Nature’s Test

A molting greater earless lizard basks in the sun along the Tom's Thumb Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2018

I had only been in Arizona for three weeks when I met this molting greater earless lizard on the Tom’s Thumb Trail. As I was photographing it a young woman pointed out the lizard to the man hiking with her but he shrugged his shoulders and kept going. Probably that’s nature’s way of telling her that he isn’t worth her time but I suppose there is a remote possibility that you could both be a wonderful person and not fascinated by lizards.

Sam Approved

Our cat Sam sleeps between my outstretched legs on the new sofa in May 2019

In Portland I had a cheap love seat with a large matching ottoman that all the pets could join me on, but since it wasn’t in great shape we didn’t bring it to Arizona. However we also didn’t want to replace it until we were in our permanent home and knew the size and shape of my office, so in the rental house I used my wife’s old futon. It was comfortable to sit on, and inadvertently sleep on, but there was less room for cats. When they did sleep on my legs outstretched on a coffee table even little Trixie, 8 pounds soaking wet, was putting too much pressure on my knees. We found a nice used sofa with an attached chaise lounge at a secondhand store that was a good size for my office and the cats have enjoyed having room to snuggle up again, no one more so than Sam.

Candy Dish

Flowers bloom on the top of a compass barrel cactus beside the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2018

Flowers bloom atop a barrel cactus along the Chuckwagon Trail in May of 2018. I photographed several different barrels blooming last year but this year I didn’t see any that struck my fancy, perhaps I was too distracted by hawks and lizards and woodpeckers. The circle of buds and blossoms at the top reminds me of a candy dish full of brightly colored candies, we have a small one in the backyard with what looks like some buds just starting to form, I’m curious to see if it will bloom this summer.

Father’s Day?

An adult Harris's hawk prepares to land at its nest in a saguaro, one leg outstretched to find purchase on a saguaro blossom while the other clutches twigs to spruce up the nest, as two nestlings watch near the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

I’ve never seen a bird not defend its nest so I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. With one Harris’s hawk on its nest in a saguaro, multiple other adults were perched nearby, in trees, on saguaros, on large electrical towers. They called out repeatedly but to my untrained eyes and ears it seemed like they were keeping in touch rather than warning to keep away.

What was I seeing? Perhaps what I needed to see, what I wished for rather than what was, with Ellie’s death still stinging. But in this case both as I learned later Harris’s hawks live in family groups, even during nesting season with new life about to come into the world.

A week ago after sunup this adult flew to the nest, one leg outstretched to find purchase on a saguaro blossom while the other clutched twigs to spruce up the nest, as the two nestlings watched from the nest (they’re hard to see). Was it the father arriving? The mother? A sibling?

This morning one of the young hawks was continuously jumping from one arm to the other, working on its balance and testing its wings. I didn’t see the other until it flew over and landed awkwardly in a palo verde below the nest, having already fledged.

What joy these hawks, this family, have brought to me this spring as they add two more to their number.