April 30, 2015

Z is for Zoo

The Sonoran Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, a natural history museum and a botanical garden. The Museum's main focus is on the plants and animals that live in the Sonoran Desert.

It really is a wonderful thing to have such a place available. It gives everyone the opportunity to experience the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert up close and personal and not just in pictures.

Tucson Snowstorm in Saguaro National Park
Photo by Karen  McCrorey

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Y is for Yuma

The Yuma Desert is a lower-elevation section of the Sonoran Desert. This area of the desert contains sparse vegetation and has sand dunes. With an average rainfall less than 8 inches each year, it is among the harshest deserts in North America.

Many of you have probably seen this part of the Sonoran Desert but probably didn't realize it. If the sand dunes look a little familiar to you, that may be because the movie Return of the Jedi was filmed there.

Dunes Near Yuma
Photo by Erik Halfacre


X is for eXtreme climate

The Sonoran Desert is a land of eXtreme climate.

The Sonoran Desert doesn't have the typical 4 seasons that everyone else is used to. People who live here like to joke that it only has 2 seasons. Hot and hotter!

It does get quite hot in the Sonoran Desert, especially in the Summer. Temperatures during the Summer can soar way above 100 degrees for multiple days in a row.

And sometimes during the Winter, it snows.

Picacho Peak Poppys
Photo by Dave Smith

Photo by BongoInc

Monsoon ~ rainy and hot
Monsoon Over The Superstitions
Photo by Matt Granz

Saguaro Cactus Standing in the Snow
      Photo by Karen McCrorey


W is for Water

When you think of the desert, the first thing that usually comes to mind, is that the desert is not a place with an overabundance of water. But, did you know that the Sonoran Desert is actually half marine?

The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, is where the Sonoran Desert meets the ocean. Jacques Cousteau once called it the "Aquarium of the World."

Baja Colors
Photo by Jamie Friedland

  Crown of Thorns Starfish                                                                                                                 Photo by Ashley Hauck

Flying Mobula                                                                                                          Photo by Antoni Murcia/MantaWatch
Sun Star
                                                     Photo by Tina Thompson

Sea of Cortez 2013
Dolphins                                                                                         Photo by Cal Alumni Association


V is for Views

The Sonoran Desert has the most beautiful of views.

Sonoran Desert
Photo by MarvHansen

An Audience of Saguaro
Photo by Kevin Wixted

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April 29, 2015

U is for Underground

Many animals in the Sonoran Desert spend most of their life Underground.

In the summer when temperatures soar, these animals burrow Underground to escape the heat of the day and come out only at night when the surface temperatures have cooled. Kit Foxes, Kangaroo Rats, Ground Squirrels, Ringtails, Tarantula, Tortoises, Gila Monsters, Horny Toads and Snakes are just some of the animals that live this nocturnal lifestyle in the Underground world of the Sonoran Desert.

cautious critter
Photo by Kate

Tortoise Hatchling
Photo by Dianne White

The Bachlor life is over for this year young males.
Photo by Desert Argonaut


April 28, 2015

T is for Tarantula

First off, let me say that this blog is a spider-free blog. 

However, there really isn't much in the Sonoran Desert that starts with the letter T. Or at least not anything that I, or anyone else that I asked, could think of. I originally was going to write about the Tortoise but I kind of did that already.

So here we go...

There is a giant spider that lives in the Sonoran Desert. It is called a Tarantula.

The female desert Tarantula is usually tan or brownish, while the male is darker, usually with black or dark legs and a reddish abdomen. They are very sensitive to vibrations in the ground that may indicate the presence of prey or danger. The desert Tarantula lives in a deep burrow which is lined with silk webbing to prevent its caving in.

You will usually find them walking around the desert or on the patio (or through an open door) after the monsoon rain. There is nothing quite like watching a Tarantula walk right into your house and across the floor. They also roll very fast when you sweep them with a broom.

If there is a hole in the ground and you don’t know what is in it and you put water in that hole and it just happens to be a Tarantula burrow, be prepared for that Tarantula to jump right out at you.

And since this is a spider-free blog, you get exactly one photo. 

along came a spider
Photo by Donald Palansky photography


April 27, 2015

S is for Saguaro

The Saguaro is a very well known and popular cactus. It has become synonymous with the American Southwest.

Saguaros are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. It is the largest cactus in the United States.

Saguaros live an extremely long time. With the right growing conditions, it is estimated that Saguaros can live to be as much as 150-200 years old. They are a very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 1.5 inches tall. Saguaro can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall. A Saguaro may be 60-100 years old before it even starts to grow its first side arm. 

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The saguaro fruit is ready

Photo by


April 26, 2015

R is for Ringtail

Ringtails have large black eyes, big pink ears, a tiny face, and a long black-and-white ringed tail that looks like a cuddly feather boa.

The Ringtail or as it is also known, the Ringtail cat or Miner's cat, is not related to cats at all, it is actually a member of the Raccoon family. They got the nickname Miner's cat in the 1800s, when miners kept them as pets because they were so good at catching mice.

Few people have ever seen a Ringtail in the wild. But I can proudly say that I have.

When I bought my house a few years ago, I had the experience of coming face to face with a Ringtail in my kitchen! It was my first overnight house guest and it is one experience that I will never forget!

To this day, my brother is still jealous that I got to see a Ringtail and he has not. That's okay, I think I can live with that.


Photo by Steven DeRoma


April 25, 2015

Q is for Quail

The Sonoran Desert is the home of Gambel's Quail.

Quail spend most of their time on the ground and rarely fly. They will remain motionless and rely on camouflage to avoid predators, especially if hidden by vegetation.

These birds have a chunky round body with a feather plume on their head. They are a gorgeous looking bird. Especially the adult males. They have much more striking plumage and are much prettier than the females.

Quail like to build their nests on the ground. Usually hidden under a shrub, rock, or cactus. I love when it is baby Quail season. I like to watch the baby Quail as they all follow along behind the parents.

I think that the little Quail family is possibly one of the cutest things you will see in the Sonoran Desert.

Desert Cottontail "shadowing" male Gambel's Quail.
Photo by troupial

Photo by barbara carroll

Photo by jimchabot


April 23, 2015

P is for Prickly Pear

The Prickly Pear cactus is a very well known and versatile cactus.

There are several different varieties of Prickly Pear cactus each growing to different sizes. The most common species in the Sonoran Desert is the Engelmann Prickly Pear which grows up to 5 feet tall and can grow to a width of 10-15 feet.

The Prickly Pear cactus has pretty flowers, but what it is really known for is its fruit. Prickly Pear fruit (also called Tuna) can be eaten, minus the thick outer skin. The fruit can be eaten raw, just chill in the refrigerator for a few hours, or it can be used to make jams, jellies and even candy. Even the cactus pads can be eaten.

Photo by

Pretty cactus flower

prickly pear


April 22, 2015

O is for Ocelot

The Ocelot is considered one of 3 rare cats that live in the Sonoran Desert and it is currently listed as endangered.

It is somewhat bigger than a large house cat and is often referred to as one of the most beautiful of cats.

The Ocelot is primarily a nocturnal creature and stays close to dense cover during the day. Sightings of this animal in the Sonoran Desert tend to be very rare. So rare in fact, that biologists investigate and keep track of any sightings.

Photo by Dagget2

Beautiful Ocelot
Photo by Karen McCrorey

Photo by Karen McCrorey


April 21, 2015

N is for Needles

N is for Needles... Cactus Needles.

The Sonoran Desert is full of different kinds of cacti and each has their own unique type of cactus needle.

You definitely don't want to touch the Teddy Bear or Jumping Cholla cactus. They will stick to you if you do. If you find yourself trying to get a piece of cactus off of yourself, another person or even an animal, you will want to avoid touching the cactus as it will leave just as many cactus needles (stickers) on you as there are on the person or animal it is currently stuck to. 

Some cactus needles are as thin as a strand of hair. They are so thin that you can barely even see them. But even though you may not be able to see them, you will most definitely feel them.

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