The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is planning to open its new Warden Aquarium 'Rivers to the Sea' TODAY!!
SOURCE: The Arizona Republic
What: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is celebrating its 60th anniversary by opening the Warden Aquarium, Rivers to the Sea, and adding birds to its popular Raptor Free Flight show.
When: The aquarium opens Sat., Jan. 5. The museum is open daily. Through February, hours are 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Check the website for hours at other times of year. Raptor shows are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. A live-animal presentation called Running Wild is at 11 a.m. Thursdays-Mondays.
Seeing the aquarium: Visitors will be assigned viewing times upon arrival. Online reservations are available for $5.
Where: 2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson.
Admission: $14.50, $5 for ages 4-12, free for age 3 or younger.
Details: 520-883-2702, desertmuseum.org.
TUCSON - A hard wind blew at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Visitors craned their necks as a pair of ravens pumped their wings to stay aloft. The Chihuahua ravens, part of the museum’s Raptor Free Flight program, were followed by a great horned owl, peregrine falcon and red-tailed hawk.
Dillon Horger, the museum’s curator of free flight, gave a signal to summon the hawk. Wings spread, tail feathers flared, it came in hard and fast.
“This is a good look at the last thing a mouse ever sees,” Horger said.
The facility — part zoo, part natural-history museum and part botanical garden — is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Saturday, it opens the Warden Aquarium, Rivers to the Sea. And two birds have been added to the popular raptor shows.
The Sonoran Desert covers about 100,000 square miles in Arizona and Mexico. It is characterized by its arid climate and remarkable diversity. Some 2,000 species of plants and 550 species of vertebrates live in its various life zones.
The desert also is home to about 100 species of freshwater fish. The Warden Aquarium will examine life in the springs, creeks and rivers that flow into the Gulf of California.
Rich aquatic life
The gulf is the source of Arizona’s monsoon and has more than 900 islands, said Craig Ivanyi, the museum’s executive director. Some of those islands have species that occur only there, such as a type of rattlesnake that has no rattles, he said.
Some of the fish on display are threatened or endangered, Ivanyi said. Over the past century, Arizona’s waterways have been consumed by dams, development, irrigation and invasive species such as crayfish and bullfrogs.
In Arizona, about 90 to 95percent of our riparian areas are gone, Ivanyi said. Colorado River water rarely makes it to the gulf, a change that has altered the habitat of the delta considerably, he said.
Even with their adaptations to the desert environment, a number of fish face extinction. The desert pupfish and Quitobaquito pupfish, for example, can live in water with greater salinity than ocean saltwater and tolerate temperatures over 100 degrees, Ivanyi said.
“Here you have these fish that are incredibly adapted to a desert environment, and they’re disappearing,” he said.
In Sonora, rivers such as the Yaqui, Mayo and Fuerte tumble into the gulf, but they, too, have problems.
The Yaqui catfish has been altered by breeding with non-native channel catfish. A pair of genetically pure Yaqui catfish are on display at the aquarium, and others are kept elsewhere on the museum grounds.
“Our hope is that we can breed them,” Ivanyi said. “Sometimes, all that takes is a male and a female. Sometimes, there’s a lot more to it than that. There are some species that will breed no matter what you do to them, and some species that won’t breed no matter what you do for them.”
Seahorses and eels
On this visit, finishing touches were being put in place. Around the corner from the catfish display, a video screen showed aquatic life too big to fit in the aquarium — whales, sharks and whale sharks.
In other tanks, seahorses were growing, garden eels had staked out territory and hostilities were breaking out.
The garden eel has a barbed tail it plunges into the sea bottom to anchor itself. It faces the direction of the current in order to feed. A tank of garden eels looks like an underwater plot of grass, waving back and forth in the simulated current.
They are small, with what appear to be flat teeth best suited for straining plankton, but can lash out from time to time. One harassed a small crab. A couple of others squared off, with feints and quick jabs. The rest swayed back and forth.
By midafternoon, the wind had died and people were walking the grounds, watching for bighorn sheep, bears, coyotes, lions and other animals.
The second free-flight session drew about 150 people. Horger has trained a variety of birds, all of them rescue birds. His latest additions are a barn owl and a peregrine falcon.
Horger, who learned falconry as a teenager and has studied human psychology and animal behavior, builds trust with food and water and brings each bird along slowly. They always have the opportunity to fly away.
“It’s really counterintuitive,” Horger said. Traditional falconry techniques used restraints, he said.
Some orphaned birds never learned how to fly, lacking parents to show them how. Horger teaches them. He trains them to come to the glove and teaches the hand signals he will use later.
By the time the birds take part in the free flight, they have confidence and freedom.
“One of the things that makes this program so unique ... is that we fly these birds in their natural habitat,” he said.
The birds sometimes fly thousands of feet in the sky, (almost) always returning to a gloved hand.
A program narrator, Carroll Hemingway, tells the crowd that the average life span of a barn owl is 22 months. If the owl were to live 10 years, it would eat 11,000 mice. Barn owls don’t live long these days because of pesticides and rodenticides, which means there are fewer mice. If a barn owl eats a mouse that has eaten poison, the owl will probably die.
“Some of us are a little squeamish, and we feel sorry for the fuzzy little bunny and the deer,” Hemingway said.
Frequently, it’s the predators that are in trouble, she said.
| SOURCE: azcentral.com Fri Jan 4, 2013 2:01 PM