Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Fall Afternoon at the Desert Botanical Garden

This past Thursday was a doubleheader for Denis and me. The evening would end at The Poisoned Pen where we would meet crime fiction great Sara Paretsky, but first we headed to the Desert Botanical Garden where we wanted to see the Monarch butterfly and the Dia de los Muertos exhibits. As always, you can click on any photo to see it in more detail in a new window.

Chihuly glass sculptures inside the garden entrance

There are striking Chihuly glass sculptures throughout the Desert Botanical Garden, including these just inside the entrance. When the sun strikes them, they turn into towering pillars of fire. The artist, Dale Chihuly, has a photo of them on his website.

Another Chihuly sculpture being installed

As we walked through the garden, various pathways were roped off because new Chihuly sculptures were being installed, like the one in the photo above, but we found our way to the butterfly pavilion. Unlike the exhibit in the spring, this one in the fall is devoted solely to Monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterflies soaking up the sun

Living ornaments

No wonder one of my Christmas trees is covered with flowers and butterflies-- they make perfect ornaments! However, Denis and I didn't just soak up the beauty, we also learned how to sex Monarchs...

Say hello to this male Monarch butterfly...

...and to this female

Have you spotted the difference? Leave a comment if you do! (Difference in color has nothing to do with it.)

Gorgeous creatures, aren't they?

But as much as we enjoyed the butterflies, we also wanted to see the Dia de los Muertos exhibit, so after ensuring that we weren't harboring any colorful hitchhikers, we left the pavilion and walked on.

A shy little mourning dove

Shortly after I saw the little mourning dove, we discovered that I'd written down the wrong dates for the Dia de los Muertos exhibit.  *sigh*  But we were within a few yards of one of my favorite spots in the entire garden: the Patio Cafe. The first time Denis and I sat at a table, we learned that it was one of the best spots to relax and let the wildlife come to you. The entire garden is filled to bursting with wildlife, but there's something about sitting in the shade with a cold drink and having young Gambel's quail pecking at the ground around your feet.

Sitting and relaxing at the Patio Cafe

Young Gambel's Quail

I love these little birds, singly or...

... or whole lines of 'em!

I got to learn the sounds young Gambel's quail make when they say, "Feed me! Feed me!" but they weren't the only ones at the Patio Cafe. There were curve-billed thrashers and cactus wrens and...

Desert cottontails and...

Ground squirrels

The young ground squirrel looked as though it was imitating Denis and me as we sat and sipped our cold drinks through our straws. But the absolute highlight of our time at the Patio Cafe was when one of the best known symbols of the desert showed up to see if there was anything new on the menu--

A roadrunner!  Meep! Meep!

Those quail are getting all the best tidbits!

Hah! I see some they missed!

All shook up!

Two of my favorites, side by side

Only the chance to see someone like Sara Paretsky could've gotten me to leave the Patio Cafe-- and you can bet the farm that one of these days, I'm going to take a book and my camera and spend the afternoon right there!


  1. I'd go there just to see the Chihulys because I'm a big fan of his work.

    1. Then you'd love it at the Desert Botanical Garden, Kathy!

  2. What wonderful sights you see, which as I'll never get to see them in the flesh myself I really appreciate. Those butterflies are so beautiful, looking as though they're made of stained glass and the quail with their head-feathers are amazing. I've never seen those before, nor a close up of a road-runner - do they really run super-fast?

    1. Not as fast as Warner Brothers would have you believe, Margaret, but I once was going down a dirt road outside of Wickenburg, traveling at about 35 MPH, and a roadrunner kept pace with me for a bit. That was a thrill for me, let me tell you! (And I had the feeling the roadrunner could've gone faster.) :-D

  3. Since moving from Tucson, the wildlife is what I miss the most. Especially when all the little "popcorns" of the quail start appearing (but then - ack - disappearing….)

    1. Boy, am I behind the times. I didn't know you'd moved from Tucson!

  4. Cathy - Oh, what absolutely stunning 'photos!! Wow! I love the butterflies. You've captured how delicate they are, and yet they are sturdy little critters. I've probably mentioned this to you (getting old, so this may be a senior moment), but my daughter and I raised Monarchs once - a great experience. And I love the 'photos of the quails - gutsy!

    1. If you'd told me about raising Monarchs, I'd forgotten all about it. Perhaps this was Senior Moment Sunday? LOL

  5. Those photographs are just fantastic, especially of all the critters. I would love to sit in that cafe with wildlife running around.

    I, too, would have sacrificed the moment to see Sara Paretsky. She is a terrific person and advocate for civil liberties, as well as an excellent writer with one of my favorite characters.

    The Monarchs are gorgeous. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's book Flight Behavior yet? It's about climate change and how it affects these beautiful butterflies and throws our eco-system out of whack.

    1. I'll have to keep an eye peeled for Flight Behavior. So many books.... Arghhh!


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