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.

Thrash Song

A curve-billed thrasher sings atop a saguaro early on a spring morning along Brown's Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

After a hike up to Inspiration Viewpoint this morning when it was too windy for my liking, the day turned lovely and I’ve spent the rest of the morning and afternoon relaxing on the back porch. At the moment there are house finches and sparrows atop the feeder while below are Gambel’s quail, mourning doves, and Eurasian collared doves. A pair of curve-billed thrashers have been drifting in and out throughout the day, making their presence known with loud whistles. This one I saw singing atop a saguaro six months ago while hiking early one morning on Brown’s Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

I Will Sing

A canyon towhee sings atop a saguaro before the sun crests above the distant hills on the Upper Ranch Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

The sun had not yet crested the distant hills as this canyon towhee serenaded me atop a saguaro, a lovely reward for getting out of bed so early on the weekend. It was the only picture I took that day but it was a lovely day on the trails nevertheless. This morning I deliberately slept in as I knew I would be too tired to feel safe driving if I got up at 4 a.m. so I chose a good night’s sleep instead. I see many of the same birds in our backyard as on the trails (we even had a couple of Harris’s hawks perching in the palm trees recently) but with the towhees it’s a bit different, a pair of Abert’s towhees are regular visitors to our feeders but I’ve never seen them in the desert, while canyon towhees have never graced our yard but I’ve seen them many places around the preserve.

The Night Owl & The Early Bird

A curve-billed thrasher sings atop a saguaro in the early morning light on the Jane Rau Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I’m a night owl in a land of early birds. It wasn’t a good feeling when the alarm rang out at 4:30am but it was a great feeling when the sun tipped over the mountains and illuminated the curve-billed thrasher serenading me atop a saguaro. I love how gingerly it appears to be stepping on its prickly perch but in truth the birds fly onto these saguaros with great speed and alacrity.

An Unfamiliar Song

A song sparrow sings while perched on a cattail at South Quigley Lake in Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington

One of the nice features of bird guides on mobile devices, compared to their traditional paper counterparts, is the ability to only show birds you might see in a state (apart from the occasional rarity that has strayed far from its normal course). I used this feature when researching the places we considered moving, to see how many of the birds will be new to me and how many I’m going to have to say goodbye to. Some will at once be familiar and unfamiliar, such as this song sparrow singing from the cattails at Ridgefield’s South Quigley Lake, as while the ubiquitous sparrow does live in Arizona it has a different look from the those of the Pacific Northwest.

This is part of the attraction of the desert for us, it’s a big change from what we are used to, and my hunch is I’ll have fun exploring the landscapes and wildlife there for many years to come. We’ll see if time proves me correct, but I’m optimistic. I am going to miss in particular the auto tour at Ridgefield though, this is by far the place I’ve spent the most time in the Northwest, as well as the wetlands in general.