New Home

A cactus wren sits in a nest it was building in the arms of a saguaro at the Brown's Ranch trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona

We bought a house!

We spent yesterday with our realtor visiting a handful of houses we hadn’t seen plus our two favorites from prior visits. By the end of the day we were close to making an offer on our favorite but wanted to sleep on it. I went hiking this morning near my second favorite house and had a wonderful time and was satisfied I could be happy there, but all the same my overall favorite retained its crown. My wife felt the same so we met our agent this afternoon and put in an offer and the sellers accepted it!

We’re both excited and exhausted!

We first arrived in Arizona at the tail end of March, a month later I met this cactus wren early one morning as it built its nest in the arms of a saguaro. As it tried out the nest I assumed its home was nearly complete and that it was applying the finishing touches before eggs were laid and babies were raised. It showed how much I had to learn about my new home as the wrens still had plenty of work to do, building up the sides of the nest and putting a roof on top to protect from the desert sun, with an entrance in the side they could fly in and out of as they brought food in and took waste out.

There is still work to be done before we take possession of our house too, we close at the end of February and will move sometime in March. But tonight it is enough to be thankful for the opportunity we had to come to Arizona after our time in Oregon came to an end, that we were able to leave one wonderful place and arrive in another. I’m thankful for that little wren and for that big saguaro, for helping me fall in love so quickly with the Sonoran Desert. For the Gila woodpeckers, the gilded flickers, the curve-billed thrashers, the white-winged doves, the quail, the Gila monsters, the whiptails, the side-blotched lizards, the diamondbacks, the bobcat, the antelope squirrels, the cottontails, the jackrabbits. On and on and on.

The desert is our home, soon a house will be too.

Home Work

A male Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his nest in an old saguaro on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his current nest with an older nest around the corner. I couldn’t tell if he was grabbing an insect or if he was doing some home improvement. I haven’t posted much lately as I’ve been busy doing home work of my own, we’ve started looking for a house in earnest and I’ve been doing a lot of research on our various options. We’ve narrowed the search down to our two favorites and I think we’ll make an offer on one of them tomorrow. One of the two is a bit further from work than I’d like but it is only about 10 to 15 minutes away from several of my favorite hiking locations, including Brown’s Ranch where I took this picture back in April.

Return to Me

A female Costa's hummingbird perches on a tree branch along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

It was cold Saturday morning but as I prepared to make the return hike back to the car, I took off my coat, hat, and gloves and put them in my backpack since while moving I would be warm enough without them. But before I got far I noticed a hummingbird near the trail and stopped to photograph her. I soon realized it was a favorite perch as she’d fly off to feed in flowers blooming nearby before returning to me, or so it felt, though I knew she was returning to her perch. The gold dust covering her head is pollen from yellow flowers that were blooming across the desert. I did go back into my backpack for my hat and gloves as I decided to watch her for a while, she flew over and hovered up and down my right side and my left then settled down a few feet away. I didn’t try for pictures to avoid spooking her and only took them when she was further away. I eventually decided to continue on but came back twice just to watch her before finally breaking free and hiking the two miles back to the car.

The Other Side of the Guardian

A rock formation sits before orange clouds at sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I didn’t want to get up this morning but with high clouds forecast I thought it might make for an interesting sunrise. I headed to the Marcus Landslide Trail to photograph the rock formation I call The Guardian but as I started down the trail I realized the best light was going to be in the opposite direction than I had planned. I stopped and switched lenses and took this shot before continuing down the trail. It was only the start of what turned out to be a wonderful morning.

Redtails at Morning, Creatures Take Warning

A red-tailed hawk looks down while perched on a saguaro on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

My goal is to photograph every animal on a saguaro, I can now add red-tailed hawks to the list! This adult was keeping an eye out for potential prey moving about on a sunny winter morning in the Sonoran Desert. Hard to believe this is the same species that I watched so often on rainy winter mornings in the Pacific Northwest.

An environmental portrait of a red-tailed hawk looking out while perched on a saguaro on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve