Purple Crown

A male Costa's hummingbird head flashes purple as he looks in my direction in the Troon neighborhood of Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2020. Original: _RAC3253.arw

A Costa’s hummingbird shows off his purple crown on a winter morning. The color is based on the way the light falls upon the feathers, not pigment, so when he had his head turned his crown appeared black (as the rest of his face and throat does here, but they will light up too if the light is at the right angle).

Big Needles

A view of strawberry hedgehog cactus in the rain growing in slate on the Quartz Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, Arizona in December 2019. Original: _DSC6456.arw

My award for the cutest member of the desert that will still stab you six ways from Sunday goes to the diminutive hedgehog cactus with its almost comically long needles. I found this little clump in the slate at Cave Creek on a rainy winter’s day. Rain, I remember rain. It was wet I think.

An overhead view of strawberry hedgehog cactus in the rain growing in slate on the Quartz Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, Arizona in December 2019. Original: _DSC6441.arw

Fruit Salad

A close-up view of a compass barrel cactus with dried flowers atop green fruit with two buds waiting to bloom, taken on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in August 2020

I sometimes find cacti a bit awkward looking when the flowers have died but not yet fallen off, but I liked the look on this compass barrel cactus with the dried flowers atop green fruit, a couple of buds waiting to bloom, nestled beneath the large red spines.

A top-down view of a compass barrel cactus with dried flowers atop green fruit with two buds waiting to bloom, taken on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in August 2020

Two Pollinators

A male gilded flicker perches on saguaro blossoms while a honeybee hovers nearby on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsale, Arizona in May 2020

It may look like this male gilded flicker took an interest in the honeybee as the two pollinators shared a saguaro, but it was just a coincidence of timing, the bird was only interested in eating from the flowers.

A male gilded flicker prepares to eat headfirst from a saguaro blossom on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsale, Arizona in May 2020