I remember banana yuccas from last year but I can’t remember seeing the “bananas” themselves. I must have as they are hard to miss, either I’ve forgotten or I was just too overwhelmed by all the new sights before me. This year I photographed them a few times, although not in their earliest stages of development as it was at the end of Ellie’s life. I was waiting for this plant to be fully in the light as the sun came up but shadows from saguaros and trees behind me always cast at least some of the plant in shadow. Still I was delighted when a white-winged dove photobombed the picture, always nice to have wildlife in the picture even when they aren’t the subject.
A white-winged dove and a canyon towhee bookend a fruiting saguaro before sunrise on the Latigo Trail. The morning lows are in the 80’s now, even I am wearing short sleeves on the trails. Normally I prefer long sleeves to physically keep the sun off my skin but for the next couple of months I’ll rely on sunscreen and being off the trails early before the sun gets too bright. Still wearing long pants though, too many things in the desert want to poke you when you get down low to photograph lizards.
Its pale eyes drained of color, of the red in the eyes and the blue that surrounds, its beak and face caked in red as if from blood, a juvenile white-winged dove has a bit of the look of a vampire. The look is all about time, not yet enough time for the color to form in its eyes, the time of year for the face-drenching juicy fruit of the saguaro. It already has the distinctive white wing patches that give them their name but like many juveniles has a recently assembled, the glue-hasn’t-finished-drying look to it. I watched one recently that had learned to defend its chosen saguaro, chasing off even adults that ventured too close. This one is from a year ago in a similar part of the preserve, another is feeding in our backyard as I write this.
As the rising sun lights up distant Pinnacle Peak, a white-winged dove perches in the shadows. The light soon reached the tips of the tallest saguaros and was a minute or two from reaching the fruiting saguaro this dove was jealously guarding from other doves when suddenly the lights went out. From my vantage point I couldn’t see the sun and saw naught but blue sky before me, but low-lying clouds in the east must have rolled in. Although I missed the first kiss of the soft red light the sun soon returned and I watched this dove and a variety of other birds from that one spot for quite some time, the only downside being I only hiked for a couple of miles that morning.
As a young photographer I had trouble keeping the horizon straight in my pictures and I only got better when cameras added built-in levels in the viewfinder. Despite appearances the camera was level in this picture, the white-winged dove is leaning over to get at the last bit of saguaro fruit while sitting on angled arms. Sometimes I’ll deliberately angle the camera if I think it works better for the picture but in this case I like the lean. Taken last year, they’ve been hiding from me this year.