Windmills

The spines of an Engelmann prickly pear cactus cast shadows, looking like little windmills, along Brown's Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I’ve been fascinated by the plants of the desert and have enjoyed taking pictures of their various shapes and textures. I’ve held off a little bit though since I didn’t know what would be growing in our yard when we bought a house, where it would be much more convenient to take pictures. I took this picture of Engelmann prickly pear back in April during the first month after we moved here. We have some cactus growing in the yard of the new house but not this lovely species.

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.

New Home

A cactus wren sits in a nest it was building in the arms of a saguaro at the Brown's Ranch trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona

We bought a house!

We spent yesterday with our realtor visiting a handful of houses we hadn’t seen plus our two favorites from prior visits. By the end of the day we were close to making an offer on our favorite but wanted to sleep on it. I went hiking this morning near my second favorite house and had a wonderful time and was satisfied I could be happy there, but all the same my overall favorite retained its crown. My wife felt the same so we met our agent this afternoon and put in an offer and the sellers accepted it!

We’re both excited and exhausted!

We first arrived in Arizona at the tail end of March, a month later I met this cactus wren early one morning as it built its nest in the arms of a saguaro. As it tried out the nest I assumed its home was nearly complete and that it was applying the finishing touches before eggs were laid and babies were raised. It showed how much I had to learn about my new home as the wrens still had plenty of work to do, building up the sides of the nest and putting a roof on top to protect from the desert sun, with an entrance in the side they could fly in and out of as they brought food in and took waste out.

There is still work to be done before we take possession of our house too, we close at the end of February and will move sometime in March. But tonight it is enough to be thankful for the opportunity we had to come to Arizona after our time in Oregon came to an end, that we were able to leave one wonderful place and arrive in another. I’m thankful for that little wren and for that big saguaro, for helping me fall in love so quickly with the Sonoran Desert. For the Gila woodpeckers, the gilded flickers, the curve-billed thrashers, the white-winged doves, the quail, the Gila monsters, the whiptails, the side-blotched lizards, the diamondbacks, the bobcat, the antelope squirrels, the cottontails, the jackrabbits. On and on and on.

The desert is our home, soon a house will be too.

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.