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

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Bee working in a Fishhook Pincushion Cactus bloom

Antelope Ground Squirrel

We came across this critter at the end of a photo hike. She (?)was climbing on the top of a Barrel Cactus, pulling out and munching its fruit. After about a minute, she zipped right down the side of the cactus, as though it were a tree.

These seem to me to be amongst the happiest creatures in the world, right up there with the Otter and the Seal. I often see these squirrels playing chase games, and they really like to mess with other animals, especially snatching their food. They are so bouncy and chipper, like some kind of cartoon character.

2 Red-tailed Hawk babies

Great Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
I encountered this 4 foot beauty on my hike this evening, 92308. Thankfully I was using a flashlight. It was about 6:45 and almost dark. The snake's head was a little past the middle of the trail, about 2 steps from where I stopped. When I saw him(?) I immediately froze. He was frozen too, maybe I caught him in a nap. I photographed him for about 3 minutes, then he slithered away. I love the way that they move...there is a magical feel to it. I watched him slither along for about 8 minutes after this shot.
I was especially pleased with this encounter for a particular reason. It was my first of about 15 rattlesnake encounters where the snake didn't rattle at all, not even a little shake. He was probably napping.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher


Townsend's Warbler

Gila Woodpecker dipping into a Saguaro bloom


Ocotillo Blooms

Curve-billed Thrashers

A California Side
Blotched Lizard
Uta stansburiana elegans

I wonder why the blue spots made it through the evolutionary process. There isn't much blue around, though some of the granite gets there, but more gray.  Maybe it has to do with the way it reflects the light. To me it looks like God took a shaker filled with the sky and sprinkled it onto the earth, and for some reason it stuck to these creatures.

These lizards can be very skittish. If you move slowly and quietly, you can sometimes get very close to them. The closer you get, the more there is to see, like a painting on a living canvas, with infinite intricacies. The designs, the colors--a masterful creation. Then you can go deeper and deeper. For example, look at those feet, and how they can hold onto the side of rocks. Just those feet alone are masterful creations, so very effective.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This was another fun experience. I was on top of one of the other peaks around the park, when I looked down about 200 ft and saw this guy. He spotted me immediately, and appeared to be moving away. Then he stopped and actually sat down. That surprised me, as I had never seen one sit down before, and that is quite a vulnerable position to be in. Next he started to work his way up the hill. He moved up the steep and rugged hillside so effortlessly, like a walk in the park.


Gilded Flicker, male

This creature has the most pronounced 'bow-tie' that I have seen on a bird before. I love the red marking below his eye.

It is great to see these critters while they are growing up. It is a magical process of perfection. Perfection at the beginning, middle, end, and all parts between. Just look at him, perfection.


Gila Woodpecker,
  young male       

  A young male hanging out on a branch. They say that only the adult males have the red spot on their heads, so this guy must be about a teenager, as his 'cap' looks to be about half way there. Notice the split in the tail, a sign of a precision flyer.

These birds fly like no other in the Sonoran Desert. They look like some kind of flying torpedoes. They simply flap 2 or 3 times to take off, then close the wings and zoom like some ultra-aerodynamic projectile. As they fall, they pump the wings once or twice again. They can go a long way with only 7 or 8 wing flaps.

A video clip of my experience with this teenager is available on the Video Clips page. Notice how they are calling back and forth with one another, likely one of his parents.

Speckled Rattlesnake

Large Speckled Rattlesnake, about 6 feet long.

I love watching these snakes glide across the rough desert floor. It is a magical sort of movement, so smooth and curvy.

I have a video of this one moving along, about 55 seconds long. It is interesting to see how many directions he tries before he is able to move on. It must be quite a perspective, your eyes about an inch above the ground.

I also have video of a smaller Speckled that is rattling. The video is a bit erratic, but the audio of the rattling is great. Both clips are available on the Video Clips page.

Gamble's Quail letting it out, male


I found this black beauty busy working the grounds, flying from one tree to another. This is one my favorite birds to watch. She moves with grace and a touch of flash.  As she flits about she fans out her beautiful wings, flashing the distinct white markings in them. It reminds me a bit of the can-can dancers.


all images on this page copyright 2008 Joe Phillips

Email address Joe(at)