Performance Art

A female Gila woodpecker is in freefall after she has jumped out of her nest but before she spreads her wings to fly, taken on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

A female Gila woodpecker is for the briefest of moments in free fall after jumping from her nest in a saguaro. It took me a while to notice this behavior, everything happens so quickly when they enter and leave the nest, and took even longer before I could find the right conditions to photograph it. It looks rather unnatural when frozen in time, one foot still sticking out below her while her wings are tucked up tight, but the nest is high off the ground so even though the fall is brief she has plenty of time to put a little distance between herself and her sharp-spined home before throwing out her wings.

Screen Time

Our cat Sam is transfixed atop the couch as he watches a bird video on the television, taken in October 2019

Sam is transfixed while watching birds and squirrels from a YouTube series by Paul Dinning that are designed to entertain cats, hours of birds and squirrels coming to eat seed in front of the camera. At first Sam would go up to the TV and look behind it when the birds flew off-screen, trying to figure out where they went, or he’d sniff the speakers trying to find his hidden friends. These days he’s content to let the mystery be. I was worried it might cause confusion since they’re filmed in England and the birds are all different from what Sam knows but so far the only impact to immersing him in Brittania is that he’s started calling me “Guv”.

Brace For Impact

A female Gila woodpecker flies to her nest with a moth in her beak, raising her legs and preparing to throw out her wings, on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

A female Gila woodpecker, the mate of the male in the previous picture, prepares to land at the nest with a moth in her beak. They fly in at full speed, throwing up their legs and flaring their wings at the last moment, it’s a delight to watch.

Yellow Belly

A male Gila woodpecker carries an insect in his beak as he flies in with his wings spread to his nest in a saguaro along the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

A Gila woodpecker lands at his nest in a saguaro, carrying an insect (maybe a grasshopper?) in his beak, about to feed his hungry babies inside. I love their yellow bellies, both males and females have them. There are a handful in our backyard as I write this from the porch but this flying fellow is from the spring, taken on the Latigo Trail.

Sam Gives Us a Scare

Our cat Sam sleeps in the sunbeams on the carpet in our rental house in November 2018

Sam was throwing up on occasion, not all the time but more than you’d expect if he was trying to work up a hairball (sometimes it takes him a while), so we took him into the vet. While it seemed treatable with steroids, and they also discovered he had broken a tooth that will need to come out, more seriously they discovered his heart was skipping beats that put the other treatments on hold. He went in for heart tests but thankfully those turned out well so he went in yesterday for a steroid shot and will get his tooth out next. We’ll keep an eye on the heart to see if the missed beats continue or if it was an aberration due to stress.

In Between Worlds

Our dog Ellie sleeps on the tile beside the front door of our rental house on Chritmas Eve in December 2018

I took this picture of Ellie on Christmas Eve last year after I got back from my morning hike. She was deaf in her old age and often needed help getting up, so usually I tried to sneak past her sleeping by the door and get settled so that she would wake to the smell of a breakfast sandwich and I could help her get up and join me on the porch. That morning I tried to grab a quick picture while she was asleep but only managed to catch her immediately after she woke, in between the dream world and ours. In the next moment her eyes lit up and she tried to get up so I put the camera down and went to her aid. When we were in Portland and she was more mobile, as I walked home from the train and came up the steps and opened the door, she’d stick her head out before I could get inside, her feet dancing in joy. The best surprise of our time in Arizona was that she lived so long, and so well.

Time flies by ever faster, it’s hard to believe she’s been gone for half a year. Sometimes I still forget, the other day my wife brought in some potato soup topped with crumbled up bacon and I instinctively set a couple of small pieces aside so that after I finished and let Ellie lick the bowl she could get a taste of bacon. Then I remembered …

Morning Makeup

A male Gila woodpecker holds a freshly caught moth in his bill, his face dusted in pollen from saguaro flowers, as he clings to the saguaro where his nest is, taken on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

I took a couple of days off work last week but it wasn’t to do anything fun, I was laid low by a cold and didn’t feel much like getting off the couch. I was watching some Gila woodpeckers in the backyard with my binoculars and something felt off, I couldn’t figure out what at first until I realized their faces were the same color as their heads. I had been editing pictures from the spring, like this male holding a freshly caught moth, and was used to seeing them with their faces dusted yellow from the pollen of saguaro flowers.