White-crowns

An adult white-crowned sparrow perches in a tree on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2019

We had a variety of sparrows on display in Oregon but during the winter at my favorite refuge the big flocks I’d see were golden-crowns. I have lost count of the many ways the desert has surprised me but one was that here too I’d see flocks of sparrows in the winter, only now it’s white-crowns and black-throats. I saw white-crowns in Oregon but not nearly in the numbers I see them here, it’s such a joy to stand still as the sun rises and watch a flock flit about me as they make their morning rounds.

Winter Bright

A male phainopepla perches in a tree early on a winter morning on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2019

Our winter skies are brightened by the dark forms of phainopepla, I love walking down the trails and hearing their quiet voices from the other side of trees. This one is from an early December morning on the Marcus Landslide Trail, I haven’t been hiking in about six weeks (!!!), partially from wanting to minimize exposure to others and partially from being exhausted. I’d like to try some of the wider and less popular trails as it would be beneficial mentally and physically but we’ll see how tomorrow goes. So far the weekend has been a lot of curling up for naps with the cats before yard work in the evenings.

Defenders of the Landslide

A rock formation I call the Guariand and an old saguaro stand above the Marcus Landslide Trail at sunrise in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in November 2019

Two of the giant protectors of the Marcus Landslide Trail watch over me at sunrise, in the distance on the hill on the left the rock I call The Guardian, closer to me on the right an old if less ancient saguaro. I love this trail but haven’t been in a while, while I’d like to rectify that I’ve been too tired for any early hikes the past couple of weeks.

Class Picture Day

A cactus wren perches on a dead tree branch recently vacated by a house finch beside the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in January 2020

Shortly after the house finch left his perch a cactus wren flew in and posed in the same spot. Was it class picture day? Would a canyon towhee fly in, a little oatmeal spilled on its shirt? A black-throated sparrow with an unruly cowlick? A white-crowned sparrow with a bright smile and a mouthful of braces? Sadly no, the mixed flock of birds continued to move across the desert so I continued up the trail.

A Quiet Morning

Orange clouds hover above the Four Peaks before sunrise, taken from the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in January 2020

Exhausted, I turned off my alarm before bed yet I woke early filled with existential dread for the state of the world. I got up and waited to see if I would get sleepy again, but since I didn’t I decided to surround myself with beauty and went out for a hike. Not up for a long drive I initially decided to hit a favorite trail at Brown’s Ranch but went to the Marcus Landslide instead when I saw clouds in the east. My reward as I started down the trail was this view of the Four Peaks before sunrise. Saw plenty of birds, got some good exercise, then came home where a freshly made breakfast sandwich was waiting courtesy of my wife. I shared the last bit of bacon with Boo before the two of us curled up for a long nap.