Curve-billed Thrasher

CBTs are aptly named. Their bills are definitely curved and they really do thrash about on the ground

They flip over small rocks, scatter leaf litter, toss sticks out of the way, even pound their bills into the dirt like jack hammers — all in search of food. Insects, spiders, seeds and fruits are fair game and few escape the sharp eyes and even sharper beaks.

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One morning early this spring I heard the most beautiful music in a thick patch of desert brush. I discovered the sweet melody coming from a curve-billed thrasher. Quite at odds with the feeding frenzies I’ve witnessed. 🙂

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Curve-billed thrasher   Toxostoma curvirostre
Saguaro   Carnegiea gigantea
Ironwood   Olneya tesota

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Desert Ow-l

Hoo-hoo might this be?

I caught only a glimpse of the “eyes” as I passed but it stopped me mid-step. Then I realized they were scars where two cholla (CHOY-uh) “buds” — actually stem joints — had fallen off.

Chainfruit cholla — so named for the clusters of fruit that hang down — is common on the Sonoran Desert. It’s also known as jumping cholla. For good reason.

The stem buds are so loosely attached they come loose at the slightest touch and you quickly find yourself wearing them. Not good. Best way to remove them is to place a comb between you and the hitchhikers and quickly flip it away.

Alert: If the spines are in your skin this is gonna feel like tooth extraction without freezing. Been there. Done that. Only once.

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P.S. Tired of hiking with the same folks? Just aim the cholla buds in their direction. That should solve the problem.


Chainfruit cholla   Cylindropuntia fulgida

(Im)perfection

A recent post by nature photographer Ed Lehming sparked comments about perfection: Did a blemish on the stem of an otherwise “perfect” lily somehow diminish it?

There is a tradition among Tibetan Buddhists called beginner’s mind in which meditation practitioners attempt to view the world free of preconceptions and judgements, to see things as if for the first time. To see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Beginner’s mind frees us of expectations — and what is perfection if not an expectation?

It is also a sharp sword. Our world — and our lives — are in constant flux. So how can the definition of perfection possibly remain unchanged?

Photographer Viktor Rakmil posted two slightly different photos of the same bird on his blog and asked viewers which they thought was “best.” Which got me thinking: do we make choices based on some immutable criteria or on our own limited perceptions?

Perfection is illusive. Do we buy Canon or Nikon? (Or maybe Sony?) DSLR or point-and-shoot? Do we use a tripod or not? Full sun or shadow or backlighting? Macro lens or extension tubes?

Perfection is poor food. As we dine on indecision and frustration, procrastination joins us at the table.

The saguaro cactus is an icon of the Sonoran Desert. It’s often pictured as a tall beacon, 2 or 3 arms stretching gracefully upward, silhouetted against the sky. But who decided that’s what a saguaro should look like?

Saguaros show us just how messy life is. Cut, chopped, bruised, beaten, eaten, shot at — that’s the reality of desert life for this cactus. I’d rather capture the saguaro’s diversity than search for someone else’s definition of what it should look like.

And so it goes. We can choose bland sameness — in our photos, our words, our lives — or we can search for richness, reflecting our own impressions to the world.


Saguaro cactus   Carnegiea gigantea

Goodbye Canon, Hello Sony

You’re taking pics. You’re lining  up great shots. You’re in the zone then … zzziiittt. Huh? What the heck is happening?

Turns out that what-the-heck is a camera lens that won’t retract. How the #$@% did that happen?

I tried everything to get it working again. Then finally realized that like my old pal, Olympus, my Canon was beyond repair. At least by me. I was in shock. Me? Without a camera? Not a good thing. Not good at all.

Then Serendipity stepped in. (I must say she arrived at the most opportune time.) My friend, Jeff, offered to send me his mirrorless Sony A6000, with lenses. Wow.

Having vowed, repeatedly, that I did not want to get caught up in lenses and camera bags and toting “stuff” again, I began to weaken.

I fell in love with that Sony. (Okay, I may as well admit it: I caved and bought myself one. With a telephoto lens. And when the purse strings weaken I’ll get a macro lens too. Oh, woman, thou art so easily swayed.)

I’ll get in touch with Canon and see what, if anything, can be done for my long-time lens-plagued companion. In the meantime, Sony & I will be outside getting acquainted.