I drove down past Lakes Mary (Lower and Upper), which didn't have much at this time of year. Finall, I got to Mormon Lake, which was a different story. A number of species of waterbirds were present, including Northern Pintail. The surrounding forest also had a decent selection of birds. Some Purple Martins flying overhead were an addition to the triplist.
By the time I returned to Flagstaff, it was already midday. My first afternoon destination was the Flagstaff Arboretum. Since I'm a member of Fairchild Tropical Garden, admission was free. Although the flowers were mostly not yet in bloom, this didn't must affect the nature trail through a ponderosa pine forest. It also didn't affect the raptor demonstration which including free-flying Harris's Hawks and an Eagle-Owl (similar to Great Horned Owl). I was surprised when they brought out a light morph Gyrfalcon. Although I'd seen Gyrs at distance in Alaska, this is the first time I'd seen one up close.
There was also a bat flying around one of the ponds. At one point it headed right at me, but then veered off and landed on the ground. I moved out of sight into a conifer before I could get a photo. I believe it as a Big Brown Bat.
From the arboretum, I could see both the San Francisco Peaks and an observatory dome. At the time, I assumed that it belonged to Lowell Observatory, but it seems to belong to the Navy.
The San Francisco Peaks dominate the skyline anywhere around Flagstaff, and are even noticeable from the Grand Canyon. The Hopi consider them the home of the Kachinas, and they are considered sacred mountains by many of the Indian tribes. Whether you consider them sacred or not, they make an impressive background wherever you are in the Flagstaff area.
My last stop of the day was Lowell Observatory. As with Meteor Crater, I'd read about Lowell and his observatory when I was a kid. Lowell carried out his studies of the Martian “canals” here, and Pluto was discovered here in 1930.
I took the tours around the place, which took about 2 hours. We visited both the original Clark reflector that Lowell himself used to study Mars, and the astrograph that Clyde Tombaugh used to photograph possible locations of Planet X, taking two photos of each, six days apart. We also got to look though the blink comparator that Tombaugh used. This is a device that shows you two photos, quickly alternating between them. The idea is to look for anything that moved. In six days, none of the stars move appreciably, but planets and asteroids do. Tombaugh sorted though many asteroids and glitches in the film before finally locating a new planet—Pluto.
Lowell had predicted there would be a ninth planet based on apparent anonomalies in the motion of Uranus (a similar technique had been used to discover Neptune by Le Verrier, Galle, and d'Arrest in 1846). At the time, it seemed like a triumph to predict a planet this way. More recent research has shown that the calculations were in error, and that the discovery is more a tribute to Tombaugh's skill and perseverance.
Since I'm leaving tomorrow, I didn't have time to return later in the evening to look at Saturn and other celestial objects through the Clark telescope. Maybe next time.
So far, I have found 152 bird species and 17 mammal species during the trip.
Little America Hotel, Flagstaff, AZ