Updated: Apr 29
We are now officially out of self-isolation, just in time for Ontario's forced closures of non-essential services, and stepped-up orders to continue to observe two-metre social/physical distancing if we are out and around among other people.
In this second “Reflections” blog, I simply offer a diversion! Take some moments to immerse yourself in the wonders of our world, as I did while collecting these photographs.
Again, stay safe, and enjoy a short respite from the chaos....
2. “In the Dooryard"
This sign was hanging in a Conservation area in northern Arizona:
It speaks to me, in these times, of finding joy in all that we can experience in our own spaces every day.
I was surprised by all of the life that appeared in the “door yard” (and slightly beyond) of our Arizona home-for-a-week. This was the back yard; beyond the shrubby trees was desert-like landscape, with cactus, rocks, and brush. Small “mountains” lined the horizon.
On one of the first mornings of our visit, a Verdin appeared in the native flowers outside the house next door, and I was pleased to capture a few “watercolour” shots in the early morning light.
The Verdin, with its rusty shoulder patch and dark yellow head, was quite common in the small shrubs all along the street.
Every morning and evening, and often during the day as well, we heard the Gambel’s Quail calling. A flock of about 8-10 of these delightful creatures spent the nights in a shallow ravine beside the house, and scuttled out, chatting among themselves, as they made their way slowly up and around the mountain as soon as the sun had risen.
In the native shrubs near the bottom of the hill behind our house, all sorts of birds flitted and foraged. I had hoped to see the tiny Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and was thrilled when a pair appeared. They did move very quickly, but both posed obligingly for a short time. The male, with his black cap and white eye ring, often perched for a few seconds between feedings, with his tail held high.
The female surprised me by popping her head out of the
And .... out she came to have a better look at this strange being with a camera!
There were usually a couple of Black-throated Sparrows in the same area; I believe that they were building a nest in one of the plants near the house.
A Say’s Phoebe entertained us with its “bug-catching” routines. Flying from a perch, it would snatch an insect in midair, then return to the same spot to enjoy the treat.
There were 2 Hummingbirds in the desert around our house: the Anna’s Hummingbird has a throat patch and crown that look black in this photo, but "shine red" in the sun.
A female Anna’s Hummingbird, I believe.....
The male Costa’s Hummingbird has a really cool "beard-moustache thing" that is purple when the sun lights it up (which it didn’t very often when I was watching!)
The female Costa’s Hummingbird is much less flamboyant-looking. These Hummingbirds are very tiny.
One day we ventured away from our “door yard”, and wandered through a wonderful wetland called "Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch" (a water recycling facility where there are several large bodies of water), near Gilbert. I had heard that there might be American Avocets in this area, and had high hopes of finally seeing my first one. What a thrill it was to see 17 of them in one of the ponds. They were out quite far, and these photos are cropped, but....they certainly are elegant creatures!
Ducks were in good supply in all of the ponds, and they seemed almost fearless....
A Ruddy Duck cruised toward us from the far side,
and floated close by.
We realized that his mate was right in front of us, hidden in the reeds and grasses.
A Pied-billed Grebe rested and dove not far offshore.
A pair of Cinnamon Teal showed off their “cinnamon", and dipped their heads beneath the surface of the water to find food.
By far the most common Duck in the ponds was the striking Ring-necked Duck. Rings on the bills are easy to see, but on a few of these photos, we can see the rusty necklace that gives these birds their name.
Keeping company with the Ducks were other interesting water-loving birds. Tall, graceful Black-necked Stilts puddled in the shallows.
A Snowy Egret, with its “golden slippers”, fished for awhile,
then flew into a tree right beside us.
When it left its perch, a Green Heron flew in to a lower branch, and sat awhile almost directly above us.
In the trees nearby, a Lesser Goldfinch gathered nest material,
and a Black Phoebe hunted for insects.
As we left the Reserve, Turtles basked on logs in the sun,
and Ring-necks splashed in the water beside the walkway.
It was an amazing experience to see so many creatures in one place. There were other birds that were difficult to photograph, because they were merely silhouettes against the sun: an Osprey, a whole flock of Dowitchers, other shorebirds impossible to identify in the light.... a good day all around! We returned to our house in the hills in time to watch a Red-tailed Hawk cruising high, high in the sky,
and the Arizona sun setting over the horizon.
The end of another gorgeous day...
As I headed out for a walk in the desert one morning, my friend commented that I should be fine, because the Rattlesnakes were still in hibernation. Hadn’t thought about that(!), but have thought about the comment many times since coming home. It would seem that this virus is something of a “Rattlesnake”, staying dormant for a time, lying quietly in wait, and attacking quickly, unexpectedly, and indiscriminately.
I feel very lucky to have visited Arizona, and to have returned when we did, ahead of the Covid-19 disruptions and devastation, (and while the Rattlesnakes slept!). Our thoughts are with all of those travellers stranded in unsafe places as this pandemic spreads. And with all of the parents who find themselves stranded -- sort of -- with children at home, as we strive to isolate our families, and keep ourselves and each other safe.
It is my hope that you can find something beautiful in your world, and hold it close to your heart as you make your way through these days.
Hang in there.....