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When one thinks of Arizona, lakes are not the first things that pop into one’s head. In fact, though, there are quite a few lakes in the State – from the large Roosevelt Lake created by the Theodore Roosevelt Dam in 1911 to the hundreds of teeny lakes that dot the many golf courses in the region.  It’s a disorienting but not unusual sight to see a large pick-up hauling a big motor boat along a desert highway.

Recently Speedy and I took ourselves and a picnic lunch to Tempe Town Lake, formed by a dam on the same Salt River that creates Roosevelt Lake, but some 80 miles closer to Phoenix.  In fact Tempe is just a stone’s throw from downtown Phoenix, and is the home of Arizona State University.

Tempe Art Center and bridge

It is also home to the beautiful Tempe Center for the Arts, completed in 2007, just in time for Speedy’s and my arrival in Arizona.  It was a concert by the Ridge Trio that took us to the Art Center with our sack of food, and a very civilized time of it we had, sitting in metal park seats and watching the passing scene on the broad sidewalk between us and the lake.  Over two million people use the park each year, and we saw a fine cross-section of them: Dads with cameras and babies; boyfriends with cameras and beautiful girl friends; fitness enthusiasts speed-walking; young men practicing complex moves with a plastic sword; roller-bladers; co-eds jogging together; couples jogging together; solitary people jogging; and of course my favorite: dog walkers.  The largest dog we saw was Sally, a seven-year old Great Dane with one blue eye and one brown eye:

Great Dane Sally

She was a very friendly girl, and I must say, it’s always a pleasure to meet someone who outweighs me by a good thirty pounds.

The Tempe Town Lake lies smack between the approaches to Sky Harbor Airport’s two runways; Speedy recalls many landings using the Salt River as his visual guide.  Here’s a Southwest Air flight bringing happy visitors to a place presumably warmer than the place they left:

SW arriving

Between our picnic and the concert we took a little walk along the lake side and over the beautiful pedestrian suspension bridge that spans the western edge of the lake.

Tempe bridge

I realized that with a little ingenuity one could probably make a similar bridge with tools and supplies found right in one’s garage.  For starters you’d need some heavy duty wire to use for suspending your walkway (note the pretty pattern in the pavement).  Then you’d need some big bolts and some bit cotter pins.

Tempe bridge bolts

Tempe bridge cotter pin

What could be difficult about that?

The stroll along the far bank of the lake was a veritable nature walk.  While it may not be as festive as a partridge in a pear tree, it’s a treat to see a Gambel’s quail in any kind of tree:

quail in tree-002

An adjoining tree was chock-a-block full of nests – but whose?

nests in treeSpeedy’s sharp eye caught the best treat of all.  He saw what looked like a large water bird fly in and land on a dock.

great blue heron eating a fishSure enough, there it was! A fine, healthy great blue heron  But it looked so peculiar – why?  On closer inspection we discovered that it had caught one of the many talapia stocked in the lake and was trying to swallow it.  We could watch for only five or ten minutes as our concert hour was fast approaching; we don’t know if there was a happy ending for the heron; there certainly wasn’t for the fish.

great blue heron eating a fish-011

great blue heron eating a fish-017It seems impossible that such a big fish could fit down that narrow neck, but we’ll never know for sure.

If nothing else our walk showed us how adept the birds are at adapting to whatever development we throw at them.  What treats we had on our short walk!