I have much to learn about the rhythm of our new home. I took some time off in late December and was surprised to see the desert awash in yellow flowers (brittlebush I think but I’m still learning).
Before we left for Arizona I wanted one more picture of Ellie at the dog park at Irving Park, the first stop on all our walks, and this lovely spring morning gave me the perfect opportunity with the trees blooming behind her. Ellie had many dog admirers, a handful who absolutely adored her, fortunately I had a chance to talk with all of their owners before we left so they wouldn’t assume the worst when our elderly pup suddenly stopped showing up at the park.
In case you were wondering what a white-winged dove looks like when it isn’t plunged headlong into a saguaro blossom, here you can see most of the bird apart from its feet. The golden color to the entire front of its head is from pollen, making readily apparent how the birds pollinate the saguaros as they stick their heads in the flowers from one cactus to the next. Much to my delight white-wings are one of the most common birds in our backyard so I get to see them every day of the week.
A white-winged dove sticks its entire face into a saguaro blossom as it feeds. It’s face was covered in pollen, as were many of the birds in my pictures from this time, such as the Gambel’s quail below. The birds and bats and bees took full advantage of the suddenly plentiful blooms, dining quickly as they flew from one flower to the next, pollination in action. The blooms are mostly gone now, this morning I saw only two flowers during several hours of hiking, and one of those was pretty wilted.
This saguaro offered up a bouquet of flowers near sunrise on Mother’s Day. I had hopes of photographing it again with all the flowers open but by the time I could return the following Saturday, all of the blossoms were gone and I learned another fact about my new home. The flowers only last about a day, first opening at night to attract bats with their nectar and closing the following afternoon after the bees and birds have had their fill. If pollinated during that short window, the fruit below will develop during the summer.
One of the birds I most wanted to photograph when we arrived in Arizona was the Gambel’s quail. Not because they are rare – we saw them in the neighborhood when we were looking at our rental house – but because they called me home. It was our vacation in New Mexico a decade ago that got me excited about living in the Southwest, and my encounter with Gambel’s quail there was one of the highlights of the trip, their serenade at sunrise. So it was a special delight to photograph this male and female up on the saguaros as the sun rose, dining on the cactus blossoms, in our shared desert home. Home in a larger sense, though I see them every day in my backyard these quail were at Brown’s Ranch in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.