Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

April 10th, 2010 by Jeff Leave a reply »

Heather originally wanted to spend all her time at the Grand Canyon, but since she’s interested in all sorts of snakes, lizards, amphibians, insects, arachnids, and other things that crawl and slither, I insisted that she visit the Desert Museum in Tucson. I hadn’t been since before I left for Japan to study abroad, and the museum has undergone many changes since then. The most noticeable difference is how many of the enclosures have switched from using walls to using wire fences. It opens the area up and makes it look more like the real desert. The museum also features a new hummingbird exhibit, a honeybee display, and some more hands-on presentations dealing with fossils and the local strata. There are plenty of large animal exhibits, and of course the entire area is a xeriscape garden.

I popped my el-cheapo 70-300mm Tamron on, and went to town. About halfway through I remembered the thing had a macro mode, so I grabbed a couple quick shots of some flowers as well. I’m quite happy with the results.

Plenty of solitary honeybees buzzed around collecting pollen, and I was able to snap off a few photos. One of the nicer things about solitary bees is that they avoid stinging people unless trapped or threatened, so you can get quite close. I snapped the switch on my lens into macro and got to it.

The red ball attached to this bee’s rear leg is a pollen basket:

Around the time we got to the hummingbird exhibit, Heather wanted to try out the Tamron, so I gave her that and put the 60mm macro on.

This little guy parked himself on a branch in the hummingbird exhibit. I waited while others got their shots, and he kept flying out to the feeder and back to the same spot. I started about 3 feet away, set the camera to continuous drive, and kept moving closer. When I finally stopped (because I had fewer than 30 shots left on my card) I was literally inches away, well within macro range. I’d taken 200 photos just of this one bird.

Apparently the 60 macro is a pretty good general-purpose lens too. Who knew.


  1. Heather says:

    A pollen basket, huh? Cool.

    As for my part of the investigation, I’ve calculated that twenty-six billion five hundred twenty-one million two hundred thousand regular M&M’s candies would fit in the Grand Canyon, give or take. I used a volume of 4.17 trillion cubic meters for the Canyon, from the park’s website, and 0.636 cc per candy, according to a post from NPR’s Science Friday (tp:// I don’t know if the NPR guy took packing effects into account or not. Using the statistic that one hundred million candies can be manufactured per day, it takes roughly 39 weeks to manufacture enough candies to fill the Canyon once. So, I think we can agree that our hypothesis is supported by these calculations: it would take “a lot of M&M’s” to fill the Grand Canyon.

    …or 1.16785714 × 10^15 ball pit balls.

  2. Heather says:

    Oops… how embarrassing. I should have listened to the NPR clip linked on that site. This *does* take into account packing – in fact, it’s the whole point of the study!

  3. Jeff says:

    Only 26 billion? Should be bigger than 4.17 trillion by a factor of about 1 million or so, right?

  4. Heather says:

    You’re absolutely right. You know what they say: don’t drink and divide.

This work by Jeff Hiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.