Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bryce Thompson Arboretum and Our First Dust Storm

The hummingbird sat poised on its branch cocking its head as if it were trying to see me better. I could see it was dark green above and below with a blue gorget and a reddish beak. The tail was a dark black/blue but I couldn't see the underside as it was blocked by the branch it was perched upon.
We were on a days outing with Alan and Sharon at the Bryce Thompson Arboretum. We had thought of taking a drive somewhere and they had suggested it. Both of us kind of looked at each other as we normally prefer rocks over plants, but as it turned out it exceeded our expectations and is another of those places we would go back to!.
They picked us up at 9:30 am and we left Apache Junction, hoping to have a nice excursion before the massive cold front arrived and a dust storm set in. It was a short drive down US 60 to the Arboretum and I used the time to do some homework on the bird list form the Arboretum website.
Parking the car we went into the visitor center and I drifted outside with Alan and headed a little ways down the path. A hummingbird appeared on the edge of a tree and flew around the corner of a shrub. Following it, I first saw a feeder and then the hummer perched on a branch. It was a new life list bird for me, a broad-billed hummingbird, and I pointed it out to Renita when she arrived! Separating, she went to another feeder and waved me over. Another new hummer, an Anna's Hummingbird, fed and weaved and fed again giving us a great view of its colors.
Two new birds in only a matter of minutes! Alan and Sharon both were realizing how slow the walk with us would be as we hadn't even started on the main trail! Another hummer appeared, a black chinned hummingbird. It wasn't a new one for us, as we had seen one at the Red Rock Lodge near Flaming Gorge, but what a day already.
Alan and Sharon both started pointing out birds to us and also pointing out the different plants and trees and cactus.
Sharon explained that the Arboretum had been built by Boyce Thompson, a rich industrialist from the 19th century, and that he had imported plants and trees from deserts all over the world. Across a small bridge and we were suddenly transported to Australia amidst a grove of towering red gum trees. Alan stopped and showed us an eucalyptus gum tree and explained that he had used to make tea from it while living in Australia,(Alan was an Australian Tennis Pro who came to the United States where he met Sharon).
We stopped at a shearing shed and it looked pretty much like some of the places in Wyoming. From there we next walked into a grove of different types of palm trees. A towering date palm impressed me the most, all though I couldn't see any fruit.
Leaving the palms we strolled along a arroyo, a dried stream bed, before heading up a slight inclined path. It led to several gazebos, which gave panoramic views of the arboretum and the surrounding desert.
A small dam pooled water and we watched several turtles sunning on a rock. A black colored bird drew our attention and we watched as it caught insects above the waters surface. Unconcerned with our presence we were able to find it in the bird book and it was another new life bird for us, a Black Phoebe.
We passed gorgeous golden barrel cactus and both Alan and Sharon warned us not to touch the Bunny Eared Cactus thorns. Sharon laughed and pointed out a jumping cactus.(She had read my blog and knew that I had been attacked by one at the White Tanks Regional Park.
It was an amazing place. Mexican Fence Cactus were another species that drew our attention. Renita pointed out the Fairy Hair cactus and again we were warned to never touch the fine haired cactus as they had the worst thorns to get out! It was a great piece of advice as we both wanted to feel the fine and delicate looking hairs.
We finished the trail and were rewarded with a coopers hawk high in a gum tree. Lunch time had arrived and we sat and discussed the place, again thanking Alan and Sharon for the days adventure.
Heading home, we drove out of the protected valley and right into the strong cold front. Winds whipped us and the dust lowered the visibility as I counted only seven towers of a passing power line before the rest became obscured. We arrived safely home, our fifth wheel, and spent the rest of the day inside, glad we were sitting and not traveling. Counting our bird list we found that we had spotted six new birds, a great day for us! Did I say retirement is good? Clear skies.

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