Monday, August 24, 2009

My World: An Unexpected Encounter

The low road 8-22-09

It is Saturday and I have been inside most of the day after Monsoon rains poured down from leaden skies. The rain washed air is fresh and cool by evening as I head outside for a walk. I leave both bins and camera behind. I intend to just walk and enjoy the gentle light of the setting sun and the sights and sounds and smells of this desert refreshed. I purposely resist the urge to count the birds. I only want to enjoy nature, and so I plod along. I cross the street to access the desert at its closest path to my house but I find the trail flooded and so turn and walk down the street. After I cross another street I find the desert trail that runs behind a different set of homes.

The winding gravel trail passes through a forest of mesquite, saguaros, and ocotillos. I hear the cries of curve-billed thrashers and the cackling calls of cactus wrens. Nearby ocotillo branches are dotted with perching mourning doves. How they find a foothold on those thorny branches I will never know. As the trail winds down past a retention basin I can hear the trickle of water as it tumble over stones and forms a small rivulet in this dry desert. How quickly the water rises here and how quickly it fades away.

Blue sky is breaking through the tattered gray clouds already blushing in the fading sunlight. I hop over the spreading creek to the sidewalk and find my way to the massive bridge that spans the large wash for which Sycamore Canyon is named. As I walk across the bridge I gaze below on either side to see if the water flowed down the wash this time around. Apparently there was some flow, for I see puddles and pools of water here and there along its course. In the desert, all water is a giver of life and the birds are gathered around these pools quenching their thirst, bathing, or searching for food as the insects gather over the water also.

The high road 8-22-09

On the west side of the bridge huge mounds of dirt rise deposited here by the construction crews. They have created their own canyons and one road leads down past a cliff of gravel while the other leads up and over the top. I take the high road because I like to be up high and have a view. As I gain the height of the hill I stop and turn 360 degrees to drink in the sight.

Mt. Wrightston 8-22-09

The Santa Ritas to the south rise raggedly to the sky. Their jagged peaks tear at the clouds drifting slowly by. Mt. Wrightston towers above them all, but the whole range is a sight to behold. Beautiful and smoky blue in this light, with gray green desert tumbling down its slopes punctuated here and there by the towering and spiny saguaros. And everywhere tonight it seems there are birds. Perhaps they have raised their voices in joy over the blessings of rain. The air is alive with the sound of their voices and my ears search the sounds trying to identify them all. I am getting better at birding by ear and I hear so many familiar desert voices.

Gravel pool where the low road ends 8-22-09

I continue to turn and drink in the view of unspoiled desert to west, the road I walked up to the north, and the dirt banks and cliff near my feet with a deep pool of water below. If I had taken the lower road I would have ended at this impromptu pool.

Sycamore Canyon and Mt. Fagan 8-22-09

Now it reflects the blue sky above with a towering thunderhead rising behind Mount Fagan to the east. In front of the mountain the rooftops of Sycamore Canyon rise in jagged mimic of the mountain range. All the home are stuccoed in shades of dirt and mud in an effort to match the surrounding landscape, but it comes off to me as brown and taupe and boring. Still, I like my life here and I am not complaining too much.

As I stand here on this ledge of dirt drinking it all in I suddenly hear the sounds of bird voices rising in a crescendo. It is a chorus of sound and I search to sky to find its source. I look to the north as a large flock of purple martins flies mobbing a fleeing raptor. I watch as the raucous gang flies west with a pointed-winged raptor fleeing before them. Now I am trying desperately to discern who these purple bullets are chasing. I am cursing myself for leaving my bins behind and totally enthralled with the chase. As the mob draws nearer my location I see the raptor bank and turn towards me as it flies low along the artificial cliff formed by the mounds of dirt. I realize now that if I wait it will reappear nearby where I might perhaps be able to see what species of bird this is with my bare eyes. And so I hold my breath and wait. I have become a statue as I try desperately to blend in with my surroundings. To my utter surprise, the bird not only appears from behind the dirt bank with the twittering banshees in hot pursuit, it is flying straight towards my face as it comes up over the rim of the cliff. I watch open mouthed as I see the pointed wings, black hood and white breast of a peregrine falcon. It is less than 20 feet from me when it realizes I am in its direct path of flight! Quickly it banks to its left and veers off toward the big wash of Sycamore Canyon to the east. The mad martins continue their pursuit until the bird is lost in the desert. I watch the mob disburse like a vapor in the sky and then feel my own heart flutter as a pair dips low over the pool at my feet and scoop up a refreshing drink on the wing. The chorus of twitters has tapered off to the gentle song of victory in the throats of this purple martin pair.

I stand there as if in a dream, gazing around at this enchanted place. My own heart flutters like a bird in my breast as I realize I have to tell this story to someone! It takes me twenty minutes to get home and grab my camera to come back and photograph this spot. By now the sun is truly almost down. I have brought Gus with me to this spot where we stand on the manmade mound of dirt and I tell him the story of what I have seen. I point out the water, the ridge and the cliff. I tell him about the mobbing birds. I try to describe what it was like to see a peregrine flying straight at my face but, in the end I am at a loss for words.

Silvery sunset 8-22-09

All I can do is photograph the scene of the crime and wonder at the golden light cascading from the sinking sun as it peeks from behind a remnant of today’s storm clouds before it slips quietly beyond the horizon.

And that's...

(All photos click to enlarge)

All of today's photography is copyrighted by kathie brown and is done with the Nikon D80 and the 18 to 70 mm lens set in programmed auto.


SandyCarlson said...

Yours is an incredible world. What a day of rain. It sure had its effect. Those birds must have sounded heavenly.

Thanks for sharing this day, my friend.

Anonymous said...

The moral of this story Kathie is "Dont leave home without your camera". Just think, you would have got a great shot of that Peregrine Falcon. {:(

Kathie Brown said...

Sandy, you are so welcome!

Roy, don't I know it! Though, I don't know if I would have reacted quickly enough. I was dumbstruck with wonder!

Naturegirl said...

Cathy I can appreciate reading this eloquent account of your world today as you saw it. Incredible description..I close my eyes and I'm there.The rain and that pool of water was surely a gift from the the Gods!!
The photos are wonderful..I miss AZ.

I LOVED the poem you left me..I am okay Kathie..this is a good week..always the week before a treatment the body feels strongest.Come by and sit awhile in my recently posted "healing space" world. hugs aNNa xo

bobbie said...

A fantastic post, Kathie.

Anonymous said...

Things like that happen and when they do it scares me and I would be in no shape to take pictures. I bet you almost peed yourself. I know I would have.

It is a lovely tale indeed. We had guests from Tucson, Arizona here last week and they talked about the big changes in and around Tucson since I was last there in 1952. It must be amazing.

In those days you could walk a few miles out into the desert, not that far from Tucson, and see Javelinas, Gila Monsters, Scorpions everywhere and rattlesnakes now and then. Oh and lots of Jack Rabbits. LOL

They were telling me they have not seen those things around where they live in years. What a shame.

Anyway, almost forgot. I was walking in the desert our there one time and was in a dry creek bed looking at stones and heard a herd of something and looked up to see a herd of Javelinas coming straight at me or I thought they were. I really didn't know what to do but I did manage to scramble up the bank and then went flying right on by.

Gaelyn said...

Kathie, as always you have captured the moments in words and images. How very cool to see the Peregrin. Love the impromtu ponds to reflect the mountains.

Had a fierce hail storm here last night.

Sylvia K said...

Marvelous post, beautiful shots, Kathie! It must have been wonderful to see the Peregrin! I love the photo with the clouds reflected in the water and such gorgeous colors!
A lovely world indeed!



Carolyn Ford said...

I can imagine your excitement through this episode out in nature. Happy Day! Beautiful post!

Texas Travelers said...

Great walk!!!
Great photos!!!

The only thing missing, is that I can't hear the birds.

I loved the imagery of this walk.

Two new posts at 'I C U Nature'

Eryngos and Argiopes.
Green Tree Frogs.

Come visit and tell us what you think,
Troy & Martha

Janice / Dancing with Sunflowers said...

Beautifully written and beautiful photographs too, Kathie. I have to admit that I wouldn't know a peregrine falcon if it came and flew straight into my face but your wonder and awe and gratitude for all you see around you is so clear from the way you write that I appreciate how much this meant to you, and I'm very happy that you had this wonderful experience and shared it with us all.

Janie said...

What an amazing encounter, almost literally, with a peregrine!
Great photos from your walk. Sounds like the rain brought the desert birds out for you to enjoy.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Beautifully written Kathie! The story of your encounter left me breathless.

B i r g i t t a said...

Interesting and great shots :)

DeniseinVA said...

What a great post Kathie, told so well I am right there at your side seeing that magnificent spectacle. Such incredible scenery. Your photos are as always first class.

Arija said...

Oh Kathie, you really are a master at the description of something that really moves you. I was so engrossed in your tale that I have only just now remembered to breathe again. A truly wonderful encounter and account of a rare sight indeed.

Eleanor said...

And what a lovely world it is. Your descriptions of nature along the low road and the high road are delightful. I wish I could join you in that peaceful environment.

Ruth said...

Your pictures are beautiful! What a difference rain makes. Your word picture of the Peregrine encounter is also perfect. It is impossible and unnecessary to capture everything with a camera. Working with words is more of a challenge, but so worthwhile.

Snap said...

WOWOWOWOW yours is a truly beautiful world! Your words were perfect, too!


Louise said...

What a walk. The best things happen without cameras, but maybe it's supposed to be that way.

Dawn Fine said...

Beautifully painted scene with words!
The photos are lovely!
Thanks for the walk!

I love Arizona...will be there in jan and feb..cant wait!

TR Ryan said...

Your writing is just mesmerizing. I could read it all day. When you feel blocked - are there any certain writers you turn to for inspiration and to get the thoughts flowing again?