Nighthawks were a new species for me when we moved to Arizona. I see them relatively often near the break of day, zooming about low to the ground in erratic flight like massive swallows. When sitting still they can be pretty hard to spot and usually I only manage it if see them land, as in this case when a dead cholla lended its support on a spring morning.
One of my favorite pictures this year, taken early in the morning in October looking west from a frequently-hiked trail near our house. It speaks to the misconceptions I used to have about this area and how surprised I was to learn there is so much diverse life here. There are the twisting trees, the yuccas with their flower stalks reaching towards the sky, the green-barked palo verdes, the yearning ocotillos, and above all the saguaros. Topping it off are two members of the Harris’s hawk family that so charmed me this year, an adult perched in the bare branches of the tree in the upper left and a juvenile down below, calling out to the rest of the family who must have been on the other side of the hill. The adult eventually flew off in that direction and the juvenile took its spot high in the tree before following the adult out of sight. How lucky I am to be in their, and my, home.
I’m still early in my learning what plants grow in the Sonoran Desert, even after having lived here a year I’m mostly in the “I think that’s a tree” stage of identification. Keep that in mind when I say I think this lovely if prickly plant is a Southwestern prickly poppy. I appreciated how it so thoughtfully bloomed that I could show both the beauty in its flower and the abundance of prickles everywhere else. I recently picked up a guide to the wildflowers of McDowell Sonoran Preserve by Marianne Skov Jensen (@ezpixels on Instagram), they sell it (and the overall field guide which I also bought) at some of the trailheads on the weekends. It will greatly speed up my learning process, it’s extensively photographed and was clearly a labor of love.
The second shot below is similar but with shallower depth of field, it emphasizes the flower more but it doesn’t show as well how the plant is covered in prickles.