Nighthawks were a new species for me when we moved to Arizona. I see them relatively often near the break of day, zooming about low to the ground in erratic flight like massive swallows. When sitting still they can be pretty hard to spot and usually I only manage it if see them land, as in this case when a dead cholla lended its support on a spring morning.
Have I wandered too long in the desert heat? The cholla is talking to me. Not in quiet whispers but in bold boisterous calls, raising my spirits and quickening my pace, pulling me closer. So far I have not been drawn into its warm embrace, so far, so far.
A cactus wren is as sharply dressed as it is sharply perched as it sits atop a buckhorn cholla with saguaros towering behind. Taken in early May with flower buds starting to emerge on the tips of the cholla.
To show how slow I can be on the uptake, it hadn’t quite dawned on me that buckhorn cholla must be named because it grows and branches like a buck’s horns until yesterday morning, when the desert sort of rubbed my nose in it.
A verdin pauses below its nest of sticks in a buckhorn cholla, a spider in its beak, hungry mouths inches away waiting to be fed. Taken in May, both parents were constantly bringing little soft-bodied creatures to the nest.
The buckhorn cholla were in full bloom in mid-May and this family of mule deer took full advantage of the soft treats. While other animals will also eat the flowers the deer have a height advantage so they can reach flowers the others can’t. The deer also fed on palo verde flowers, the trees blooming alongside both the cholla and soaptree yucca.
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.