light colored and lots of crickets. When we first got on the water we saw Mallards, mergansers, at least two kinds of grebes and probably a Wood Duck too. This time of year, the ducks are such a challenge. Lots of Red-winged Blackbirds. One Great Blue Heron was fairly cranky about being disturbed by our presence in the dark and made its opinion known as it flew across the lake.

One the way home I saw a Great-horned Owl, a raccoon and in Winthrop at the four way stop, a mule deer doe carefully walked across the street using the crosswalk as I patiently waited for her. She was the only one walking around town at 10:00. I guess that’s a sign that the summer tourist season is over.

Page Springs is a BLM campground located just south of Malheur NWR on the Donner and Blitzen River. Just ten days before we arrived high water had forced some campers to higher ground so we picked a campsite on a hill to avoid that possibility. A small stream came off of Steens Mountain and rushed by our camper. During the day as snowmelt and rain contributed water to it, the level rose dramatically. At night, with cold temperatures, it dropped. The Donner and Blitzen was so high and loud, it was like being next to ocean waves with a constant roar that covered up most other sounds and lulled us to sleep every night. Despite cold temperatures and wind and rain we stayed warm in the little pop-up trailer and slept well. The last two nights of our stay were a little warmer and we were treated to a bird song that repeated itself over and over through the darkness. Based on what others say I have decided it must have been a Yellow-breasted Chat although it did not sound like any ‘typical’, as if there is a ‘typical’, chat call that I am familiar with.


This is the creek that rose and fell each day. I expect many years it sees little water and is dry in the summer.


The junipers are really magnificent.



The mosses and lichens are pretty amazing too, especially in this year of much water.



Long-eared Owls nest in the junipers and we were fortunate that some folks showed us the exact spot. I had gone there and searched that same area however they are so cryptic I did not find them on my own.


Sagebrush violet growing through an old deer skull.


Bitteroot was blooming on the plateau above the campground.



Yup, that’s snow on the truck.


Great-horned Owl branchlings. The nest tree was growing in the middle of a pond, a very secure place for a nest assuming the young birds don’t fall out of the tree.


Reflections on a side channel of the Donner and Blitzen River.


Teasel, an invasive, growing next to the river.


Lush greenery in the riparian areas. We were lucky it was cold. Otherwise the mosquitoes would have eaten us alive.


Lupine, sagebrush and a lomatium.


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