Stay Off Target

A female Gila woodpecker peeks out from behind a joint in a saguaro in George Doc Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2020

I was heading up to photograph a particular saguaro when I got pulled off target by a phoebe. As I made my way over to the saguaro in the last light of day I heard a siren’s call up the trail and got pulled off target again, thankfully instead of luring me to my demise she posed for a picture. Based on her call and her hammering I could guess well enough where she was but had to hope she’d sidle around into view before the light faded. Finally she not only popped into view but stood far enough out of the shadows for the fading light to catch her face.

As the Phoebe Flies

A Say's phoebe perches in a tree near sunset at George 'Doc' Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2020

In February I was headed up to an interesting saguaro in the last light of day when I stopped as I saw a bird flying straight towards me. I was a little surprised as I was wearing my bright orange jacket and easily visible on the trail though I had just rounded a bend. I feared I had inadvertently strayed too near a nest but the bird wasn’t agitated and landed so closely in the tree above I almost dared not look up. I walked back down the trail as quietly as I could until I got a better view of what turned out to be a Say’s phoebe, a bird I first identified last June at the house but hadn’t seen since. It hung out in the tree for a while before it flew to the saguaro that had been my original target, trying a few perches before flying off for good. Pleased to meet you little one and thanks for the introduction.

The Neighborhood

A cactus wren sings from a blooming and leafing ocotillo in the Troon neighborhood of Scottsdale, Arizona in March 2020

The sun was rising, the ocotillo blooming, the cactus wrens singing, on a morning walk in the neighborhood last weekend. On my afternoon walk I saw a bobcat working its way down the hill. At night I heard a noise and for a second assumed it was one of the cats except they were all sleeping on me. I looked out the window to see a javelina rooting around in the yard. Lovely neighbors abound.

Drum Major

A male gilded flicker looks straight ahead while perched atop a cell tower disguised as a saguaro in the Troon neighborhood of Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2020

Gilded flickers make their homes in saguaros but not metal ones. Nevertheless a cell tower disguised as a cactus is a good place to let the world know what an amazing drummer you are! From sunrise yesterday on a walk in the neighborhood, since I still have to go to work most days I decided to stay off the trails to minimize risk of virus exposure.

So, So Early

A white-winged dove perches on unripened fruit atop a saguaro at dawn on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

By late June it isn’t just the air that’s hot as even the ground radiates heat back at you before the sun is even up. That sunrise comes frightfully early but the desert is amazing as it wakes so for me deciding whether to get up or sleep in on my days off becomes a delicate act of balancing mental and physical exhaustion. The white-winged doves had been hiding from me last June but suddenly exploded into view one weekend when one seemed to adorn every saguaro. I met this adult in the blue light of dawn, the sun not yet peeking over the eastern mountains. Although the fruits upon which it perched were not yet ripe, the fresh pulp on its beak and forehead suggested that it had already breakfasted at nearby saguaros. My watch read 5:28 am, I had arrived at the park around 4:55 am, up before 4:30 am. Somewhere in Virginia my 20-year old self just had a heart attack hearing this, would someone check on him please? Only wait until after 1 pm and knock softly, just in case he’s still sleeping.