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.

Breakfast Landing

A female Gila woodpecker prepares to land on the saguaro where her nest is located, she's holding red material (fruit?) in her bill for her hungry babies to eat

Early on a spring morning, a Gila woodpecker brings food to her hungry babies waiting inside the saguaro. I’m not sure what she’s holding in her bill, my first thought was fruit but I couldn’t tell for sure (the saguaro’s aren’t fruiting yet). What a jewel she is!

Morning Face

A male Gila woodpecker perches on saguaro buds with his face covered in pollen on the Upper Ranch Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Thankfully I managed to get up at 4:30am on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and was on the trails before sunrise, as that is how I met this Gila woodpecker shortly before the sun crested the hills behind me. Most of the saguaros old enough to bloom don’t have flowers yet but are putting out buds that make handy perches. Some of those buds have bloomed, however, as evidenced by the pollen covering the front half of his head.

Home Work

A male Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his nest in an old saguaro on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his current nest with an older nest around the corner. I couldn’t tell if he was grabbing an insect or if he was doing some home improvement. I haven’t posted much lately as I’ve been busy doing home work of my own, we’ve started looking for a house in earnest and I’ve been doing a lot of research on our various options. We’ve narrowed the search down to our two favorites and I think we’ll make an offer on one of them tomorrow. One of the two is a bit further from work than I’d like but it is only about 10 to 15 minutes away from several of my favorite hiking locations, including Brown’s Ranch where I took this picture back in April.