Sitting Idle

Our tortoiseshell cat Trixie sits on my orange rain jacket on the tile floor

Coming from Oregon I have a handful of raincoats I use for different purposes. They’ve mostly been sitting idle since we moved to Arizona although I do stuff one in my backpack if there’s a chance of rain. One morning I took the raincoat out since it was going to be dry all day but I returned to find it had been put to use after all.

At the Top of the Stairs, There Was Em

Our black cat Emma sits at the top of the stairs between the kitchen and the basement, watching our new kitten Boo (not in the picture) as he climbs the stairs towards her

Emma was not happy about the arrival of little Boo in the summer of 2013. On his first foray into the house at large he had to climb the stairs first past Ellie, then Sam, and finally Emma at the top. I spent most of Boo’s first month with Emma, letting her know this was still, and always would be, her home. She was a sweetheart and in time not only came to accept the little fellow but let him snuggle up with her. It’s still hard for me at times to edit pictures of her, knowing that in a year and a half we’d be going through another introduction, this time getting Boo to accept young Trixie after Emma died far too young.

Both Sam and Emma followed Boo around as he explored but Sam watched Emma as much as he watched Boo, here looking up at Emma atop the stairs as she growls at the intrusion of the young kitten. Sam loved his life with his two older sisters and never wanted it to change, but when they both died young he accepted his new siblings pretty quickly.

Our cat Sam in the landing between the kitchen and the basement looks up towards the top of the stairs where our cat Emma (not in the picture) was sitting

Comings and Goings

Two Harris's antelope squirrels look out from their rocky perch along the Vaquero Trail in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I first learned of the Harris’s antelope squirrel from a sign on the Bajada Nature Trail a couple of weeks after we moved here, and funnily enough got my first brief look at one just a few minutes later. After seeing one of the little ground squirrels up close on the Vaquero Trail I did a little research to learn if their home range was small (it is) and if they liked to look out from higher vantage points like the one I had observed (they do).

Knowing that, I decided to hike the Vaquero Trail again and kept my eyes peeled when I approached the area of my previous sighting. And there it was up on the rocks! Up on a small hill it had a complete view of its surroundings and would have seen me before I saw it. Unfortunately I had forgotten my 100-400mm lens at home but I returned the next morning and there it was again! I had settled on using my Canon 100-400mm lens with a 1.4X teleconverter as my wildlife hiking setup, which presented a problem, as on my Canon body I could only use the center focus point, and the autofocus wasn’t that reliable in low light. Attached to my Sony body the autofocus was sometimes quick but not reliably, but I could also use it for video and for manual focus.

I shot the squirrel with both setups, starting with the Canon before switching to the Sony. Fortunately the AF was working well when a second squirrel popped up behind the first! The experience cinched a decision I had been mulling for a while now and that afternoon my wife and I went down to Tempe Camera and purchased the Sony 100-400mm lens and Sony 1.4X teleconverter. The new lens proved its mettle as soon as I arrived at the preserve the next morning, and on multiple hikes since, but those are stories for another day.