The Song Disruptor

A northern mockingbird sings in the reddish light of sunrise atop a rock on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

Back in June I woke up early before work so I went out for a short hike, spending the morning the way I had the previous two mornings, watching a mockingbird dance and sing as the sun rose. The previous day a curve-billed thrasher had flown in and the mocker stayed out of sight for a while, but on this morning I got a picture of it singing right as the first light arrived. But then almost on cue the thrasher flew in, dried saguaro fruit clinging to its beak, and the mocker yielded. I noticed the previous morning that although it would lay low for a while whenever the thrasher flew in, eventually it would always come back to dance and sing, but on this morning work waited so I could not.

A curve-billed thrasher perches atop a rock, dried saguaro fruit clinging to its beak, in the reddish light of sunrise on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

Don’t Lend Me a Hand

A master blister beetle clings to one brittlebush blossom while reaching out to try and grasp another blossom, taken on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

I didn’t read comics as a kid but I watched the Superfriends on TV and was enamored with Aquaman’s ability to communicate with animals. It would have come in handy on this morning in May as the master blister beetle was trying to move from one blossom to the next but finding it too far out of its reach. I would have loved to tell it to sit still and that I’d gently push the stem closer to the other flower, but alas I could not. Rather than scare it I left it alone, eventually it gave up and moved back down the stem. While I didn’t know it at the time there’s an extra reason not to lend a literal helping hand to these beetles as if they feel threatened they can cause caustic yellow blood to ooze from their legs, which can blister human skin. Lovely to watch though!

Shining Robes

A male phainopepla perches on a thorny tree with his crest extended on a cloudy morning on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in Decmeber 2018

The name “Phainopepla” (pronounced fay-no-PEP-la) comes from the Greek for “shining robe,” a fitting characterization of the shiny black plumage of the males, at least on a sunny day. However on this overcast morning last December the soft diffuse light showed off the details in his feathers. They’ve been gone all summer but I gather will be back in the next month or so. We didn’t see them at the rental house but will see them here, though this lovely fellow was on the nearby Marcus Landslide Trail.

Mellow, Yellow

An overhead view of a master blister beetle sleeping on a heavily-chewed brittlesbush blossom on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsale, Arizona in May 2019

A sleepy master blister beetle isn’t quite ready to shake off its slumber and rise to meet the world. From the heavily chewed flower petals you can see why the brittlebush is both bedroom and dining room for the lovely little ones, at least on the one and only time I saw them this spring.