Saguaro National Park

While passing through Tuscon   I took the opportunity to wonder around the Saguaro National Park in order to engage in a spot of wildlife photography. The Saguaro National Park consists of two separate parts, the Tucson Mountain District to the west of Tucson , and the Rincon Mountain District  to the east.  Both parts can be easily reached by car from the Tucson city centre. I accessed the eastern part from the Douglas Spring Trailhead and spent two happy days in the park. Hiking in the park is not too difficult as long as you stick to the signposted trails, take enough water with you and cover your head. In summer it can get really hot, the daily mean temperature being about 30 degrees Celsius. However it is not unknown for the thermometer to reach 40+ degrees. If hiking on your own out there (like me) please leave your details of the route and a rough return time with friends or family.

View of the Sonoran desert from the Tucson Mountain District towards the Rincon Mountain District in the background.

The park is the home of several species of large mammales such as cougars, coyotes, bobcats, jackrabbits, gray foxes and white-noased coatis among others. Of these I only managed to spot the jackrabbits  but not having a long-range zoom lens with me I was unable to capture these. The same thing was unfortunately true for most of the birds in the park which include cactus wrens, kestrels, roadrunners and woodpeckers to name but a few.

Lizards, on the other hand, where much more patient and remained sitting on rocks sunning themselves for extended periods of times, giving me enough times to take multiple shots from all possible angles. Some insects, such as dragonflies, were also much more forgiving creatures. I would have loved to see a Gila monster but no such luck. This is not really surprising since they spend 90% of their time underground. The Gila monster is the largest extant lizard species native to the  United States and although poisonous it poses little thread to humans because of its sluggish nature.  Another animal I would have liked to see was the diamondback rattlesnake (from a safe distance that is) but that did not happen either.

If you want to capture wildlife brings large amounts of patience and even more water. Capturing some of the images below took me several hours of wondering around, standing around or sitting on rocks just waiting for a creature to emerge. Makes you appreciate the amount of effort, time and technology that goes into producing wildlife documentaries. In general I spend more time doing landscape and architectural  photography as these subjects tend to be much less mobile.

The earliest known residents of the land in and around what later became Saguaro National Park were the Hohokam, who lived there in villages between 200 and 1450 A.D. Petroglyphs and bits of broken pottery are among Hohokam artifacts found in the area. The Hohokam hunted deer and other animals, gathered cholla buds, prickly pears and saguaro fruit, and grew corn, beans, and squash. Subsequent indigenous cultures, the Sobaipuri of the Tucson Basin and the Tohono O’odham to the west, may have been descendants of the Hohokam, though the evidence is inconclusive. Spanish explorers first arrived in Arizona in 1539–40. Non-native settlement of the region near the park did not occur until 1692 with the founding of San Xaview Mission along the Santa Cruz River. In 1775, the Spaniards built Presidio San Agustin del Tucson, a military fort in what was then part of New Spain  in part to protect against raids by Apaches. The lands that eventually would become Saguaro National Park remained relatively free of development until the mid-19th century, after Arizona had become part of the United States. After passage of the Homestead Act of 1862, the arrival of the railroad in 1880, and the end of the Apache Wars in 1886, homesteads and ranches were established  in the Tucson and Rincon Mountains, and miners sought silver, copper, and other valuable ores  and minerals. Mining in the park continued intermittently through 1942, while ranching on private in-holdings within the park continued until the mid-1970s.

Lizard in Sonoran Desert
Firefly in Sonoran Desert
Humming Bird in Sonoran Desert