Saturday, July 23, 2011

Moonlight Hike at McDowell Mountain Park

Hikers on the trail at sunset hoping to hear or see nighthawks, bats, or maybe even an owl.

Sonoran Desert Toad

Ahhh, a hike at night!  No sun beating down on you, no hurrying from one bit of shade to the next, with turkey vultures circling overhead waiting for you to drop from heat stroke.  The sun was nearly set as we started out at 7:30 pm, the sky already filling with pink and purple ripples of clouds.  The Nursery Tank Trail is short (1/2 mile to the pond), but still a challenge to anyone in a manual wheelchair or using crutches.  What's nice is at the end of the trail  you are rewarded with a bench to sit on, shade, a rail to lean on, and a view down into the pond / tank. 

There's always something interesting either chirping, buzzing, or croaking down by the pond.  Ranger Amy Ford didn't even hesitate to go down and muck around in the mud to find us a few frogs and toads to ogle over.  Meanwhile there was just enough light to see lesser nighthawks swooping around eating up the bugs swarming over the pond.  Fellow hikers broke out their black light flashlights to illuminate a variety of scorpions along the trail, some big enough to scare the living bee-gee-wees out of me.  We never did see or hear any owls, but before heading back we enjoyed awesome views of a great orange moonrise.  Ranger Amy has promised that there will be another ADA accessible hike in September, so check the McDowell Mountain Park website or my After Dark page for updates.

Night view of the pond / tank at Nursery Tank Trail

Here's a great video clip by Greg Joder of what we might have seen, but didn't - Western Screech Owls...

Click on image below to view video:

Western Screech Owls calling in the Sonoran Dessert.  Copyright g. joder 2011

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