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.

Baby Food

A white-breasted nuthatch holds a multicolored Asian ladybeetle in its beak as it clings to a mossy tree in Bower Slough at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Ridgefield, Washington in June 2011

Another picture from 2011 and from another place near-and-dear to my heart, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. This white-breasted nuthatch had snared a multicolored Asian ladybeetle (not native to the Pacific Northwest, I don’t think I ever saw a native ladybug in our many years there). While nuthatches do eat insects this meal I suspect was destined for the hungry maw of the babies in the nearby nest. I wish the picture had more depth of field but I was shooting as wide open as I could since I had forgotten my tripod at home and the light was dim under the canopy so I needed as much speed as I could muster.

City Parks

A wider view of our dog Ellie sitting amongst leaves next to the dog park in Irving Park in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon in November 2011

On my first visit to Cavalliere Park as I started towards the dog park, which was more of a dog pond since it had been raining all day, I stopped in my tracks when it occurred to me that had Ellie been younger this in some ways would have been our Irving Park. We wouldn’t have visited every day since it’s too far from the house to walk but it has a dog park, a playground, basketball courts, picnic areas, and a walking path, just like our beloved park in Portland. One had lots of old oaks and maples and one lots of saguaros, but all that would have mattered was that they both had the pup. Except this park never would. She’s been gone almost a year so it wasn’t the sort of moment of unexpected grief that knocks you to your knees, just stops you for a moment until you catch your breath. I changed course to the hiking trail and had a lovely visit and returned the next day, smiling when I saw a handful of people and pups enjoying the sunny weather. This is Ellie at Irving Park in the fall of 2011, the dog park is right behind her, I made her stop for a moment for a picture before we headed back into the neighborhood, our walk just beginning.

Black and White in Blue, No Red

A female ladder-backed woodpecker clings to a dead tree in the blue light before sunrise on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in March 2020

I was off on Friday but woke with such a severe headache I didn’t even get out of bed for a neighborhood walk. Saturday morning I was mostly feeling better and ventured out for a gentle hike on a favorite loop. Awaiting me in the blue light, the sun still thinking of rising, was not only a male ladder-backed woodpecker but this female, perched a few feet below. I saw her briefly the previous week though I didn’t know it at first, while photographing the male I stooped down to get a drink and returned to photograph him, only realizing later while reviewing the pictures that his red crown disappeared in the second set. The old switcheroo! May you raise a lovely family, little ones.

The Headache Cure

A male ladder-backed woodpecker looks back at the rising sun from atop a dead tree on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2020

I woke Saturday morning with a massive headache, initially hoping to fall back asleep but eventually getting up for a gentle hike. On the short drive to the trail the western sky hung on to its pink and purple hues as sunrise approached. Seeking ladder-backed woodpeckers, I arrived at the dead tree where I saw a male last week seconds after the sun cleared the mountains (I would have beat the sun but I got distracted by a mockingbird). He was already in the tree so to put the sun at my back I walked past quickly and quietly, too nervous to even look up to see if he remained. Remained he had, perched at the top before sidling down and hammering into the branches.

My hike was gentle but much longer than planned, my headache fading perhaps from post-woodpecker euphoria or perhaps the Ibuprofen. All the while serenaded by wrens and thrashers and flickers and sparrows as we shared the morning glory.