Love is in the air in Tucson - birds are mating, buds are popping and early flowers are blossoming while snowbirds & naturalists flock to the desert.
This is my second "family" trip to Arizona. The first was seven years ago and Sedona was the main hub. Since then, my parents have been spending a big part of their winter in Southern Arizona to benefit from the healing properties of dry heat and desert hiking.
While we are having one of the worst winters in history in Montreal, Tucson has experienced one of the warmest winters on record! The flowers are one month ahead of their game, making it a perfect week to experience what my mother calls "la magie du desert".
We hiked every day - hitting either the Sabino Canyon or the Saguaro National Park. We walked amongst the Sentinals of the Desert, also called the Saguaro cacti as well as Prickly Pear, Cholla, Barrel, Hedgehog and Pin Cushion cacti. Notable plants included the Aguave and Ocotillo and Hummingbird Yucca. The variety of landscapes is refreshing: dry sand, rocks to full on greenery, and yes, there are mountains for the cardio inclined. Hats & water were a must to keep us going.
A big highlight was the Tuesday 8:30am plants and birds walk at the Sabino Canyon State park. Our volunteer guides, Heather, Eileen and Edie were eager to share 3 hours of their expertise as we scavenged the desert with a group of 20 or so “mature” nature enthusiast.
1. There are over 200 birds in Sabino Canyon - March brings unique mating calls and nest building activity
2. The desert is starting to bloom and will reach peak state in April
3. Honest hummingbirds and their nests (hummingbirds strategically will build their nests around a hawks nest to protect themselves from predators such as snakes)
4. Cedar waxwing eating mistletoe berries
5. Cactus wren (National State Bird) singing his heart out
6. Watching a Black-throated sparrow call to get a new mate
7. The elegance of the Rose mallow- hidden on the edge of a mountain top path
8. Limber bush also called Sangre de Christo since it produces sap that dries blood red
9. Odora- lovely flowering plant that produces distinct odour and soothing relief when ingested
10. The most adorable Roadrunner frantically crossing the path ahead of us
11. London Rocket -delicious mustard taste known to be the first plant that appeared after the London Great Fire in 1666
12. Africanized killer bees (periphery of nest was protected, we heard them and this was good enough for me)
13. Empress Leilia, Pipevine Swallowtail, Desert Orange Tip, Dainty Sulphur butterflies
14. Lupin flower (bud turns bright red when pollinated - otherwise purple)
15. Fox on rock skat (if you see wild droppings on a rock, most likely to be from a fox)
Top misses include Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Gila monster, any type of snake – oh, and binoculars.
Flying back, replenished and ready to send winter off. Daydreaming about the Desert's unique value proposition and wondering what it would be like to return in April. The magic has stuck again.