We are camped in a municipal park about twenty miles away from our last campground as the crow flies. The crow had nothing to do with our route and the drive took an hour. We drove through Fountain Hills, which was having an artisan market so we decided to stop by. Interspersed with the artisan booths, there were vendors offering wine tasting. You bought a sampling glass and tickets at the entrance and sipped as you walked. We had never seen this before. It seemed to encourage people to stay longer and make their wallets a bit easier to open. A good idea.
The centerpiece of Fountain Hills is a small lake with a fountain which send up plumes periodically. We could see it from our campground eight miles away. Today it was dyed green in honor of St. Patrick - a feeble imitation of dying the Chicago River green!
In the evening we took another ranger led moon light hike. It began with a presentation from a local animal facility which rehabilitates all sorts of local wild animals and tries to get them back into the wild if possible. The owls we saw tonight have injuries that render them unable to survive on their own. The burrowing owl had been hit by a car and lost an eye and had other head injuries. The burrowing owl lives in the ground, usually occupying burrows that have been made by others. It is a keen mimic and can make the sound of a rattlesnake if an intruder gets too close. When they cohabit with prairie dogs, they can also imitate the warning calls these rodents make when danger looms. The screen owl had nothing obvious wrong with it, but for some reason it had imprinted on humans rather than its own kind and with humans it shall remain. The horned owl was much larger than the others and can catch and kill small animals like dogs and cats, making it especially unpopular with suburban folks. They have no sense of smell and love to feast on skunks, carrying smelly, but tasty skunk morsels back to their nest for their babies, making the whole family reek. The rescue folks also talked about barn owls which have pretty much been eradicated in the midwest in favor of cats. Farmers did not realize that the average barn owl eats 5 - 6 mice a night and brings an equal amount to its babies, where a cat may just kill one or two. Recently major efforts have been made to reintroduce these owls to the barns where they keep vermin under control.
Now that we are moon light hike experts, we were not surprised how well we could see once the moon came over the horizon. Moon rise varies by about an hour a day, so the hike began in almost darkness. A few people on the hike tried to take photos with their flashes, rendering all of us total blind until our eyes could readjust. The goal of the hike was a pond, something we would not expect to find in the desert. It is desert here, but there are so many green plants growing, even scrubby grass on the ground, that it is quite lush.