I’ve not seen a house sparrow in the local desert but they are neighborhood residents, judging by the leaves and fur in this male’s beak I imagine he’s building a nest nearby. We may not be contributing to nesting materials here but I like to think a great many birds in our Irvington neighborhood in Portland grew up in the luxury of a fur-lined nest courtesy of a black lab who seemed to shed her weight in fur each week.
We left blue jays behind when we moved to Oregon but gained scrub jays and the occasional Steller’s jay. The large gregarious birds were a favorite of our cat Emma who would chirp to me from her perch in my office to let me know who was visiting our backyard, crows and flickers also being favorites. In Arizona we have another noisy neighbor I think she would have loved, here sitting in a flowering ocotillo on a warm spring morning. I saw a number of curve-billed thrashers on my walk last weekend in addition to this one, one pair was already feeding hungry babies in a nest in the arms of a saguaro.
I’ve been in the mood for environmental portraits so I was delighted to take one of two of my favorite desert inhabitants, the saguaro and the common side-blotched lizard, one of the largest residents and one of the smallest (at least one of the smallest on four legs). As much grief as I give my pattern-matching self for spotting marmots in the rocky hills when he knows there are no marmots here (he’s mostly stopped with the occasional relapse) and for spotting lizards that turn out to be protuberances in the rocks, he nailed this one from afar. The little fellow was a ways off and wasn’t worried about me so I had time to find a spot on the trail both where I could see the saguaro behind him and place him in a gap between the giant arms so he’d be easy to see against the blue sky.
I quietly wondered if he’d be willing to stick around for an hour-and-a-half for the last light of day but I knew he wouldn’t stay that long and neither would I, I wanted to get some hiking in and I had only just begun. In any event I finished the day further east, taking environmental portraits of another favorite resident, but no spoilers …
A quiet morning in December, looking north to Granite Mountain. The large depression was created decades ago when the giant lizard who had been resting beneath the mountain finally woke, shaking off its slumber and heading west to California and the Pacific Ocean. It was seen swimming in the direction of Tokyo but I don’t know what happened to it after that, hope it had a good life.
A couple of days after his surgery as Sam slept high in my lap I judged his mood to determine how close I should let Trixie get. I kept her at arms length which she followed to the letter of the law, sticking out her front paws such that one was resting on her older brother. He didn’t mind so I let it go, though I had to keep a watchful eye as she would try to inch closer to her hero. Thankfully she didn’t try too hard to smother Sam with affection until he was feeling better.
Sam successfully underwent oral surgery on Monday, the anesthesiologist who is trained to deal with his heart arrhythmia kept him in good shape and the dentists were able to do their work. He charmed them all of course and they gushed over him, I wish I could take credit for his sweetness but that’s all Samwise. He was a bit subdued the first couple of days (as expected) and mostly just slept in my lap but has bounced back to his normal self. I kept Trixie at bay until he was ready as she was eager to curl up with her hero.
It was Boo who got rattled the most, perhaps he thought when we took Sam away for the day that, like when we took Ellie away for the last time, he wasn’t coming back. He recognized Sam when we brought him home and didn’t hiss (sometimes the different smell throws them at first) but kept looking at Sam like he was a ghost. He didn’t eat regularly for a while and wasn’t interested in playing but after a couple of days I got him to chase his favorite toy and he was back sleeping on my legs this morning. He’s still a little off but mostly back to normal as well.
When the flowers aren’t blooming most of the colors in the desert are subdued but there are notable exceptions. I grew up with cardinals back east but we had to say goodbye when we moved to Oregon decades ago. Here in the desert we’ve been reunited again, we rarely saw them at the rental house but I’d see them more often in the desert proper. At our current house they are frequent visitors and last year brought their fledglings into the backyard to feed. I met this singing male last weekend on a neighborhood walk, a familiar sight from my youth in many ways save for his chosen perch.