Class Picture Day

A cactus wren perches on a dead tree branch recently vacated by a house finch beside the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in January 2020

Shortly after the house finch left his perch a cactus wren flew in and posed in the same spot. Was it class picture day? Would a canyon towhee fly in, a little oatmeal spilled on its shirt? A black-throated sparrow with an unruly cowlick? A white-crowned sparrow with a bright smile and a mouthful of braces? Sadly no, the mixed flock of birds continued to move across the desert so I continued up the trail.

Morning Calisthenics

A northern harrier stretches its wings backward while perched on a stump I called 'The Cactus Tree' at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Ridgefield, Washington in December 2009

A northern harrier stretches its wings on a foggy winter morning in 2009. I had seen it an hour earlier in this same spot but I don’t know if it spent the hour there or only returned to a favored perch. I’m happy I got some pictures of the stump I called “The Cactus Tree” as in subsequent days it fell over into the swamp.


A white-crowned sparrow perches in a jojoba at a scenic overlook on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2019

Jojoba has wonderful upright leaves and comes in male and female forms (this is a male), the female has a fruit that reminds me of an acorn which reminds me of Ellie. When we were in Portland we had many old oaks in the neighborhood that dropped a multitude of acorns each fall. They smelled like food to Ellie, not enough for her to eat one but enough that she wanted to smell each and every one just to be sure. The pup did not believe in letting food go to waste! The male jojobas don’t fruit although this one sprouted a white-crowned sparrow.