A peak into the beauty and wonder of the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix

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Bullock's Oriole, male

This beauty came through The Park last May. We got short glimpses of him(?) a couple of times, but he was very elusive. Finally one day he landed in some Palo Verdes fairly close to me. He really made me work for this shot. I just kept shooting, hoping that my auto focus would lock on and I would get something good. Fortunately I did get some images that were good, though not great.

This is the first season that I remember seeing one of these. I really get a kick out of capturing images of animals that I haven't seen in The Park before.

Mexican Blonde Tarantula, probably a female

Finally I get an experience with the great Tarantula. I came across this beauty last night. She was busy hunting, using her hole as cover. We hung out for about 45 minutes, during which time she came out of the hole twice, then zoomed right back into it.

I am amazed that it took me so many years to see my first big hairy spider. I haven't heard of any sightings in the park. I have seen the Tarantula Hawk Wasp here, so I thought sure there were some around.

Her colors work so beautifully together. It really took me by surprise how strikingly stunning she was, how alluring her beauty.

Baby Geckos in da house!

Here is a baby geckos that lives with me in my house, which is about 6 homes away from The Park. I guess we are housemates.

This one is about 2 inches long. 

For some reason, this little one was tolerant of the light, and of the flash from my camera.

It feels good to have such critters running around my house, gracing the grounds with their presence.

Thanks for choosing my home for your home  : )



Fishhook Pincushion Bloom

Here is the first pink bloom of the year. I was surprised to see this one. These usually don't bloom till it gets warmer, but it looks like we had enough warm days in a row to flip the switch.

These blooms are some of my favorites. They are so bright and so delicate, and grow out of such an overly protective source. Notice the 2 layers of pointy spines on the cactus. The first layer is made up of 'stars' that fan out, covering most of the skin. The second level of protection comes from the fishhooks, which are quite sharp. The red at the top of the cactus looks like blood, and is the point of creation for the new cactus skin and spines. 

Bees who call a Saguaro home

I have encountered several bee colonies out in The Park, but this is the first time that I've seen them using a Saguaro. The others that I have observed were built in the rocks.

At first this looked like some kind of growth living on the side of this cactus. It caught me off guard.

It was fun and interesting to watch this mass move around, and to listen to the intense buzzing going on.

Thank goodness for the bees... 


Leucistic hummingbird

I came across this little jewel this morning, July 1, as I was heading back after checking on the night hawk chicks. I have never seen a hummingbird with this plumage. My research led me to believe that this is a fairly rare bird, called  leucistic.

I added a page for this critter, called hummies.



My niece and nephew

Here Keeley is demonstrating the peace and tranquility that can result from taking a meditative posture in a natural setting. Carson generally wants to do what she does, so he is back there, enthusiastically supporting her efforts.

Nature deficit in children is at an all time high, and the consequences can be severe. The calm and peace that can come from time spent in nature is a great value that many are missing out on. There is also the appreciation of nature, and of the resulting caring for nature. This caring can carry over to their everyday life, bringing with them a kinder and gentler spirit.

The next best thing to being out in nature is to enjoy images and videos of the natural world. These can warm the soul in a wonderful way. It is not the same as getting out there, and is still a powerful thing.




Mexican Poppy

Here she is with a fellow yellow bloom behind. Looks like there is going to be a whole lot of yellow soon.

Yellow does seem to be the dominant color for desert blooms. The Creosote bush can have thousands of little yellow blooms on one plant. Others include the Palo Verde tree, the Staghorn Cactus, the Barrel Cactus, the Brittlebush, and more and more...


Female Gilded Flicker

These birds have become one of my favorites to photograph. I love their formal attire, with the big black bowtie. It is interesting how the female has no face paint, while the male has a great red slash across his face.

There is something special about the entire woodpecker family. It is very interesting how different they are from one another, even with all of the similarities that they share. So far in the park I have seen the Gila Woodpecker, the Gilded Flicker, and the Ladderback Woodpecker.  

Gila Monster's forked tongue

Just like their snake cousins, Gila Monsters use their forked tongues to smell the air for potential food opportunities.

Most of the time they flick their tongues out every so often, like keeping their ears open. Then sometimes they flick their tongues rapidly, and one can sense their excitement of a possible meal lurking nearby.

Click on photo to see this particular split tongue more clearly. 

Gila Monster 
May 13, 2009   7pm

The highlight of my nature adventures so far this year. This glorious creature was making his (?) way along a wash when I happened upon him. He looked my over and decided to go the other way, which took a little while. He did a u-turn and was off. Fortunately, I was able to capture some video of him walking along.

This is the most prehistoric creature in The Park. I am very curious to see how little he has changed in the millions of years of existence. Looking at the video, it reminds me of those great dinosaur shows where they animate according to what they think it was like. What an amazing animal.

Great Western Diamondback  May 4, 2009  8 am

Well, what do you know. About 10 hours after my first rattlesnake sighting of the new year, another finds its way to my path. This one is an adult, about 5 feet long, contrasting the youngster below. She (?) didn't rattle a single time, though she did pull herself into a coil. After about 12 minutes of photographing her, she slid off into a bush, completely invisible. Makes you wonder how many are out there in the bushes that we never see, that never rattle at us.



Straight out of the dinosaur age, this great reptile honored me with his(?) presence. This provided me with a great connection to my deepest past, buzzing on my reptilian brain.

It surprises me how docile many of these wild creatures are. This fella was deep into a sunning bliss when I happened by. He didn't pay me any mind, which I love. I worked the different angles for about 13 minutes before I finally got too close and he booked, disappearing into one of the cracks in the rock.

Aah to have that reptilian connection to life and living.


Western Bluebird, male

It has been great fun watching and observing the pleasant Western Bluebird these past 3 weeks. One of the best parts is when they fly. That's because when they fly away from you, all that blue on their back side lights up, at its maximum. Experiencing such a dynamic flash of blue in the winter desert is quite a tasty treat.

This photo illustrates the amount of blue on the back of the male. When he takes off, he appears to be saturated with blue.

click on the photo for larger version




Peregrine Falcon

Finally! After so many years of looking for one of these beauties, today was the day. This bird was quite a bit bigger than I was expecting, looking almost as large as a Red-tailed Hawk. This critter was busy munching some fresh meat, most likely a dove. At one perch he(?) was busy pulling feathers.

I hadn't heard of these being in the park before. This makes 3 falcons that we have encountered; most notably the American Kestrel, and the Prairie Falcon.

I love the 'mask' on this bird's face.


I captured an image of this cricket a few months ago, just before I actually captured him(?). I was on my way to see my Mexican Blonde Tarantula gal, and I wanted to bring her something tasty. It felt like I was courting her. Anyway, these crickets are a lot different from the ones that I see around the yard. These look way tougher, even mean. They are also quite 'meaty' and provided for a tasty meal for one of my favorite lady friends. I think she appreciated my selection.

Click on photo for larger version.


My first rattlesnake sighting of the year!

I love me some rattlesnakes, and today I was blessed by the presence of 2 of them. They were both Speckled Rattlesnakes, and they were both on the same trail, about 25 feet from one another. They each gave me a bit of a rattling, and my soul jumped each time.

The first was a bit frightened, and quickly slid in under a rock for cover. The second one was more relaxed, and went on hunting after a few minutes. I was able to videotape some of that movement.

As much as I love rattlesnakes, they shiver me timbers like no other animal in The Park. The scariest part of them is their ability to cloak. There have been times when I was looking for them, and couldn't see one that was a few feet in front of me. I've unknowingly stepped right over them before.

If you have the fortune of encountering one of these ancients, please explore peace with them  : )



Speckled Rattlesnake with a little friend

This beauty slithered by early this evening, as a friend and I were hiking. I was in front and didn't see this snake. Josh was behind and heard it moving along, scratchy across the rocks. The snake, I am guessing a he, went in under a rock and into hunting position. There he will sit and wait for something to come along, ready to strike should something happen within range. He may stay there for days at a time. This snake is a good example of the meditation masters  in nature.

I loved this encounter for a number of reasons:

 1)  It is always a special treat to encounter a rattler, especially the lesser common species.

2) The peacefulness of the exchange was extraordinary. The snake never rattled, not even a tiny bit. It means a lot to me when this happens, especially when we cross as closely as we did. At one point I was about 3 feet away as the snake passed me in the opposite direction.

3) The tiny fly on his head, as shown in the second image. I barely noticed this in the top image, the chosen one for publishing. As I looked at the other two images from the encounter, the bottom one stood out nicely. The snake's head is about the size of a half dollar, so this fly is tiny.

4) The honor of experiencing the locked-in connection to source that such an animal has. He knows what to do and where to go. He has a finely honed intuitive intelligence. He knows where to setup shop for the next while or so. He knows the core of the earth through his constant contact with the ground, and the kinetic vibrations that envelope his body as he moves along rough surfaces.

He knows. I want to know the way he knows...

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Email address Joe(at)