Red Mustache

A male gilded flicker peers out from the top of a saguaro covered in flower buds at George Doc Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 8, 2021. Original: _RAC8820.arw

A few weeks back flower buds dotted the tops of saguaro arms with the occasional early bloomers producing a flower or two. Normally the flowers are white but this one appeared to have a red mustache, perhaps a trick of the light as the sun dipped behind the mountains and only a little direct light fell upon the high points of the desert.

The Desert Family

Our cat Boo rests on the back of the futon in our living room on May 8, 2021. Original: _CAM1594.arw

Last night when it cooled down enough to open the windows I logged off work and moved from the living room to my office. As I was getting my things together I noticed Sam was at the top of the cat tree, wide-eyed, staring out the window. I went over and realized a javelina was eating mesquite seeds out front so I turned off the lights and Sam and I settled in to watch it.

A few more of various ages came wandering in so I went to get Boo and Trixie and we all settled in to watch the desert family though one of us couldn’t see so well in the dark. Eventually two adults sauntered in with five adorable babies in tow. Trixie was in front of me next to the screen so she had a front row seat when an adult brought two of the babies right below the window. She stayed quiet but from her body language I was a little worried she might explode.

The javelina spent a lot of time in the yard, from beginning to end 20 or 30 minutes, so fun to see and hear, at least for all of us but Boo. He got scared and ran off when one of the adults sprinted across the yard, so he wasn’t there when the babies arrived. I could tell he was nearby though as when the little things started making a ruckus the darkness growled behind me. He was already a little stressed as he hates the ceiling fan in my office, I held out turning it on for as long as I could but it’s gotten too warm to not run it, so sadly for now I’ve lost my tuxedo sidekick. Here’s hoping he gets used to it as I loved having him tucked in beside me all winter.

A Plethora of Perches

A young Harris's hawk looks out from atop an old saguaro at sunset on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 9, 2021. Original: _RAC8897.arw

An old giant provides a plethora of perches for a young Harris’s hawk to choose from as it scans the desert floor at sunset. This time of year the perches are relatively soft courtesy of the large flower buds (and by now, flowers themselves). Apparently Audubon would name the birds for his friend and supporter Edward Harris but when he first drew one for his book Birds of America he called them the Louisiana hawk. The University of Pittsburgh has the entire collection online but be forewarned, it can be a real time sink.

There is a movement to rename birds named after people, something I’d like to see. I’d rather see birds named after their nature (especially for these hawks, their social network since it’s so unusual) rather than an homage to a human, regardless of whether the person should be remembered or forgotten or somewhere in between. Interestingly Wikipedia notes, among other things, Audubon may have stolen the Harris’s hawk specimen he used as a model for his drawing.

We humans are complicated creatures.

Hawkland

An environmental portrait of a young Harris's hawk atop an old saguaro as it looks out over an expanse of desert, Cholla Mountain visible in the distance, as the sun sets on the Latigo Trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 9, 2021. Original: _CAM1682.arw

Most of the desert falls into shadow as the setting sun clings to the saguaros and mountains; a young Harris’s hawk looks out over its home from atop one of the old giants. Looking north towards Cholla Mountain there aren’t a lot of saguaros but there are around me, a short walk to my right leads to my favorite. Walking left leads to an area chock-a-block full of them and all the wildlife they support. Nearby too is the neighborhood entrance I’m heading towards with the park about to close, it’s not my neighborhood but we live close by and my wife was picking me up, having dropped me off earlier for an evening hike before the encroaching summer heat puts an end to those.

Great Scott’s!

A male Scott's oriole sings from his perch atop the flower buds of a saguaro on the Rustler Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 2, 2021. Original: _RAC8508.arw

Last weekend I stopped at the end of the Rustler Trail for a water break, trying to decide which way to meander on the network of trails, when an oriole flew into the ocotillo in front of me to feed from its flowers. Caught flat-footed holding a water bottle I didn’t want to make any sudden moves towards the camera, we both needed refreshment, but I did get a chance for pictures when he flew off to a distant saguaro and sang to me from the flower buds before disappearing down the trail.

I made a mental note to add Bullock’s oriole to my bird list for the day even though I was surprised his plumage was so yellow. It was only when I got home and looked at the pictures that I had a little laugh at myself when I noticed his head and shoulders were solid black and, while clearly an oriole, he looked nothing like a Bullock’s. In my defense I had gotten up two days in a row for a sunrise hike, the first time this year, so the old gray cells were not in finest form.

I fired up Sibley’s on the iPad and discovered my friend was a Scott’s oriole, a new species for me and thus a new species in my attempt to photograph every animal of the Sonoran Desert atop a saguaro (though I have to say, the mammals aren’t cooperating).

I ended up hiking the Upper Ranch Trail to the Rustler Trail to the Latigo Trail to the Hackamore Trail to the Tarantula Trail to the West Express Trail, returning via the Hackamore Trail to Cone Mountain Trail to Upper Ranch Trail. It was my first time on the West Express, there are formal trails in this part of the preserve now instead of the temporary off-map trails that were there before.

A Little Convincing

A curve-billed thrasher with its feathers flared looks down into the cavity of a broken saguaro in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 20, 2021. Original: _RAC5168.arw

This might as well be a portrait of me each spring when I try to convince myself the pool is warm enough and I should just jump in and start swimming. I don’t like being cold in the slightest so it always takes a bit of convincing. Always nice to find a thrasher in an expressive pose as it can be hard to convey their personalities in pictures.

A curve-billed thrasher sings from the cavity of a broken saguaro in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 20, 2021. Original: _RAC5219.arw

A curve-billed thrasher sings from the cavity of a broken saguaro in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 20, 2021. Original: _RAC5182.arw

Dirty Paws

A clean pair of Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 trail running shoes at Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 17, 2021. Original: _CAM0814.arw

I’ve been really happy with the Hoka One One Challenger trail running shoes I bought a couple of months back so I recently picked up a pair from their more trail-oriented line, the Speedgoats, to use on longer hikes when my feet get a bit sore in my regular hiking shoes. REI had several colors in my size and I liked them all, two fairly subtle and this pair in Superman’s colors. I debated which pair to order but decided on the playful colors even though I knew from experience the desert would quickly mute them. I have two identical pairs of my regular hiking shoes, one in black and one in tan, and it takes more than a quick glance to distinguish them.

The picture above was from their first hike to the top of the hill at Cavalliere Park, it’s good for testing new shoes since the short loop never takes you too far from the car but it also has a hill with these jagged rocks at the top to test out the footing. Last weekend I took them on a 4 mile hike in the morning on gentle terrain and a 6 mile hike in the afternoon with some elevation changes. The picture below is from the high point of the afternoon hike where the Quartz and Flat Rock trails meet at Cave Creek Regional Park, a thick coat of dust dulling the colors in the evening light.

Love them so far, I think they’ll be a nice addition to my little family of hiking shoes.

A dusty pair of Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 trail running shoes on the Quartz Trail at Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, Arizona on April 25, 2021. Original: _CAM1048.arw

The Sleepy Brothers

Our cat Sam sleeps on the back of the couch while Boo sleeps on a cushion on April 10, 2021. Original: _CAM0782.arw

Sam is fully recovered from his oral surgery and is now on a blood thinner to make things easier for his aging ticker. Fortunately his medicine is in pill form as he loves Greenies Pill Pockets and gobbles them right down, let’s just say getting liquids down his throat is more of a challenge so we are always happy when the meds are pills.

Boo went in for a checkup to see how his kidney-friendly diet is faring and there was good news on that front. I slept well most of the week, a relief as I’ve been battling occasional insomnia the past couple of months. Friday morning though a certain tuxedo kept waking me up, as he has done at times the past few weeks, so it was rather fortuitous they had an issue with the network at work so I worked from home and didn’t have to drive in.

You’d think with such excellent teachers I’d be able to curl up and sleep at will but I doubt it will ever be so easy. Last Saturday I couldn’t sleep so I put that to my advantage and grabbed a couple hours of shut-eye on the couch before getting up for my first proper sunrise hike of the year, returning to settle in with my compatriots for a well-deserved nap.

The Wanderer

A close-up of our cat Trixie as she looks out from her cat bed on April 5, 2021. Original: _RAC6772.arw

I was working from home yesterday, sitting in the living room instead of my office, variety being the spice of life and all. I noticed sounds outside that seemed louder than they should be and got up to investigate and realized to my horror the door had accidentally been left ajar. Boo and Sam were sleeping near me but after a quick check of the house I couldn’t find Trixie. She is sometimes hard to find but rather than look further I grabbed a pair of shoes and stepped outside and found her sitting on the wrong side of my office window.

She ran back towards the door but seeing it closed panicked and ran back towards the yard. I wasn’t able to catch her but fortunately she kept running back and forth near me until I was able to grab her and bring her back inside. The picture is from a few weeks ago as she slept in the cat bed on the proper side of the window.

Let’s not do that again little one, I’m not sure my heart can take it.

Fur-lined

A male house sparrow holds leaves and fur in his beak as he perches on a leafy branch of an ocotillo in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 11, 2021. Original: _RAC6982.arw

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.