Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cactus Critters

Just driving through Saguaro National Park (the one furthest east), you're liable to miss the best part.  There are sweeping landscapes and beautiful vistas, but what captures MY attention are the critters.

By the way, falling asleep for ten minutes, waking up and eating a two inch square piece of peanut brittle right before you go to bed is NOT a good idea.  You know, just in case you weren't aware of that fact.  It keeps you up for hours.  UGH!!
Back to the park, as you drive through, look for odd shaped appendages on the tall cactus.  You will sometimes find them to be birds, usually hanging out near holes (about the size of a baseball) in the cactus.   That is if the guy shuts off his diesel truck engine.  I had to look close, but I think this is a Gila Woodpecker.
Amazingly, the hard brown spiky branches of the ocotillos have leafed out to a wonderful color of green, atop which you'll find red flowers.  It must be spring!!
See what I mean about odd appendages?  They hang up and out instead of being rounded like cactus nubs.  Gila Woodpeckers flourish among the sharp spines, making their nests in the holes.  Cactus spines seem to keep the predators at bay.
Pretty soon he came around towards the hole and I snapped a few more pictures.  Yup ... I'm stopped in the middle of the one lane, one way road, hanging out the door of the Jeep.  Those cars behind me just had to wait.  Since he was in the shade, I had to lighten this image quite a bit so he could be seen.
And yet another.  If you just hang out awhile and look, you'll see lots of critters.  You probably don't want to hear there are 36 reptile species, including of course rattlesnakes, but also tortoises, several variety of lizards and coral snakes.  YIKES!!
Mammals include cougar, bobcats, deer, coatis, cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits, just to name a few.  If you want to see more animals, come to the park really early in the morning or about four in the afternoon and hang out.

I only saw one example of a crested (or cristate) saguaro, almost at the end of the drive near the picnic area.  Scientists disagree on why this happens.  Could be a big freeze or could be a lightning strike.  No one knows, only that they are a rare sight indeed.
Towards the end as you drive up the mountainside you will come to Javelina Rocks where obviously the javelinas hang out.  I didn't see any.  All I saw were ten or so people climbing all over them and throwing pieces to the desert below.  My HEY, DON'T DO THAT, was met with grumbles, but at least they quit.
I actually tried hard NOT to find any snakes or gila monsters and succeeded in my quest.  I think there is probably too much traffic in this area, especially during the day.  Plus it's still a little cold at night.  Late in the warm afternoon however, watch where you step!!
It was a very pleasant drive around the park trying to find baby saguaro and some critters of the desert.  Next time I'll take that hike to the petroglyphs.  

Since yesterday was the first day of Spring, I did lots of SPRING things and made lots of phone calls.  Details to follow.

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