I Am Not a Vampire

A white-winged dove perches on open saguaro fruit, its face drenched in saguaro fruit juice, on a summer morning on the Latigo Trail in McDowellSonoranPreserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in July 2018

Its pale eyes drained of color, of the red in the eyes and the blue that surrounds, its beak and face caked in red as if from blood, a juvenile white-winged dove has a bit of the look of a vampire. The look is all about time, not yet enough time for the color to form in its eyes, the time of year for the face-drenching juicy fruit of the saguaro. It already has the distinctive white wing patches that give them their name but like many juveniles has a recently assembled, the glue-hasn’t-finished-drying look to it. I watched one recently that had learned to defend its chosen saguaro, chasing off even adults that ventured too close. This one is from a year ago in a similar part of the preserve, another is feeding in our backyard as I write this.

Not So Close

A male bighorn sheep stands on a boulder and grazes from a bush beside a river in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in July 2004

This is a wider shot of the bighorn sheep I posted a while ago, the telephoto shot made it look like I was rather close but not only was I a ways away beside the road, there was a river between us. He came down the cliff behind him to graze at the river’s edge then went back up the cliff. From my trip to Yellowstone in 2004.

5:20 am, Latigo

A male Gila woodpecker holds a moth in his beak as he perches outside his nest in an angled arm of a saguaro on the Latigo Trail in the Pima Dynamite area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

Usually I see woodpecker nests in vertical saguaro arms but this male and his mate had chosen an angled arm. At 5:20 am with the sun about to rise they were already bringing food to the nest, in this case a moth. Given the angle to the sun I wasn’t sure if the light would illuminate them when the sun came up or if the saguaro would cast them in shadow, and I still don’t know, as while they brought food to the nest at first they started holding back. Raising young is precarious and stressful enough so while I suspected they would quickly come to not see me as a threat I didn’t want to risk it and continued up the trail.

Occupied! Occupied!

A female Gila woodpecker tilts her head to the side while holding a moth in her beak as her male partner prepares to leave the nest in a saguaro beside the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

As the female Gila woodpecker brought a moth to the nest, she had to wait to go in as the male was still in the nest. Though she was positioned right below the entrance, she only had to tilt her head to the side to give him room as when leaving they jump out of the hole before spreading their wings and flying off. I’ve seen so many moths brought to woodpecker nests it’s a wonder any remain to fly about the desert. Below is the same bird, but different moth, taken 5 minutes later.

A female Gila woodpecker holds a moth in her beak as she perches outside her nest in a saguaro beside the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

Flowers for Breakfast

A female Gila woodpecker perches beside her nest with a beak stuffed not only with what might be a bee but stamens from saguaro blossoms, taken near the Latigo Trail in the Pima Dynamite area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona, in May 2019

A female Gila woodpecker perches beside her nest with a beak stuffed not only with what might be a bee but stamens from saguaro blossoms, illuminated by soft light as the sun just starts to break over the mountains. The stamens produce the pollen that is covering her face. I knew they fed their young insects and spiders but it appeared they were feeding them the stamens too, as not only did they leave the nest with beaks empty but sometimes it appeared as their beaks were full of nothing but stamens.

Blooming Buckhorn, Tasty Trees

A family of mule deer eat the flowers of buckhorn cholla on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

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.

A family of mule deer eat the flowers of a palo verde, the trees blooming alongside soaptree yucca and buckhorn cholla, on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019