Friday, March 5, 2010

Lions, Bears and Birds, Oh My!

(Written March 4)
When I think of zoos, I tend to think of animals enclosed in small square cages, sentenced to a lifetime of pacing back and forth from side to side while others throw stray garbage at them or tap on the glass insistently. Perhaps that’s why you won’t find the word ‘zoo’ used at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Instead, the centre offers huge, sprawling areas for the animals to roam, complete with fake rocks that replicate the natural environment of the animals. One volunteer told us the black bear came here from another zoo where she had a small cage to walk in. The various levels and varied terrain of her new habitat at the Museum proved a shock to her system and it was taking her awhile to get used to the more natural environment.

We saw all sorts of animals, plants and insects that call Arizona home, including beavers, wolves, mountain lions, bees, bighorn sheep, skunks, and my favourite—hummingbirds.

When I was little, my grandma had a hummingbird feeder outside her kitchen window on the farm. I would sit at a chair and watch the tiny birds hover over the feeder one after the other, a steady stream of them. One would come, take a sip, jerk back nervously, then jerk in again for another quick sip before fluttering away to check out the scene from a distance as others flew in for a drink. I loved those birds and watched them for what seemed like hours whenever I’d visit my grandparents.

Today, I enjoyed just sitting on a bench and quietly watching the hummingbirds darting by, inches from my face, while I thought of good times at the farm. While I’m not generally a big fan of birds, the constant, nearly invisible quick flutter of a hummingbird’s wings has always fascinated and calmed me. I’m just glad I got to see them at a museum today and not a zoo.

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