Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Snapshot at the Water Ranch

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce on her blog At Home With Books. Check out this week's participants, and I bet you'll want to join in, too. Here are the ground rules:

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky on At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

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An entrance to the Water Ranch
[Click on any photo to view the original size in a new window. Thanks to my honey-- Denis-- for half of the photos I used in this post!]

This week Denis and I visited the Water Ranch, the popular name of the Gilbert Riparian Institute. The Water Ranch is next-door to the Gilbert Public Library, has a planetarium, campsites, and conducts learning programs and nature walks for the public.

Although there is a lake where people can fish, most of the wildlife can be found in and around a series of ponds that are filled with reclaimed water. The Water Ranch is gaining fame for the sightings of rare insects and birds, and Denis and I always discover something new-to-us when we visit.

Saguaro blossom-- our state flower
As you walk in one of the entrances (like the first photo above), it looks like what you've come to expect to see in the Sonoran Desert-- lots of cacti. Right now, the Arizona state flower, the saguaro blossom, is in bloom. I love saguaros. No two are alike, their flowers and fruits provide food for wildlife and humans, and the saguaros provide shelter for all sorts of animals.

But the Water Ranch is called the Gilbert Riparian Institute for a reason. Using that reclaimed water, the Institute's creators have brought back to life true desert wetlands. (Hey-- even the Sahara Desert has an oasis or two!) When you visit the Water Ranch, you can walk through different wetland habitats: one where cottonwood trees are king, the desert willow walk, a mesquite bosque... all places that most people do not associate with the Arizona desert.

Wander into a bosque...
As you can see to the left, at the Water Ranch, you can walk through a bosque where the tree canopy closes over your head and everything is green and shady. You can hear the rushing tumble of water hidden behind an impenetrable verdant screen. An unseen Gambel's quail calls from someplace close by.

Yes, I love the Water Ranch, and it's one of my go-to places to find all sorts of dragonflies and damselflies, but on this trip, other sorts of wildlife kept us enthralled.



A mourning dove
At the Water Ranch, you never know what you're going to find. It could be a mourning dove napping in a tree overhead, two hummingbirds squabbling over a huge clump of globe mallow blooms at waist height, a horse and rider crossing the trail up ahead, or another visitor seeing the camera in your hand and walking up to tell you that there's a Western Grebe at Pond #3.

Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets live at the Water Ranch year-round, and I always love to watch those cranky characters. I'll bet you never thought of those large "fishermen" as desert dwellers!

Trash at the Water Ranch???


You can also see a thing or two that might make you scratch your head in puzzlement. Take, for example, the two objects in the photo to the left. What on earth are they? Half-submerged coffee cans? Some weird sort of drainage system? Nope. They're there in hopes that burrowing owls will nest in them.  (Denis saw one the other day at the airport, so they do seem to like city life!)

Desert cottontail
As Denis and I walked, we saw several geese, herons, egrets, cormorants, at least a half dozen types of shore and wading birds, doves, towhees, hummingbirds, grackles, sparrows, finches, flycatchers, quail... in other words, all sorts of our fine feathered friends.

But... not quite everyone was feathered, as you can see in the photo to the right. This young desert cottontail hid from us in the shadows, believing itself safe, until we stood there too long and it just had to hop away through the underbrush.

Each time we visit the Water Ranch, it never fails that something very special reveals itself to us. This visit was no different. This time, we found it just on the other side of a bench at the edge of one of the ponds. I almost didn't stop there, but I remembered that I'd found a wealth of dragonflies there once, so I quietly walked over. Instead of dragonflies, this is what I found....

Snoozing Mallard ducklings

Denis and I both got to photograph the pile of fuzzy sleepers, and although we got a lot closer to them than we expected, we kept our distance. It's just not right to scare babies, is it? And in case you're wondering where on earth Mama Mallard was....

Mama Mallard keeping an eye on us!
She was a very few feet away from her babies--- and keeping a sharp eye on us the entire time. That's the other reason why Denis and I kept our distance. Not only did we not want to scare babies, we didn't feel like getting chased by an enraged mother duck!


Yes, the Water Ranch is one of my very favorite places-- not just here in the Valley of the Sun, but anywhere.


Rest assured if you were a nature lover visiting us, Denis and I would both suggest a visit here-- and bring that camera, of course!

44 comments:

  1. What a terrific assortment of photos this week. The large flowering cactus is amazing, and of course I love the ducklings.

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  2. That looks like a wonderful place to visit. I imagine it must be nice and cool under that canopy. Those ducklings are precious!

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    1. Trish, when you live someplace like Phoenix one of the things you learn quickly is that the first parking spaces to be filled in any lot are the ones in the shade-- doesn't matter how far away they are from the building, the shady ones go first. Shade is a prized commodity here where the sun is so bright.

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  3. This is just wonderful, Cathy! I'm adding it to our list of places to check out the next time we come to your part of the the world. Thanks for sharing!!!

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    1. You're more than welcome, Kay-- and you know that Denis and I would be very willing "tour guides"!

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  4. Oh, I loved the "journey" through the Water Ranch...and even though I've visited Arizona many times over the years, I've never been there. An item for the bucket list!

    Here's MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT

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  5. Oh, what a nice place. It's great to have places with such abundant life.
    The saguaro blossom is beautiful.

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    1. I think places like this are so important in any large metropolitan area. Too many people forget all about the natural world around them.

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  6. Cathy - Thanks to you (and Denis) for sharing these unforgettable shots! Just gorgeous! I especially love the baby mallards and their mama. Such a good reminder (so is the cottontail) that we share this place where we live...

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    1. Yes, and it's definitely something that many people need to be reminded of!

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  7. I wanna visit that place! Such beautiful photographs...

    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!

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    1. Thank you-- and if you ever get to visit Phoenix, Arizona, you know of two willing tour guides!

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  8. What a wonderful place to spend the day!

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  9. What a terrific tour! It's really a beautiful place ... love that the desert is in bloom right now! And ... I love the idea of providing the burrowing owls little safe nesting sites!

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    1. There are so few of the little guys that we try to give them every bit of encouragement we can.

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  10. I'm so envious! I would love to spend a day there. Fabulous photos!

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  11. Thank you for the tour of this lovely place. The chicks are so cute and the bunny. I've never seen the blossom on a saguaro so that was a treat. I'd never think of seeing a sight like this place in your desert habitat.

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    1. Most people don't, so I like to edjumacate folks once in a while. ;-)

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  12. I love that path through the trees...and the adorable baby ducklings!

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    1. When the sun is blazing down, that path through the mesquite bosque is heaven!

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  13. Cathy, what a terrific series of pictures and excellent commentary -- I felt as close to being there as not being there could ever be. Not only are you a terrific photographer, but you are also a wonderful writer. The Gilbert Riparian Institute should get you to do their next promotional pamphlet, and I'm not being sarcastic.

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    1. Wow, thanks so much for the ego boost-- this comment is going in my "Warm Fuzzies" folder!

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  14. What a lovely space and such a great bunch of pictures!

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  15. That looks like such a beautiful place to visit! I never would have expected that in the middle of the desert, especially not herons or egrets.

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    1. That's one of the wonderful surprises about the place, Alyce!

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  16. This is a place I'd love to visit!! Very beautiful and peaceful!

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    1. Yes, it is, Vicki. Everyone who visits seems to be there for the peace and quiet-- at least every time Denis and I have been there!

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  17. What a wonderful adventure. I love the snoozing ducks.

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    1. Perfect thing to do in the heat of the desert: find a shady spot and take a nap! :-)

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  18. Wonderful tour! When I think of Arizona I don't always think of 'green things' but of course you do have a wide range of flowering plants. I have cacti in my garden here that flower. And I'm pretty sure you have way more species of birds than we do in the Midwest.

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    1. Probably the only reason why we have more bird species is due to our climate and location. We do have a lot of birds that winter here.

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  19. Very informative Nature walk- excellent narration and very nice photos.
    There is Connolly Ranch here in Napa (California) where school children go to for local field trip. It has animals, vegetable garden, a pond, bee hives, picnic areas, and a barn.

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    1. Connolly Ranch sounds like a fun place to take a camera and spend a few hours!

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  20. Amazing photography!
    Come play Saturday Photohunt with us... next week we are hunting 'texture'

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    1. Not enough hours in the day, I'm afraid, but I appreciate the invite!

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