After seeing his first rattlesnake on Saturday, the desert offered Bear another first on Sunday when I took him to the Pima Dynamite trailhead for the first time (and my first visit in a long time), hiking from there to the Brown’s Ranch trailhead. At the end of the hike from a distance I heard a rattlesnake and it continued its rattle as we approached. It was safely off the trail hidden under a bush (I never did see it), but I also couldn’t see the source of its agitation until we rounded a bend and saw a bobcat relaxing in the shadows next to the bush. I was shocked Bear didn’t seem interested in it, and that after a quick glance it didn’t seem bothered by Bear. When Bear asked what a bobcat was I said it was like Trixie but several times larger and with less attitude.
Last night as we relaxed in my office the cats sprang off me when there was a rustling outside and we heard chomping on the other side of a large bush. Not wanting to scare whatever was enjoying a meal I waited until at last the chewing stopped and a small bobcat trotted into sight before disappearing into the neighbor’s yard.
We’ll never see the desert’s big cats but the small ones do put on a show from time to time.
When I think of flower stalks I think of the delicate stems of the wildflowers I’d see on hikes through most of my life, like daisies or columbine or fairly slippers. The soaptree yucca, on the other hand, has a towering stalk that’s thick at the base like a tree limb before tapering into thin branches at the top. Even so it is a testament to how impossibly light birds are that this bedraggled thrasher only slightly depressed its perch as it sang on a sunny winter morning.
A week ago as I neared the end of my loop hike, walking down a popular trail, I was stunned to see both Harris’s hawk juveniles close by. This one especially so, the other a bit further back in a palo verde. A couple of the adults were a ways behind me on a transmission tower where the two youngsters eventually joined them. Such a treat to see them so close after watching them so long! Of course they got so big by eating some of my favorite creatures of the desert, such is life in our world. The young fliers are much more confident in their movements now although they have much to learn as they enter their first winter.
I’ve been fascinated by the plants of the desert and have enjoyed taking pictures of their various shapes and textures. I’ve held off a little bit though since I didn’t know what would be growing in our yard when we bought a house, where it would be much more convenient to take pictures. I took this picture of Engelmann prickly pear back in April during the first month after we moved here. We have some cactus growing in the yard of the new house but not this lovely species.
After a hike up to Inspiration Viewpoint this morning when it was too windy for my liking, the day turned lovely and I’ve spent the rest of the morning and afternoon relaxing on the back porch. At the moment there are house finches and sparrows atop the feeder while below are Gambel’s quail, mourning doves, and Eurasian collared doves. A pair of curve-billed thrashers have been drifting in and out throughout the day, making their presence known with loud whistles. This one I saw singing atop a saguaro six months ago while hiking early one morning on Brown’s Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
We see a lot of overlap between the birds of our backyard and the birds of the desert but not with towhees. I’ve seen three species of towhees in Arizona, Abert’s towhees all summer in our yard and just recently a spotted towhee, but the canyon towhee shown here I only see on the trails.
This Mojave rattlesnake appeared large in the viewfinder but was a safe distance away when I began to photograph it. Even so, as it crossed the trail and started moving steadily towards where I was (having given it a wide berth and gone off-trail to let it choose its path), I pulled the camera away from my eye occasionally to get a clear view of how far away it actually was. It was well aware of me and headed over to my right so I sat still until it chose a bush to curl up under, then I continued up the trail.
I haven’t hiked as much the past month as I’ve been too tired to get up before sunrise and drive to the trails, usually only hiking once per weekend. I didn’t go at all last weekend because some chronic health issues flared up but after sleeping in yesterday this morning I was back on the trails and met this lovely Mojave rattlesnake, a new species for me. But it presented me with a dilemma I hadn’t expected.
It was at the edge of a wide trail and we saw each other from a distance so I was able to leave the trail and give it a wide berth, but a couple of mountain bikers came around the bend and I didn’t know if I should try to warn them. I didn’t have much time to decide and my hunch was they would be best to pass at speed, I figured the snake would leave them alone and in any event the trail was so wide they could stay out of striking range. I was afraid if I tried to flag them down they’d slam on the brakes and end up near the snake and possibly make the situation worse.
Neither of them saw the snake and passed close by but thankfully the snake hunkered down each time and they continued down the trail unaware. The rattler relaxed and made its way across the trail towards me. It wasn’t being aggressive so I backed up even further and let it choose its path, taking a few pictures as it slithered over to a dense bush and curled up in its shade. I’ll have to ask some riders what they would have wanted me to do, some people really dislike snakes so perhaps ignorance is bliss if the likelihood of an attack is quite low.
The early morning light falls on one of my favorite saguaros, I love its wavy pattern and look for it whenever I’m hiking Brown’s Ranch Road. If you’re too young to understand the reference in the title and never experienced adjusting horizontal and vertical hold on a television, consider yourself lucky. In my day …