Remarkable Red

A male house finch perches on a chain fruit cholla at sunrise on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I arrived before sunrise to get into place to photograph this chain fruit cholla at first light. As the sun crested the mountains clouds in the east slightly softened the light just as a male house finch flew onto the cholla. I have been surprised by so many things in the desert it’s hard to say what has surprised me most but the finches are near the top of the list. These are the same finches that fed year round at our feeders in Portland yet they also thrive in the desert. When I first saw their little groups flying around I assumed they could only survive near subdivisions but then I noticed them miles out into the desert, like this lovely little fellow on a winter morning.

Return to Me

A female Costa's hummingbird perches on a tree branch along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

It was cold Saturday morning but as I prepared to make the return hike back to the car, I took off my coat, hat, and gloves and put them in my backpack since while moving I would be warm enough without them. But before I got far I noticed a hummingbird near the trail and stopped to photograph her. I soon realized it was a favorite perch as she’d fly off to feed in flowers blooming nearby before returning to me, or so it felt, though I knew she was returning to her perch. The gold dust covering her head is pollen from yellow flowers that were blooming across the desert. I did go back into my backpack for my hat and gloves as I decided to watch her for a while, she flew over and hovered up and down my right side and my left then settled down a few feet away. I didn’t try for pictures to avoid spooking her and only took them when she was further away. I eventually decided to continue on but came back twice just to watch her before finally breaking free and hiking the two miles back to the car.

The Other Side of the Guardian

A rock formation sits before orange clouds at sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I didn’t want to get up this morning but with high clouds forecast I thought it might make for an interesting sunrise. I headed to the Marcus Landslide Trail to photograph the rock formation I call The Guardian but as I started down the trail I realized the best light was going to be in the opposite direction than I had planned. I stopped and switched lenses and took this shot before continuing down the trail. It was only the start of what turned out to be a wonderful morning.

Reunited

A northern mockingbird sings on a sunny winter morning along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I had been looking forward to being reunited with mockingbirds when we moved to Arizona and I have not been disappointed. I see them in our backyard but this one was singing along the Marcus Landslide Trail, going through its whole repertoire of songs on a sunny winter morning.

Redtails at Morning, Creatures Take Warning

A red-tailed hawk looks down while perched on a saguaro on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

My goal is to photograph every animal on a saguaro, I can now add red-tailed hawks to the list! This adult was keeping an eye out for potential prey moving about on a sunny winter morning in the Sonoran Desert. Hard to believe this is the same species that I watched so often on rainy winter mornings in the Pacific Northwest.

An environmental portrait of a red-tailed hawk looking out while perched on a saguaro on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve