Monday, March 29, 2010

Field Trip!

On Friday, Jordan and I went to the AZ Game & Fish Outdoor Expo.  There were "educational presentations and interactive demonstrations" that were held throughout the day, including a fishing pond (real fishing), archery education, and classes on various types of native wildlife.  Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the archery classes were full - and that was the thing Jordan had most wanted to do.  We still managed to have a good time - and learn a thing or two.

The Phoenix Herpetological Society brought a rather large assortment of lizards, including some very large monitors, iguanas, and even an alligator.  Believe it or not, the large lizards (gator too!) were set out in a penned area for people to come and pet.  Admittedly, the alligator DID have its mouth taped closed, but she was the only one, and really all they did was lie in the sun.  And alligator skin is dry and tough, and feels (according to Jordan) "like it's got little rocks embedded in it." 

The Arizona Falconers Association were there, educating us about the sport of falconry, the different types of birds used, and the differences between them.  This was a very popular display because they had a Golden Eagle, a juvenile Peregrine Falcon, and (I believe) an immature Gyrfalcon.  The birds are amazing, and amazingly beautiful.  Unlike pet birds, these birds do not enjoy "petting" by their handlers because grooming by others is not something that would naturally occur.  They also provide information on how to get started in falconry, but are quick to point out that it is a long-term sport, taking (for example) at least 25 years to be able to handle a golden eagle.

At the AZ Game & Fish, Kingman District display, we learn about how bighorn sheep are tracked, got to handle and examine the collars they use, and learned about the reintroduction of native species.  Like the black-footed ferrets that were recently released in the Seligman area.

The Arizona Trappers Association had a selection of pelts from animals found in the state.  In addition to the expected coyote, rabbit, and mountain lion, there were 2 varieties of foxes (red and grey), wolf, bobcat, raccoon, badger, beaver, and more.  I hadn't been aware that there were any beaver or badgers here.  It was also interesting to learn that the beaver has a double coat, much like many of the animals whose fiber we spin, and it was the downy undercoat that was used to make hats.  The manufacture of those hats, according to the volunteer at the booth, is where we get the term "mad as a hatter" because the processing involved mercury to remove the guard hair, and being around the fumes all the time literally left the men mad. 

The fishing was catch and release with barbless hooks, the fish were very small, and by the time we made it there, the fish were all huddling together trying very hard NOT to be caught anymore.  They were successful.  Or rather, Jordan wasn't able to catch one, despite several good nibbles.  Fishing isn't his favorite, however, so he wasn't too disappointed.

Wildflowers, and the birds they attract were the topic of discussion at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audobon Center display.  This was another packed exhibit, as they had seeds available for the students to make their own wildflower seed packets.  I talked a very reluctant Jordan into putting one together for me, but due to his complete lack of interest, didn't stay long.

The Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center had a wide variety of animals with them, and volunteers who were knowledgeable about them.  Some of the animals we saw were an opossum, a skunk, a heron, several prairie dogs, a ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) - which is the state mammal, and several varieties of owls.  One thing we learned is that the majority of the owls that we have in our neighborhood are burrowing owls - very cute, and that we also have a few horned owls.

Our final stop for the day was the animal sounds display.  Jordan particularly enjoyed this one, and we found it very interesting that the sound a western screech owl makes is quite pleasant - a gentle repeating "who" that starts slower and speeds up at the end, while the barn owl has a truly hideous screech.  (The links will take you to a page where you can listen to them and decide for yourself.) We think they got the whole naming thing wrong.  The coyote call is one of the most recognizable wildlife sounds in Arizona, the Steller's Jay sounds a lot like its crow cousins, and the growl of a black bear (scroll down about 2/3 of the way to the Match That Bear Sound! heading) sounds a bit like a lion.

I had forgotten my camera, but figured I had it covered with the camera on my cell phone.  And I took a lot of pictures, loaded them onto my computer, and cannot get a single one of them to load.  (Sigh)  Yet another reason for me to love technology.  Anyway, the above links will take you to some excellent websites and photos.

And I'll be back soon with the regularly scheduled fiber-y goodness.

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