Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is divided into two parts, one on the east side of Tucson, and the other on the west side. Today we visited the east section as we headed to Willcox for Wings over Willcox. Two immediate things - it has fewer Saguaro cacti than the west section, the result of cattle grazing for a longer period. Also, it seems more colorful, even in mid-January, which isn't really reflected in this picture. Take a look at this purple Cholla and you can see part of the color. The desert mistletoe has a reddish tint too, and grows more often than the park staff would prefer I bet. We headed down the loop drive, stopping for overlooks, a bird song heard through the car window, or just a chance to walk down a trail for a while.
Desert Mistletoe
A bird sang sweetly from the top of a cactus, and at first we thought it sounded like a Mockingbird, changing songs frequently. However, when we actually found it, we saw the most curved bill ever, and knew it was the Curve-billed Thrasher, a relative of the Mockingbird. As we walked along, it seemed to follow us down the trail, just to make sure we were properly appreciative of it's talents. When we tried to approach, it swooped down to the ground and disappeared in the brush.
The top of a cactus is the favorite place for a little Gila Woodpecker gossip.

OK, I admit to having a vivid imagination sometimes. I keep seeing Saguaro as people. Guess it comes from those Christmas ornaments with Saguaro in costumes. Sometimes, they are doing a square dance like this cacti couple. "Swing your partner" has a new meaning in the desert! Other times I picture them signaling to each other in semaphore with the position of their arms. Do they hold their arms in those same positions after people are gone? Do they send different messages when they are alone in the desert? We'll never know, will we, since they resume the last recorded position whenever someone looks again. The ones with arms hanging down must have been talking the longest and got tired. I kept expecting to see the Lone Ranger and Silver galloping around the rocks and cactus in some spots.
Waiting for the Lone Ranger. High Ho Silver!

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