Other than a relatively late get-up and a slow start I did not think my morning unusual. Stepping from my car, I enjoyed cool desert air but my shadow began to talk to me, to tell me about my morning. I prefer quiet shadowless mornings, mornings when the sun has not yet crested the horizon, mornings when I know the desert will warm after I complete my five-mile circuit. This was not one of those mornings, my shadow indicated early sunlight was already heating the desert, that the desert was awake and alive. Shadows have a habit of stating the obvious. I turned from my car, adjusted my trekking poles and began to walk and wonder; wonder what my late morning would give.
Two active cactus wren nests appeared abandoned but I knew otherwise, I barley paused, activity was drawing me forward. Silhouetted against the early sky a single bird perched atop a saguaro. My choices narrowed by a backlit outline I knew it was one of our desert woodpeckers, it was ignoring repeated attacks by a pair of ash-throated fly catchers. One of the smaller birds disappeared into the saguaro leading me to believe a nest might be involved.
Ash-throated fly catcher
Again I moved forward, a different saguaro, another silhouette, another bird repeatedly moving towards an unmoving bird, size and shape told me to expect kestrels. Based on very limited behavioral knowledge I imagined a mating ritual.
Kestrel perched on a saguaro
The kestrels marked the start of my first, and steepest, uphill pull, my heart and lungs would quickly exceed my pace, I would not slow, I knew I would be resting on a downhill soon.
Quick movement, I searched, two scurrying rocks squirrels fleeing my advance. Hoping to capture the pair with my camera I paused and failed, one escaped my lens. While still on my downhill I photographed a desert cottontail and thought of raptors. I have not seen many this year, that and rain induced plant growth may explain an apparent increase in their preferred prey. Nestlings should be well fed this year.
Rock Squirrel escaping my lens
I kept walking, my pace and my poles forcing lizards and quail away from the trail, frightened by the repetitive monotonous motion. Secretly I hoped rattlesnakes would react in a similar fashion.
Life in the desert flees my approach yet it moves the desert emotionally closer. Fly catchers, kestrels, squirrels and snakes, their movement draws my attention, they all make me smile, they make me feel welcome, they fill me with calm.
My loop is over, it ends like it began, with an adjustment of my trekking poles. Glancing from the poles to the trail behind me I know I have adjusted, time on the trail offers perspective, it is restorative, it moves me forward. It fills me with a need to share.