Environmental

A Harris's hawk perches on a dead tree in front of a mountain as light from the rising sun sweeps over the desert, while the palo verdes below are in full bloom with the surrounding saguaros just starting to bloom

I’ve photographed Harris’s hawks up close several times the past couple of weeks but I was delighted to make an environmental portrait of a distant adult as light from the rising sun swept over the desert. The palo verdes below it were in full bloom while some of the saguaros towering above it were just starting to flower.

The Marcus Landslide

A view at sunrise of three saguaros growing atop the Marcus Landslide in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

According to the signs along the trail, the Marcus Landslide occurred 500,000 years ago, which is before we moved to Arizona. The landslide itself was only discovered in 2002 by a couple of graduate students who named it after a geology professor who died while leading students on a field trip. The estimates are that the original height of the area was 4100 feet (taller than any of the other McDowells) and that 25.8 billion pounds of debris fell 1300 feet and spread out over an area 4000 feet long and 1650 feet wide. It’s a bit unusual in that the slide spread out over a much longer area than the height of the fall, making the resulting landslide less obvious. In addition to the scenery I love the trail because of the wildlife, it’s a fantastic spot for seeing phainopepla in the winter and with all the boulders I’m hoping an excellent spot for lizards now that they are out of hibernation.

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

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

The Other Side of the Guardian

A rock formation sits before orange clouds at sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I didn’t want to get up this morning but with high clouds forecast I thought it might make for an interesting sunrise. I headed to the Marcus Landslide Trail to photograph the rock formation I call The Guardian but as I started down the trail I realized the best light was going to be in the opposite direction than I had planned. I stopped and switched lenses and took this shot before continuing down the trail. It was only the start of what turned out to be a wonderful morning.