Phoenix is located at the northern edge of the Sonoran desert, and it can reach temps that rival those of Baghdad in the summer. But the fall weather is nearly perfect. While we were there, the daytime highs were about 80F and the lows were in the 50s with no clouds in sight.
While Dennis was working Friday morning, I went to the gym for an early workout and then cooled down in the refreshing morning air with a short walk to check out the beginning of a hiking path into the desert. It looked promising, so after my shower and breakfast, I grabbed my water bottle and sunscreen (essential here), camera bag and binoculars, and hat and sunglasses, then headed out on the short hiking path. I hiked a fairly rough, but short, trail that went partway up a rocky outcropping and got some pretty nice photos. There were perhaps 15 other people that were hiking there.
The view shown below is the hillside which the trail ascends about 2/3rd way to the top.
Here is a view of the city of Phoenix.
I love how these chollas look with the sunlight scattered by their pale golden thorns.
And these fishhook barrel cacti have lovely pastel spines.
Previous hikers have left stacks of rocks along the trails.
As I sat still to wait for wildlife to resume activities, I saw a pair of black-throated sparrows busily gathering seeds. They were only about 8 feet away from me, but were not deterred by my presence or the clicks of the camera.
After watching the sparrows for a bit I moved on to another vantage point and watched a Gila Woodpecker for a bit. It never did get very close, but I managed to get a shot of perched in a thorny shrub. You can just barely make out the red crown on the tawny head.
I also spotted a mockingbird just within range of my zoom lens. I took a number of pictures of it and then suddenly it flew right me as I was looking through the viewfinder and landed a mere 15 feet away. It posed for me like a pro!I met up with Dennis back at our suite as he finished up his business. Our suite (not really sure what to call it) was a small efficiency apartment with a combined sitting/bedroom and a small patio outside the entrance. The entire resort was beautifully landscaped with native desert plants that looked quite lush compared to the surrounding desert simply because the resort used drip irrigation and kept plants trimmed for best blooming. Like many places around the world, this resort was far below capacity in number of guests, which made it nicer for us, although not so good for the resort. We ate our lunch at the poolside restaurant where the house sparrows and grackles quickly captured all errant crumbs. Unfortunately, no photos because my camera was back in our room. :-(
I did, however, go back out with camera to try to capture a female hummingbird. Below is the bush of Mexican Bird of Paradise (not a true bird of paradise at all) that the humming bird had been in earlier. Wait!!! Can you see the hummer perched just above the seed pods? Click to enlarge.
She sat quite still as I moved in closer and closer. You can tell she is a female bacause she lacks the colorful throat of the male.
Finally, when the camera was within inches of her, she decided to put a little more space between us, so I let her be after this last shot.After lunch, we went back to our suite and spent some time on the patio where I took more bird photos. All of the remaining photos were taken on our patio.
What could that be in the palm tree? It really is a starling with its lovely speckled winter plumage. Who knew they would perch in palms?
An entire flock of Gambel's quail came around from the back our suite and were very skittish. I managed to get a couple of decent shots (out of 15 or so) by moving ever so cautiously around the corner to catch them unawares. This first one seems to be saying "You don't see me. You don't see me. You don't see me" as it walked down the branch.
This lovely curved-bill thrush was scratching around on the ground underneath the orange tree.
But my favorite bird was the enchanting cactus wren. They are not shy birds and will go about their business while letting you get within mere feet them.
This one is shuffling along in the fallen pink bougainvilla sepals.
And here is one getting dried material from a dead cactus for its nest material.
I love the white streak above its eyes and the brown spots on the pale cinnamon-colored underparts. It is fairly large for a wren and has a very engaging manner.
Later on we made a foray for wine and cheese at a nearby wine shop so we could enjoy wine and cheese on the patio before going out to dinner later that evening. We ate at the Bonita Grill and had green corn tamales (incredibly delicious), azteca soup (fantastic), mahi mahi tacos (yum) , lamb with black beans and grilled veggies (great combination). Believe it or not, we had the leftovers for breakfast the next day! More on the rest of our holiday on the next post.