Beauty All Around

A cactus wren perches on a saguaro fruit along the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

It has been a sad day but not a day without beauty. In between talking to the vet in the morning and taking Ellie in to be euthanized, I walked into my office and saw Boo and Trixie transfixed in the window. I walked over assuming they were looking at a bird and was delighted to instead see a western whiptail in the bushes next to the window, a favorite lizard on the trails but a new yard species for me. When we got home with heavy hearts after saying goodbye to Ellie, I saw a cactus wren in the backyard, a first for the new house although I had seem them at the rental house and of course on the trails. This one was perching on a saguaro fruit last summer in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

It’s a Good Thing Saguaros Aren’t Carnivorous

A white-winged dove sticks its face into a saguaro fruit to feed along the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Last spring I was amazed at how many birds fed at saguaros as they bloomed and fruited, such as this white-winged dove sticking its face into fruit at the end of an arm along the Latigo Trail. It’s a good thing saguaros aren’t carnivorous or a lot of birds would lose their heads!

A cactus wren sticks its head into a saguaro blossom to feed in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Cactus wrens are smaller than the doves but still large for wrens, this one stuck its head deep into a blossom on the saguaro where it was building its nest and raising its young. When it emerges its head will be covered in pollen, some of which will be deposited at the next blossom it visits.

It s a Good Thing Saguaros Aren t Carnivorous Verdin Edition

The tiny verdin had to stick most of its body into the fruit to feed at the back, in this picture it is feeding closer to the front and only its head is hidden. When the fruit ripens it is the white-winged doves that eat the most, but other birds enjoy the short-lived bounty as well.

Early to Rise

Chain fruit cholla bathed in blue light before sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

In December I arrived when the Tom’s Thumb trailhead opened so I could hoof it out as quickly as possible to photograph this bank of chain fruit cholla before sunrise, with my beloved Guardian looking out over the desert in the background. At that time of year I can hike as fast as I can without worrying about surprising a rattlesnake as they are still hibernating. My favorite shot turned out to be the first one of the desert bathed in the soft blue light before the sun rose above the mountains behind me, but I also like the one below of the same scene bathed in the red light of sunrise.

Chain fruit cholla bathed in the red light of sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Close

A male gilded flicker perches on a saguaro skeleton early on a winter's morning near the Kovach Family Nature Trail in the Lost Dog Wash section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I met this male gilded flicker on a saguaro skeleton early on a winter’s morning on the Kovach Family Nature Trail, within walking distance of what turned out to be our second favorite house. While there is a lot of wildlife on the southern trails I don’t often see them this close, unlike some of the northern trails that are near our favorite house, the house which as of Thursday we now own. We move in a couple of weeks, we’re close to being home. We met the previous owners on Wednesday for a walkthrough of the house, they were lovely and I’m glad we had a chance to meet, they said there are several woodpeckers in the area, can’t wait to be introduced! They are likely either gilded flickers or Gila woodpeckers, I’m hoping for both!

Home Soon

A white-winged dove, its face matted with fruit juice, sits atop an unripened saguaro fruit with its mouth open as it prepares to preen in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

We close on our house in a couple of days. We have a walkthrough around lunchtime with the owners then take possession on Thursday and move in a couple of weeks. The white-winged doves will be home soon too, at least their summer home, although I’m not exactly sure when they’ll arrive. This one was feeding on saguaro fruit in July, I felt so much sympathy for them as their faces were matted with juice as they stuck their heads into the fruit to feed. As much as they like to be clean, they were going to be migrating soon and had to strike while the iron was hot.