I’ve struggled to keep up with music in the many years since I left school but this past year I’ve discovered a wide variety of singers completely new to me, such as this black-throated sparrow singing below the Marcus Landslide.
A cactus wren sings atop a saguaro at the end of April in 2018. It was also the end of our first month in Arizona and my second trip to Brown’s Ranch, having visited the day before as well. The cactus wren was the first bird I saw on my first hike after we moved here, at nearby Pinnacle Peak, also singing from a saguaro but before the sun had risen. They were nesting at the Brown’s Ranch trailhead and I assumed would always be so easy to see so close but I’ve had less luck this year.
At least on the trails, at home one was beside me a few minutes ago as it worked the porch for food. A couple of weeks ago two wren parents were also close by on the porch, feeding their hungry and boisterous chick as it fluttered its wings to draw attention the way so many young birds do. As one parent fed the little thing I heard a thud at a nearby window and my heart sank thinking the other adult had flown into it. But then I laughed when I realized the sound came from the other side of the window and the source was our youngest cat Trixie who could no longer hold back her desire to be introduced to the young family.
A Harris’s hawk calls out as the rising sun begins to tip over the distant mountains, partially illuminating the desert with its soft light. From this angle and in this light you can barely see the distinctive chestnut patches on its shoulders and legs, but you can get a glimpse of the large white patch at the base of the tail and the white band at the tip.
After it flew off I continued up the trail, and when I rounded a corner five minutes later the hawk and I met again (I assume it’s the same one, it would be easier if they wore name tags). The rising sun having fully cleared the mountains and the hawk completely lit in the morning light, you can better see the distinctive chestnut patches. This is the same saguaro (and maybe the same hawk) I photographed shortly before sunrise a week prior.
Trixie has wanted to play endlessly since Ellie died but as we played the other morning she got distracted first by a tiger whiptail then by a Gambel’s quail feeding and calling out just below the windowsill. I can’t say I blame her, a week ago I had my route planned out but spent so much time watching this Gambel’s quail singing as the sun was about to rise that I changed my plans and hiked closer trails to take advantage of the early morning light.
One of my favorite rites of spring when we lived in the Northwest was listening to the savannah sparrows sing in the meadows. I met this one on an Easter morning 12 years ago, I had to wait a while to get the picture as it spent most of its time facing the other direction, singing to the other sparrows.
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.