How It All Began

A Harris's hawk hatchling sits up and looks out from its nest in a saguaro on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

Though taken in December yesterday’s picture began in May, when I first saw one of the Harris’s hawk hatchlings poke up from the nest. I’m not sure if its sibling had hatched yet, one of the parents (not visible) is laying down behind it with several more adults nearby. I wrote in my journal “There was no acrimony among the hawks given how close they were to each other & the nest, was a little surprised”, understated confusion solved later when I learned they raise the young in family groups. Also wrote “Soaptree yucca are blooming, got too distracted by the hawks for pictures”. That’ll happen!

My How You’ve Grown

A close view of a Harris's hawk juvenile looking to my right while perched in a tree, taken from Brown's Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2019

A week ago as I neared the end of my loop hike, walking down a popular trail, I was stunned to see both Harris’s hawk juveniles close by. This one especially so, the other a bit further back in a palo verde. A couple of the adults were a ways behind me on a transmission tower where the two youngsters eventually joined them. Such a treat to see them so close after watching them so long! Of course they got so big by eating some of my favorite creatures of the desert, such is life in our world. The young fliers are much more confident in their movements now although they have much to learn as they enter their first winter.

Time to Leave

A bull elk calls out while looking directly at me on a rainy afternoon in the Madison area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

I started the morning of the last day of my fall hiking trip in 2006 with snow in the higher elevations of Yellowstone. I didn’t stay long as I’m not used to driving in snow and spent the rest of the day in the lower elevations, finishing the trip watching an elk herd in the Madison area while a steady rain fell. It was October so the rut was winding down and the scene was rather tranquil, this bull nuzzled one of the nearby cows as the rest of the herd lingered nearby. Although it ignored me and the others who watched from near the road, the bull did glance in my direction once while calling out.

A bull elk turns his head to the side, showing six points on one antler and seven on the other, on a rainy afternoon in the Madison area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

It looked like this bull had six points on one antler and seven on the other. There was a ranger there who said the elk in this drainage weren’t living as long as the others, based on analysis of wolf kills they suspected minerals in the Madison River were making their bones brittle. Fortunately I was ready for the picture up top as within a minute the bull laid down to rest. Ten minutes after taking the picture below, I had to say my goodbyes as it was time to start the long drive back to Oregon.

A bull elk lays down on a rainy afternoon in the Madison area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in October 2006

The Quiet Ones

A juvenile bald eagle calls out in the rain while perched on the ice of a frozen Rest Lake on the auto tour of the River S Unit at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Ridgefield, Washington in January 2008

A juvenile bald eagle calls out to other nearby eagles on a rainy winter morning in 2008. Rest Lake had frozen over during a cold snap but by mid-morning a steady rain was falling and soon enough the ice would melt. I was rather surprised years earlier when I first heard an eagle’s call, given their size I assumed they’d have a rather raucous call so I was a bit taken aback by the soft and gentle cry that escaped their fearsome beaks.

Home

A juvenile Harris's hawk calls out while an adult is perched higher in the tree, set against the backdrop of a variety of plants of the Sonoran Desert with saguaros rising up behind, taken on the 118th Street Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in October 2019

One of my favorite pictures this year, taken early in the morning in October looking west from a frequently-hiked trail near our house. It speaks to the misconceptions I used to have about this area and how surprised I was to learn there is so much diverse life here. There are the twisting trees, the yuccas with their flower stalks reaching towards the sky, the green-barked palo verdes, the yearning ocotillos, and above all the saguaros. Topping it off are two members of the Harris’s hawk family that so charmed me this year, an adult perched in the bare branches of the tree in the upper left and a juvenile down below, calling out to the rest of the family who must have been on the other side of the hill. The adult eventually flew off in that direction and the juvenile took its spot high in the tree before following the adult out of sight. How lucky I am to be in their, and my, home.

Frosted Newt

A rough-skinned newt covered in grains of sand peeks over a branch lying on the ground on the Intertie Trail at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis, Oregon in April 2006

My favorite creature of the Pacific Northwest, a rough-skinned newt, is covered with grains of sand making it look like it was frosted with powdered sugar. Predators with a sweet tooth should take note of the bright orange coloring however as it is a warning the newts can be toxic if ingested. Taken in 2006 on a return trip to William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite hiking spot when we lived further south in Oregon. With today’s cameras I could have both gotten this shot much more easily and with more depth-of-field, but it’s still a nice reminder of my longtime home and neighbors.

Bargaining With God

Our dog Ellie looks up while laying on her homemade dog bed in the living room of our house in Portland, Oregon on Halloween in October 2014

Our Heavenly Father,

Please let me live a long and happy life so I can look after my family no matter where they go. In return I promise I’ll be a good girl and not steal any pizza off the counter. Except I really like pizza and I know they want me to be happy and also someone needs to test it to make sure it hasn’t been poisoned. How about I promise not to steal any vegetables off the counter, they can cover it from one end to the other with broccoli and carrots and I won’t take a bite.

Also, I’m sorry I ate the entire batch of freshly baked cookies. And the tub of caramel. And …