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.

Home Work

A male Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his nest in an old saguaro on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A Gila woodpecker pecks above the entrance to his current nest with an older nest around the corner. I couldn’t tell if he was grabbing an insect or if he was doing some home improvement. I haven’t posted much lately as I’ve been busy doing home work of my own, we’ve started looking for a house in earnest and I’ve been doing a lot of research on our various options. We’ve narrowed the search down to our two favorites and I think we’ll make an offer on one of them tomorrow. One of the two is a bit further from work than I’d like but it is only about 10 to 15 minutes away from several of my favorite hiking locations, including Brown’s Ranch where I took this picture back in April.

Changing of the Guard

A male Gila woodpecker prepares to leave the nest in a saguaro cactus as the female waits outside with a spider in her beak

A male Gila woodpecker prepares to leave the nest as his partner brings a spider for their hungry children inside the saguaro. Both parents excavate the nest cavity, the cactus will slowly harden the inside to prevent water loss and it is only then that the woodpeckers can use the cavity as a nest. You can see how much of the surrounding surface of the saguaro has been scraped away as they created their home and now land over and over again.

New Homes

A male Gila woodpecker peeks out of his nest in a saguaro with an older nest visible nearby on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

It was one year ago today they brought my team in and laid us all off, setting in motion our eventual move from our longtime home in Portland to our new home in Arizona. We’re renting for now but will start looking to buy within a month or two. This Gila woodpecker made his new home near the old, moving slightly around the saguaro. Other small birds sometimes use the old nests after the woodpeckers abandon them. Getting to see such new sights has been part of the fun of moving to such a different location.

Humility

A cactus wren holds a twig in its mouth as it builds a nest in the arms of a saguaro at the Brown's Ranch Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

On April 28th I arrived at my first visit to Brown’s Ranch in McDowell Sonoran Preserve, my fifth hike and fourth hiking location since moving to Arizona a month prior. I was pleased that even though I arrived mentally and physically exhausted I was forcing myself to go out and explore some area parks, even though it meant getting up a while before sunrise. As soon as I stepped past the welcome center I was reminded that while I should be proud of all I had accomplished the past six months, my struggles had been minor compared to what many face every day. There in the arms of a saguaro, the light just cresting the distant hills, stood a cactus wren with a twig in its mouth, building a nest in such a seemingly inhospitable host in a seemingly inhospitable land. Brown’s Ranch became an immediate favorite as did the plucky wrens that in the coming weeks I got to watch not just build their nests but raise their families in them.

Moths For Breakfast Again? That’s It, I’m Leaving!

A female Gila woodpecker brings a moth to the nest in an old saguaro as the male prepares to leave near an Off-map Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

A female Gila woodpecker brings a moth to the nest as the male prepares to leave (the moth was for the hungry babies inside). The parents brought a variety of insects (and spiders, as she has in her beak below) to their nest in the old saguaro. The male seemed to spend more time in the nest and the female more time hunting during the mornings I watched them. It required a bit of a hike to get to the nest so I couldn’t get there right at first light but it was a treat to watch them nevertheless. I will always be amazed by the relentless energy parents spend getting their babies past those precarious early days.

I also have a 4K clip of them at the nest which I’ll learn to edit at some point and post here. Both pictures are from this spring after we had been in Arizona for about six weeks.

A female Gila woodpecker brings a spider to the nest in an old saguaro as the male prepares to leave  near an Off-map Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve