Sometimes it seems everything in the desert is waiting to stab you in one way or the other but here too softness abounds, bounding on all fours.
Most of the desert washes I cross when I hike are fairly small but not so Apache Wash, there are signs as you approach warning you not to enter when flooded and the large debris scattered around tells you why. It was damp on the morning I crossed on my first visit to Phoenix Sonoran Preserve but the rains and thus the danger had long since passed the day before, so I and a pair of desert cottontails enjoyed the quiet before the sun came up.
I am amazed how effortlessly and silently mammals move through their home while I stumble down the trail. The jackrabbits seem like spirits floating through the desert, I often first notice the black tips of their tall ears moving while the rabbit itself is blocked from sight by the many plants of the scrubland. This lovely creature I found not on the trails but at the trailhead of Brown’s Ranch, we shared a quiet moment before sunup.
The rabbit you are most likely to see at the trailhead, and on the trail, is the desert cottontail (below). They too move silently through the desert but are so much smaller than the jackrabbits that you see them when you see them, there are no tall black tips dancing in the early light to catch your eye. Like all the mammals your best bet to see them is to arrive early, here also at the trailhead but just as the sun began peeking through to send one of us onto the trails and one to bed.
Walking in the Sonoran Desert at sunrise, seeing the desert both wake up and go to sleep, is a joy and a treasure even to this lifelong night owl.
A desert cottontail eats dried grasses in the soft light before the sun was up on a warm spring morning. I was back on the trails this morning after taking a couple of weeks off to let a sore left knee heal and didn’t see a single cottontail (or jackrabbit), most of the time I see at least one if not a handful so either today I was unlucky or perhaps they are not as visible in the summer. I meant to go hiking yesterday but forgot to set my alarm so I walked the pup instead, Ellie and I saw four cottontails on a short walk in the neighborhood.
This cottontail kept sniffing the base of the old saguaro and hopping up where there were no spines, hopping down, and sniffing some more. Cottontails are the mammal I see most frequently both in the desert and in our neighborhood. Fortunately our dog Ellie pays them no mind, she’s never cared about wildlife even in her younger years. Although we still see them on our walks it’s been a week or two since one has been in our backyard, is there a number I can call to complain about this?