So, So Early

A white-winged dove perches on unripened fruit atop a saguaro at dawn on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

By late June it isn’t just the air that’s hot as even the ground radiates heat back at you before the sun is even up. That sunrise comes frightfully early but the desert is amazing as it wakes so for me deciding whether to get up or sleep in on my days off becomes a delicate act of balancing mental and physical exhaustion. The white-winged doves had been hiding from me last June but suddenly exploded into view one weekend when one seemed to adorn every saguaro. I met this adult in the blue light of dawn, the sun not yet peeking over the eastern mountains. Although the fruits upon which it perched were not yet ripe, the fresh pulp on its beak and forehead suggested that it had already breakfasted at nearby saguaros. My watch read 5:28 am, I had arrived at the park around 4:55 am, up before 4:30 am. Somewhere in Virginia my 20-year old self just had a heart attack hearing this, would someone check on him please? Only wait until after 1 pm and knock softly, just in case he’s still sleeping.

Big Breakfast

A verdin, missing most of its tail feathers during a molt, sticks its head into a prickly pear fruit to eat on a cloudy morning in the Troon neighborhood of Scottsdale, Arizona in September 2019

Watching the verdin eating from fruit almost as large as themselves, I wondered how it would look if I tried to wring every drop of sustenance from a five foot watermelon using only my face. This one had to fly precisely onto a cactus with thorns as long as its legs while missing many of its tail feathers but it did it with aplomb. Given their short beaks I don’t know if they open up the fruit themselves or if they leave the honors to something like a woodpecker with a longer beak and a head designed for hammering.

Verdin

A verdin covered in prickly pear juice looks at me as it pauses while eating from a fruit almost as large as itself in our neighborhood in Scottsdale, Arizona in September 2019

Sunday morning instead of going for a hike I took a long walk through the neighborhood. It was my first time doing it alone since we moved here, my wife and I took a short one a few months ago, but this time I walked much farther. Natural landscaping abounds so I was greeted with many of the same creatures I’d see on the trails, but many communities are gated so I was limited in where I could wander. The hardest part was walking without Ellie, my constant companion for a decade, so I was delighted when on the way back a 3 year old pup named Jackson strained at the leash to meet me and then showered me with kisses when I crossed over to meet him. As I neared the house I saw familiar faces flitting about a patch of prickly pear, dining on fruit almost as large as themselves.

Two For Breakfast

Two curve-billed thrashers perch atop the fruits of a saguaro, both of their beaks caked in dried pulp, as one eats as the other watches on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in July 2019

I thought there might be a tussle when the thrasher on the right flew onto the saguaro as the other ate from one of the fruits but perhaps they were a pair as they got along fine. They had both been enjoying their breakfast as their beaks were caked in dried pulp.