It feels good to get out though, and I leave at dawn to visit the Sonoran Desert Museum. This combination of botanical garden, zoo and natural history museum is a celebration of desert life forms; 392 acres lovingly cared for on a picturesque ridge overlooking a wide blue valley west of Tucson. Two miles of paved pathway wind through habitats found in the Sonoran desert; desert scrub, grasslands and riparian corridor. Each biome houses enclosures holding representative wildlife from the area. I just missed the mountain lion cub, but saw wolves, prairie dogs and javelina.
The museum’s rich habitats also attract wildlife that comes in on its own, lizards, snakes and birds. On this scorcher of a day nearly as many docents walked the grounds as visitors; and one kind volunteer offered a special sighting. She led me through the riparian corridor and pointed into a palm tree where an oriole nest was stitched to the underside of a frond high overhead. Two babies were visible in the pendulum nest, their oversized beaks wobbling atop scrawny necks.
In the walk-in aviary a gold finch posed as if on stage and poured out a melody. A mom sat stoically on her tiny nest in full view of passersby in the hummingbird house, while a profusion of glittering hummers zoomed from blossom to blossom tanking up on nectar. On my way out of the museum, just after 10 am, a vivid red cardinal caught my eye. Cardinals eat insects, seeds and berries. This gaudy visitor surely appreciates the unique natural history museum as much as anyone.