Small but not Fragile

I’ve been hearing a lot from friends and family about hummingbird sightings this winter. When an Arctic blast brought snow and days of frigid temperatures to the normally mild Northwest, my sister taped handwarmers to her hummingbird feeders to keep the nectar from freezing. Here in the Sonoran Desert friends have reported high volumes ofContinue reading “Small but not Fragile”

Ironwood Trees Feed the Desert

Ironwood trees take center stage in late April.  The trees produce clouds of tiny orchid-like blossoms that transform the ironwood into a vision of beauty.  These blooms also attract a buzzing swirl of Centris pallida, commonly known as digger bees.  Male digger bees detect females, still lingering in their underground burrows, and furiously dig themContinue reading “Ironwood Trees Feed the Desert”

High Time for Saguaro

In springtime desert birds like Cactus Wrens and Curve-billed Thrashers perch on the domed tops of forty foot Saguaros, and their calls ring like bells in the desert air. Gila Woodpeckers and Gilded Flickers cling to Saguaros’ spiny ridges, peering into cavity nests, drumming territorial calls on the cacti’s green skin, and sending messages with theirContinue reading “High Time for Saguaro”

Ash-throated Flycatcher

The Ash-throated Flycatcher has a call like a whistle being blown, and it always catches my attention.  Usually, the noisy flycatcher is perched at the top of a shrub or on a low branch where it watches for passing insects. I’ve seen them launch from such a perch and dart and dodge through the airContinue reading “Ash-throated Flycatcher”

Stellar in Flight

This is an animal superbly designed for flight. Cooper’s Hawks prey on other birds, and many live and hunt in forests, so they must be able to fly with extreme agility. Notice the boney ridge above the eye.  This supra-orbital ridge protects the eyeball from twigs and branches as the raptor careens through the trees.Continue reading “Stellar in Flight”

Desert Birds Come Courting

Spring unfolds quickly in the desert, and the season’s star actors are birds. After a winter of quiet, they appear on the scene in early February, acting out courtship dramas on stages such as Saguaro cacti and Ironwood trees. The first group I noticed were House Finches, singing and twirling together in the sky, chasingContinue reading “Desert Birds Come Courting”

Desert Mistletoe

We think of mistletoe as having holly-like leaves and hung with red ribbon in doorways at the holidays. Not like that, Desert Mistletoe is one of 1000 species of mistletoe that grow worldwide. Its leaves have shriveled over eons of arid life, to mere scales on jointed twigs.  The flowers are fragrant, but have noContinue reading “Desert Mistletoe”