A Quiet Morning in December

A view of Granite Mountain from the Fraesfield area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in the early light on December 29, 2020. Original: _CAM8536.arw

A quiet morning in December, looking north to Granite Mountain. The large depression was created decades ago when the giant lizard who had been resting beneath the mountain finally woke, shaking off its slumber and heading west to California and the Pacific Ocean. It was seen swimming in the direction of Tokyo but I don’t know what happened to it after that, hope it had a good life.

A Quiet Beginning

Granite Mountain framed by saguaros in the soft light before sunrise on the interpretative trail at Fraesfield in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 31, 2020. Original: _CAM8703.arw

Granite Mountain to the north in the soft light as New Year’s Eve dawned, even as clouds in the east and west began to catch fire. I have a fondness for the subtlety of this first shot of the day, the year ending meant my vacation soon would too, along with the daily hikes it afforded. These quiet moments never last long, the day always rushes in behind.

Desert Flora

A view at sunset of some of the larger plants of the Sonoran Desert, looking towards Granite Mountain from the Latigo Trail on October 17, 2020. Original: _CAM5616.arw

A view at sunset of some of the larger plants of the Sonoran Desert, looking towards Granite Mountain. I assumed the trails would be packed in the evenings but went since I haven’t been able to get out much in the mornings and to my surprise saw almost no one. Perhaps it’s a quirk of timing where it was still hot in the evenings but not dangerously so, maybe now that it is cooling off it will be more crowded.

A Little Nod

My shadow points towards the southern edge of the Granite Mountain with the moon about to set, the sun starting to rise, at McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on October 3, 2020. Original: _CAM5292.arw

Saturday morning for the first time in two months I had enough energy to get up early for a hike in the desert. With the sun rising and the moon about to bid good day I used a gently sloping boulder abutting the trail to add my shadow to the desert’s own, a little nod to my deep appreciation at being back.

Little Lovely

A common side-blotched lizard warms itself in the sun on a rock along the Coyote Canyon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I hope there are little things in your life that bring you as much joy as these tiny lizards bring to me. The common side-blotched lizard is the lizard I see most although they can be difficult to photograph because of their small size. Most of the time I just watch them sunning themselves or scurrying about and am thankful they are there, and I with them.

Who Am I?

A close-up view of the top of a double crested saguaro along the Coyote Canyon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I am not broccoli.

A close-up view of one of the crests of a double crested saguaro along the Coyote Canyon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I am tall, taller than you.

A close-up view a gap between the two crests of a double crested saguaro along the Coyote Canyon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I am rare, doubly so.

The two crests of a double crested saguaro along the Coyote Canyon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I am a double crested saguaro. While most saguaros have tips of the familiar shape, some grow into fan-like shapes know as crests. Crested saguaros are rare, this one has two crests. This is the only one I’ve seen so far, a reader pointed out its location near Granite Mountain where the Coyote Canyon Trail meets the Desperado Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

A double crested saguaro grows along the Coyote Canyon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Bringing Balance to the Universe

Balanced Rock with Brown's Mountain on the left and Cholla Mountain on the right, taken on the Balanced Rock Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Balanced Rock with Brown’s Mountain on the left and Cholla Mountain on the right. Brown’s Mountain and Cone Mountain (out-of-frame to the left) have a nice cone shape, while Cholla Mountain and Granite Mountain (behind me) look like someone piled up a bunch of granite boulders on top of each other. Balanced Rock sits between, a reminder of the strength and beauty in diversity.

Shrike One! Shrike Two!

A loggerhead shrike perches in a tree along an off-map trail near Granite Mountain in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

When I saw this loggerhead shrike on an off-map trail near Granite Mountain I assumed it was my first one in Arizona but not my first one ever, having seen them in Washington. Except I hadn’t, when I got home and checked my notes I realized the shrikes in Washington were northern shrikes so this was both my second shrike and a new species for me. In my defense I rarely saw shrikes there or here.

Calling Out

A rock squirrel calls out atop a large granite boulder near Granite Mountain in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

A rock squirrel calls out atop a large granite boulder near Granite Mountain. It had a piece of saguaro fruit but instead of eating it was sending out the alarm for much of the time I watched it during a food and water break. At first I thought it was complaining about me to the other nearby squirrels, even though I was far down the hill, but it kept looking in other directions and went quiet for a while before starting up again. It has lots of enemies in the desert, most of whom would not have been visible from my vantage point, but I haven’t spent much time with these squirrels yet to get a feel if it was sending out an alarm or claiming this spot as its own.