White-Winged Love

A white-winged dove perches atop a saguaro cactus, it's face covered in pollen

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.

Face Full of Flowers

A white-winged dove sticks its entire face into a saguaro blossom as it feeds in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

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.

The face of a male Gambel's quail is covered in pollen from saguaro blossoms in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Mother’s Day Bouquet

Sagurao blossoms near sunrise on an off-map trail at Brown's Ranch in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

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.

Calling Me Home

A male Gambel's quail sits atop spent saguaro blossoms in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

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.

A female Gambel's quail eats from saguaro blossoms in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Not the Usual Suspects

A young male Bullock's oriole perches atop a blooming saguaro cactus in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

In my short time here there are a handful of birds I’ve gotten used to seeing on the saguaros: Gila woodpeckers, gilded flickers, house finches, cactus wrens, and curve-billed thrashers. But I sometimes see more than the usual suspects, such as this splash of color that momentarily swooped into view early Saturday morning. He’s a young Bullock’s oriole, he’ll be even more colorful and vibrant in a year. I’ve only see this species a couple of times before, both during my years in Portland, so here’s hoping we meet more often in Arizona.

Goodbye Irving Park, I Love You

Our dog Ellie rests in the dog park at Irving Park in front of blooming trees in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon in March 2018

As our move to Arizona draws close, let me say goodbye to some of the things I’ve loved about our time in the Pacific Northwest, starting with Irving Park. When we moved to Portland 16 years ago, we only had cats so we never considered how close the house might be to a dog park. When we adopted Ellie in 2009 and trained her to go off-leash, it was a delight to discover a dog park was only a few blocks away. After not stepping foot in the park until then we’ve visited twice a day, every day, since. In the sun, in the fog, in the rain, in the snow. Not the ice, Ellie hates the ice.

These days Ellie keeps her evening walks short so we go up to Irving Park but not all the way to the dog park, but most mornings she wants to make it up the hill. More to meet the owners than the other dogs, both because she adores people and because she never misses an opportunity to try to convince someone to give her a treat. After that we head out into the neighborhood, occasionally she wants to go straight home but usually she’s up for a longer ramble, even at 14 years old.

The trees started blooming a couple of weeks ago so I took advantage of a sunny morning to get one last picture of Ellie at the park. A variety of trees ring the paths of the park, some giants from long ago whose lives were spared when the area was carved from the forest. A handful of years ago I deliberately traded a lot of my hiking on the weekends for long walks with Ellie when I realized our aging pup would still go on long walks if they were in the morning, and while I miss the hiking I wouldn’t trade my time with Ellie for it.

Thank you Irving Park for many great memories with this greatest of pups. Thank you to all who helped create and maintain the park over so many years. Goodbye, I love you.

If Two is Company and Three is a Crowd, What is Four?

Four purple coneflower blossoms grow close together

Four purple coneflower blossoms grow close together in our garden. I’ve propagated several patches around our yard as this is my favorite flower, but this old patch from when we first moved in continues to be the most vigorous. I don’t deadhead them late in the fall so the birds can eat the seeds during the winter, as the juncos are doing now.