Voices Carry

A close-up view of the head and body of a curve-billed thrasher as it sits on our fence in our backyard in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2020

As we approach the anniversary of our first year in the house I added my 37th yardbird today, of all things a ladder-backed woodpecker. I saw 26 birds in our sixteen years at our Portland house, the urban neighborhood didn’t lend itself to the diversity of wildlife we see here. Equally as delightful are the numerous regulars we see despite the small size of the backyard, including the first bird I saw after we bought the house, the curve-billed thrasher. One is currently feeding a fledgling though we’ve not yet passed the Ides of March! As piercing as their yellow eyes is their song, while I was photographing some woodpeckers a month ago a nearby thrasher let out such an ear-piercing cry I’m surprised I didn’t fall over into the pool! More typically I hear their calls carrying across the desert as they are frequent companions on the trails, one of the many joys of the desert.

The Handsome Fellow

Our cat Templeton looks into the camera with his green eyes while resting in our backyard in Portland, Oregon in the evening of August 1, 2003

I was editing this picture of Templeton from 2003 so I could bring its associated blog post back online only to discover there was no associated post, and it never even made it up onto my old site before then, but better late than never. Templeton was a handsome little fellow with his green eyes and gray tuxedo and had a charming personality to match. I wasn’t a cat person when I met him a decade prior when my wife and I started dating, how little I understood then of how he would change my life. I didn’t get my first camera until college or grad school, the most basic of point and shoots, with my first SLR in my last year of grad school, so I’m thankful I switched to digital in 2000 and began photographing him more often. This picture encapsulates a lot for me, I took it during our first full year in the house in Portland where we would live for sixteen years. I think of him every day as I do all the pets and am thankful for the pictures I have to remember him by, he was a little charmer!

My Guardians

Our cats Templeton and Scout play in the backyard during their supervised outdoor time, Templeton in the foreground and Scout back by the window under my office, taken at our house in Portland, Oregon in August 2003

Tomorrow I’m scheduled to meet an oral surgeon to get my last wisdom tooth removed, I wish they had removed them all when I was young but it is what it is. The other lower one was removed years ago while we were in Portland and the dentist struggled to get it out, I was laid up for a couple of days on heavy pain killers. What I remember from those days was waking up every four hours or so to change the gauze in my mouth or to take new meds, and every time I woke up a different cat was sleeping on my chest. It may have been coincidence but at the time it felt as though Templeton and Scout were working in shifts, making sure I was alright, and indeed I was thankful for their devotion. Here the two play in the backyard in 2003 during their supervised outdoor time, Templeton in the foreground and Scout back by the window under my office.

Backyard Beauty

A female Anna's hummingbird looks at me while perching on a bougainvillea branch in front of pale verde trees in our backyard in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

Though I haven’t spent much time photographing them we do get a variety of birds to our small backyard. Our house is on a slope with a narrow common area below the back of the house with some trees and cacti and grasses, although it isn’t easy to get back there it does provide a nice backdrop. This spring a verdin couple nested in a buckhorn cholla below the house and if I angled my lens just so against the metal bars of the fence I could photograph the entrance. As I watched them a female Anna’s hummingbird occasionally flew into the bougainvillea I was sitting next to, eventually I pulled the camera away from its precise setup and took some handheld shots of her. The dark patch on her neck will glow a bright red if the sun hits it from the right angle.