Putting my travelling Park Ranger hat on again for this post. I used to work in Arizona at Organ Pipe Cactus National
Monument, and travelled a lot across the U.S. in the years I worked as a "professional seasonal" for the National Park
Service and several other federal agencies. Long drives are simply never boring when you know what you're looking at
and are always on the hunt for interesting examples of wildlife and plants along the way. There's no "are we there yet"
in my pickup truck!
This week I drove to Tucson, AZ to pick up my son after his freshman year at the University of Arizona. As a kid born
and raised in Texas, I wanted him to be acquainted with the Arizona environment and stay safe (drink lots of water,
carry a comb to knock off cactus pieces, wear a hat). I took him to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum last year, and
much of what he saw had relatives here in the Texas prairie. He has a good eye, so as we drove into the sand dunes at
Monahans Sandhills State Park in West Texas, it didn't take him long to spot an inhabitant hiding in plain sight, a stick
These bugs are well adapted to blend into the sparse vegetation in this environment. The mantis relatives in my
yard in Edgecliff are big beefy bugs that don't need to match the stick-like vegetation of the desert.
I did my own wildlife spotting, but as is the classic park scenario, I just pulled into the parking lot when this beautiful
little guy ran in front of me. I pulled out my little handbag camera with the splendid 15x lens and slowly advanced on
this Horned Toad. It was a beautiful cool day and, we were the only vehicle at the Visitor Center. The park ranger
had spotted me pull out my camera, and when I went in to pay the entrance fee I commented on the lizard. He pointed
at a photo they have posted on the wall, remarking that they're becoming scarce out there also. I pulled up one of my
shots on the digital screen and was rewarded with a happy smile. Last thing he said was that he was going to take his
own camera out and check out the rock garden for this little guy:
Here's another view: