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|An entrance to the Water Ranch|
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|
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...|
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|
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!)
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!|
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!