The Birdwatchers

Our cats Trixie and Sam rest on a blanket on a chest beside a backyard window of our house in September 2019

Sam and Trixie rest after an afternoon of birdwatching at the window. With the heat finally breaking we can open the windows, Trixie, Sam, and Boo are watching quail outside my window now. It pains me on many levels that Emma died young and never made it to Arizona, all of the cats loved watching wildlife but none as much as Em. I suspect we would have had to put her in a straitjacket as the antics of the large families of quail that come to feed would have overloaded her with excitement. What sounds she would have made to welcome her visitors!

Shining Robes

A male phainopepla perches on a thorny tree with his crest extended on a cloudy morning on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in Decmeber 2018

The name “Phainopepla” (pronounced fay-no-PEP-la) comes from the Greek for “shining robe,” a fitting characterization of the shiny black plumage of the males, at least on a sunny day. However on this overcast morning last December the soft diffuse light showed off the details in his feathers. They’ve been gone all summer but I gather will be back in the next month or so. We didn’t see them at the rental house but will see them here, though this lovely fellow was on the nearby Marcus Landslide Trail.

The Lizard Rocks

An environmental portrait of an ornate tree lizard in a jumble of rocks on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

I nicknamed this jumble of rocks The Lizard Rocks when I first saw them, though I saw no lizards there. It just seemed like they should be there, though I was new to Arizona and not really sure where lizards would want to live. They aren’t large rocks and it’s not a large formation, I suppose my initial fascination came from it being a nice place on a favorite trail to stop for a drink as it’s nestled into a kink on the trail with room to step out of the unsighted path of cyclists and horses. It took me a while but I did eventually start seeing them, on this spring morning I saw at least six lizards from three different species. This ornate tree lizard was the first I saw, I took some closeups but also pulled back to give a bit of flavor of the place he calls home.

Mellow, Yellow

An overhead view of a master blister beetle sleeping on a heavily-chewed brittlesbush blossom on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsale, Arizona in May 2019

A sleepy master blister beetle isn’t quite ready to shake off its slumber and rise to meet the world. From the heavily chewed flower petals you can see why the brittlebush is both bedroom and dining room for the lovely little ones, at least on the one and only time I saw them this spring.

Lazy Saturday

Our cat Boo yawns while resting under my wife's desk in September 2019

While he has his favorites Boo enjoys trying out new sleeping spots so you can never quite be sure where you’ll find him. Yesterday morning when I got back from my hike he was under my wife’s desk, serenaded by the birds on the other side of the wall. Thankfully he has bounced back from Ellie’s death, he took to her from the start and especially enjoyed sneaking under her when she got up from a dog bed, reveling in the warmth left behind. I don’t know how we made it six years with him never getting squished as sometimes she wasn’t getting up but rather shifting positions, but thankfully it was never an issue.