The Desert in Bloom

California poppies and Coulter's lupines bloom at sunrise in the Sonoran Desert in front of granite formations along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

First light falls on the California poppies and Coulter’s lupines blooming in front of the rock formation I call the Guardian. Haven’t had much time and/or energy for hiking the past few weeks but thankful I was able to get out for a few hours last week to see the desert in bloom. This was my first time seeing the Sonoran Desert bloom like this. The picture below is from a few minutes earlier in a slightly different position, clouds in the east mostly blocked the sunrise light but a little bit of red light fell upon the landscape before coming on strong for a few minutes as shown above. I like them both.

We arrived in Arizona a year ago today, how thankful I am we ended up in this wonderful place.

California poppies and Coulter's lupines bloom just before sunrise in the Sonoran Desert in front of granite formations along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

It’s a Good Thing Saguaros Aren’t Carnivorous

A white-winged dove sticks its face into a saguaro fruit to feed along the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Last spring I was amazed at how many birds fed at saguaros as they bloomed and fruited, such as this white-winged dove sticking its face into fruit at the end of an arm along the Latigo Trail. It’s a good thing saguaros aren’t carnivorous or a lot of birds would lose their heads!

A cactus wren sticks its head into a saguaro blossom to feed in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Cactus wrens are smaller than the doves but still large for wrens, this one stuck its head deep into a blossom on the saguaro where it was building its nest and raising its young. When it emerges its head will be covered in pollen, some of which will be deposited at the next blossom it visits.

It s a Good Thing Saguaros Aren t Carnivorous Verdin Edition

The tiny verdin had to stick most of its body into the fruit to feed at the back, in this picture it is feeding closer to the front and only its head is hidden. When the fruit ripens it is the white-winged doves that eat the most, but other birds enjoy the short-lived bounty as well.

Early to Rise

Chain fruit cholla bathed in blue light before sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

In December I arrived when the Tom’s Thumb trailhead opened so I could hoof it out as quickly as possible to photograph this bank of chain fruit cholla before sunrise, with my beloved Guardian looking out over the desert in the background. At that time of year I can hike as fast as I can without worrying about surprising a rattlesnake as they are still hibernating. My favorite shot turned out to be the first one of the desert bathed in the soft blue light before the sun rose above the mountains behind me, but I also like the one below of the same scene bathed in the red light of sunrise.

Chain fruit cholla bathed in the red light of sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Close

A male gilded flicker perches on a saguaro skeleton early on a winter's morning near the Kovach Family Nature Trail in the Lost Dog Wash section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I met this male gilded flicker on a saguaro skeleton early on a winter’s morning on the Kovach Family Nature Trail, within walking distance of what turned out to be our second favorite house. While there is a lot of wildlife on the southern trails I don’t often see them this close, unlike some of the northern trails that are near our favorite house, the house which as of Thursday we now own. We move in a couple of weeks, we’re close to being home. We met the previous owners on Wednesday for a walkthrough of the house, they were lovely and I’m glad we had a chance to meet, they said there are several woodpeckers in the area, can’t wait to be introduced! They are likely either gilded flickers or Gila woodpeckers, I’m hoping for both!

One Year Ago

Looking down into a teddy bear cholla along the Pinnacle Peak Trail in Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, Arizona

I took this picture one year ago on my first foray into the Sonoran Desert. I had interviewed the morning before on my first to Arizona and they called a few hours later to let me know they were going to make an offer. I already knew I was likely to accept so I wanted to make sure I’d enjoy hiking in the Sonoran Desert, although I didn’t have much time before visiting some neighborhoods and then flying back to Portland. I headed up to Pinnacle Peak Park for an hour or so to get a taste of the desert.

The last note in my hiking journal is simply this: “Can’t wait to hike more here, will always miss the Northwest of course, but the desert will be amazing to explore.”

I accepted when the offer arrived early the next week, setting in motion a frantic month getting ready to move. A year later we are getting ready to move again, this time from our rental house to our new home. It’s been a busy month but nothing compared to last year, a cross-city move is so much simpler than a cross-country move, especially since then I was also starting a new job, we were finding a rental house, all while getting ready to sell the old house.

I’m excited and nervous and happy and tired and above all, grateful. I loved my 21 years in the Pacific Northwest and I’ve loved my year in the Sonoran Desert. Here’s to many more.