The Neighborhood

A cactus wren sings from a blooming and leafing ocotillo in the Troon neighborhood of Scottsdale, Arizona in March 2020

The sun was rising, the ocotillo blooming, the cactus wrens singing, on a morning walk in the neighborhood last weekend. On my afternoon walk I saw a bobcat working its way down the hill. At night I heard a noise and for a second assumed it was one of the cats except they were all sleeping on me. I looked out the window to see a javelina rooting around in the yard. Lovely neighbors abound.

Blooming Ocotillos

An ash-throated flycatcher perches on the tip of a blooming ocotillo on the Latigo Trail in the Pima Dynamite area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

When we first moved to Arizona I instantly fell in love with ocotillos, their long thin arms spiraling into the sky. Their tips usually bloom with an explosion of reds and yellows and oranges although sometimes it’s a more subtle mix of browns and grays and whites with a splash of rufous.

Land Ho!

A male Gambel's quail looks out from atop a blooming saguaro, his black face completely dusted in yellow pollen, taken on the connecting trail to the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2018

I’m not sure why mariners coined the term “crow’s nest” for the lookout atop the mast as “quail’s perch” seems more apropos. Taken in May of 2018, normally his face would be black but on this morning it was coated in the yellow pollen of saguaro blossoms.

Don’t Lend Me a Hand

A master blister beetle clings to one brittlebush blossom while reaching out to try and grasp another blossom, taken on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

I didn’t read comics as a kid but I watched the Superfriends on TV and was enamored with Aquaman’s ability to communicate with animals. It would have come in handy on this morning in May as the master blister beetle was trying to move from one blossom to the next but finding it too far out of its reach. I would have loved to tell it to sit still and that I’d gently push the stem closer to the other flower, but alas I could not. Rather than scare it I left it alone, eventually it gave up and moved back down the stem. While I didn’t know it at the time there’s an extra reason not to lend a literal helping hand to these beetles as if they feel threatened they can cause caustic yellow blood to ooze from their legs, which can blister human skin. Lovely to watch though!

Two Years

A Harris's hawk perches in a dead tree in front of a blooming palo verde along the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

It was two years ago today that my team got laid off, setting in motion the events that brought us from Oregon to Arizona. To me it feels like we left Portland much longer ago but that we’ve been here much shorter. I haven’t ventured further afield than my local trails, that will change with time but for now I’m content to enjoy the pictures people post as they travel the state. While Ellie was with us I didn’t want to be away from her more than I had to be, then with the new house and a lot to learn at work it’s left me a bit thin at times. Thankfully I am blessed with an abundance of local trails, to the point that some mornings I have difficulty choosing where I want to go. And there is so much wonder to behold in the Sonoran Desert, such as this Harris’s hawk I met in June with the blossoms fading and the sun rising, one of the adults that helped raise the two young hawks in the saguaro nest further up the trail.

Mellow, Yellow

An overhead view of a master blister beetle sleeping on a heavily-chewed brittlesbush blossom on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsale, Arizona in May 2019

A sleepy master blister beetle isn’t quite ready to shake off its slumber and rise to meet the world. From the heavily chewed flower petals you can see why the brittlebush is both bedroom and dining room for the lovely little ones, at least on the one and only time I saw them this spring.