Windmills

The spines of an Engelmann prickly pear cactus cast shadows, looking like little windmills, along Brown's Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

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.

New Home

A cactus wren sits in a nest it was building in the arms of a saguaro at the Brown's Ranch trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona

We bought a house!

We spent yesterday with our realtor visiting a handful of houses we hadn’t seen plus our two favorites from prior visits. By the end of the day we were close to making an offer on our favorite but wanted to sleep on it. I went hiking this morning near my second favorite house and had a wonderful time and was satisfied I could be happy there, but all the same my overall favorite retained its crown. My wife felt the same so we met our agent this afternoon and put in an offer and the sellers accepted it!

We’re both excited and exhausted!

We first arrived in Arizona at the tail end of March, a month later I met this cactus wren early one morning as it built its nest in the arms of a saguaro. As it tried out the nest I assumed its home was nearly complete and that it was applying the finishing touches before eggs were laid and babies were raised. It showed how much I had to learn about my new home as the wrens still had plenty of work to do, building up the sides of the nest and putting a roof on top to protect from the desert sun, with an entrance in the side they could fly in and out of as they brought food in and took waste out.

There is still work to be done before we take possession of our house too, we close at the end of February and will move sometime in March. But tonight it is enough to be thankful for the opportunity we had to come to Arizona after our time in Oregon came to an end, that we were able to leave one wonderful place and arrive in another. I’m thankful for that little wren and for that big saguaro, for helping me fall in love so quickly with the Sonoran Desert. For the Gila woodpeckers, the gilded flickers, the curve-billed thrashers, the white-winged doves, the quail, the Gila monsters, the whiptails, the side-blotched lizards, the diamondbacks, the bobcat, the antelope squirrels, the cottontails, the jackrabbits. On and on and on.

The desert is our home, soon a house will be too.

Home Work

A male Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his nest in an old saguaro on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his current nest with an older nest around the corner. I couldn’t tell if he was grabbing an insect or if he was doing some home improvement. I haven’t posted much lately as I’ve been busy doing home work of my own, we’ve started looking for a house in earnest and I’ve been doing a lot of research on our various options. We’ve narrowed the search down to our two favorites and I think we’ll make an offer on one of them tomorrow. One of the two is a bit further from work than I’d like but it is only about 10 to 15 minutes away from several of my favorite hiking locations, including Brown’s Ranch where I took this picture back in April.

A Lovely Beginning at the End

The sun begins to fall on a foothill palo verde tree in front of Brown's Mountain on Brown's Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

The forecast for New Year’s Eve called for clouds in the morning and rain in the afternoon. The night before I debated about where I wanted to go in case there was a colorful sunrise, trying to choose between one location at Brown’s Ranch and another at Marcus Landslide, waiting until morning to make my choice. I fell in love with Brown’s Ranch on my first visit after we moved here and have wanted to photograph this palo verde in front of Brown’s Mountain for some time, so that was where I decided to end the year.

I arrived in plenty of time to hike to the tree before sunrise and as I waited in the cold I saw the most amazing sunrise taking place behind me, high clouds in the eastern sky lit the most intense pink. I wasn’t in a place to photograph the sunrise itself so I drank in the moment and hoped for the best for the scene I had in mind. I have long enjoyed photographing morning arriving at my favorite locations and like to leave part of the scene still in shadow, for this picture I hoped to catch the mountains and palo verde in the early light with the surrounding desert scrub still in shadow.

Low clouds soon began blocking the rising sun as it started to illuminate different parts of the park, one minute there’d be dynamic light and the next none at all, my hopes rising and falling with the light. Dark clouds rolled in behind the mountain, not the clouds that would soon bring much needed rain to the desert but perhaps a portent of what was to come. Suddenly the light broke through, for a moment, and I had my picture before clouds blocked the sun once more, the dark clouds before me moved past, and I continued on my way. Up to the Vaquero Trail, to scope out another scene for another morning.

A lovely start to the end of the year. I was sick in the afternoon and decided not to risk going out this morning despite being up early, so the new year begins more quietly with my loved ones at home, before I head back to work tomorrow.

This Meal Came with Strings Attached

This Meal Came with Strings Attached

I only saw the aftermath but it looked to me like this verdin had grabbed a free meal from a spider’s web, but the web was so strong it kept the meal tethered to the cholla. Eventually by beating its wings and attempting to fly the webbing broke and the little bird was able to fly away.