Twelve years ago on a cloudy spring morning at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge I came across this muskrat eating the grasses at the edge of one of the lakes or ponds. I don’t remember where exactly and my notes back then were rather sparse and don’t provide any clues.
Early on a summer morning, a white-winged dove uses its tongue to eat from deep within the fruit of a saguaro. The red covering many of the spines atop the cactus is not blood but rather pulp and juice from already-eaten fruit.
A male Gila woodpecker prepares to leave the nest as his partner brings a spider for their hungry children inside the saguaro. Both parents excavate the nest cavity, the cactus will slowly harden the inside to prevent water loss and it is only then that the woodpeckers can use the cavity as a nest. You can see how much of the surrounding surface of the saguaro has been scraped away as they created their home and now land over and over again.
Verdin were a new species for me when we moved to Arizona as in the US they only live near the southwestern border. I see these tiny yellow-headed birds both at home and on the trails, this one was feeding from a tree in our backyard in April.
A female Gila woodpecker brings a moth to the nest as the male prepares to leave (the moth was for the hungry babies inside). The parents brought a variety of insects (and spiders, as she has in her beak below) to their nest in the old saguaro. The male seemed to spend more time in the nest and the female more time hunting during the mornings I watched them. It required a bit of a hike to get to the nest so I couldn’t get there right at first light but it was a treat to watch them nevertheless. I will always be amazed by the relentless energy parents spend getting their babies past those precarious early days.
I also have a 4K clip of them at the nest which I’ll learn to edit at some point and post here. Both pictures are from this spring after we had been in Arizona for about six weeks.