A Bird’s Eye View … Part One.

The Ponies Shedding Moon

The photo above is the full moon of May, often called the Full Flower Moon by Native Americans, although my favorite name comes from the Sioux: the Ponies Shedding Moon.

And do they ever. There’s nothing quite like being outside at midnight brushing shedding winter coats under a moon so bright the horses throw shadows. It’s so relaxing; I have to keep reminding myself to stay alert so I don’t get stepped on. 

With the geldings munching hay, however, they barely notice my presence unless the bristles locate an especially itchy spot.  

When I’m done grooming, I’m covered in horse hair of all different colors, and left to chase little clouds of hair (stripped from the brush as I go along) around the corral. Those I miss, the birds will incorporate into their nests. Nothing in the desert gets wasted. 

 The Sky is A Painter.

The Spring sky.

Saguaros In Fruit.

Saguaros in silhouette (and throwing fruit. Seriously. One bonked me on the head while I was setting up the photographs. Roll your cursor over the photographs for captions).

Birds heart fruit!


Four servings of fruit a day, or is it five?


Ripened fruit.


Fruit close-up

I especially love Spring in the desert. Everything that flies, creeps or crawls appears with mini-carbon copies of themselves, the mothers showing off their babies like proud humans. Even the scorpion, usually an object of fear and aversion, looks sweet carrying her babies on her back. (Although she isn’t sweet at all, of course. Any babies that overstay their welcome are destined to be killed and eaten by the cantankerous female scorpion. And she’s quick; before I could snap her photo, she was gone. )

However, here’s a photo of another scorpion that climbs the rafters of our covered porch. Freak-out factor? A solid TEN.

 Equal to one thousand words on why we shake out our boots before putting them on.

From the porch, life that usually goes on behind the scenes is actively renewing itself — flowers blooming and fading, followed by the swell of fruit that feeds everything from insects to coyotes to birds. Lightening-fast lizards with speed-of-light babies scurry through the yuccas or cling to the garden walls, high up toward the top and quite out of reach of our overly-excited terriers, who find it high treason.

There are so many birds that I keep the radio off to listen to their songs and chatter, a world of their own going on above our heads until they touch down to peck at tiny hay seeds in the sand, steal kibbles from the dogs’ bowls, or share a drink at the horses’ water buckets. 

Camera in hand, and hot on the trail of interesting sights, I’ve come across birds’ nests in the most ingenious places:

Bird's nest.

This nest remains intact inside the skeleton of a saguaro. Usually, all you can see to indicate a nest are these holes:

Birds' nests inside each hole.


Old Saguaro.

 There was another interesting nest I found quite by accident, as I was preparing to open a new bale of hay. Nestled in the back and ringed with newborn, fuzzy feathers was a nest of:

Empty nest syndrome.

Gambel’s Quail eggs. (Callipepla gambelii)

The baby quail are the cutest things around. No larger than gumballs, they follow behind their mother in a single-file line, looking  like a string of pearls snaking left and right.  

And there are more nests — come join me for A Bird’s Eye View … Part Two, or, Cooped In The Hen House By A Thirsty Javelina.  

In the meantime, may the Muse of Creativity be kind to you.

(Photos by Emily Murdoch)

16 Responses

  1. Great photos. The scorpion is very good. Good luck.

  2. Thanks, Paul!

    And thanks for stopping by. : )


  3. Wow, this reminds me how much I love the desert. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but it’s so beautiful. Thanks for sharing the pictures!

  4. Amazing photos! The only time I’ve spent in the southwest was a few (very short) days in Santa Fe, NM a few years ago. I did not expect to like it, but I was well and truly captivated by the area. I realize SF is not quite the same as your area, being high desert, but these photos still remind me of that area. I gotta say, though, the scorpion pic gives me the creeps! EWWWW! 😉

  5. Em, I love, love, love your photographs. The clouds, the scorpion, the cactus flowers.. I can go on! All are stunning! May I ask what kind of a camera you use and if you use any special lenses for the sky shots? Breathtaking photos. Truly!

  6. Thanks, Elana! : )

    I know what you mean — the desert *is* lovely. So strange to think it could be so green and alive and full of flowers and fruit and wildlife when it’s, well, “desert”.

    One almost expects it to be barren except for sand dunes.


  7. Thank you, Digital Dame.

    And here’s a perfect time to tell you I *love* the bird in your avatar! : )

    Although it’s different here than New Mexico, it is considered high desert also.

    I do know what you mean — we’re programmed to think desert means barren. Ever since we moved to the ranch, I’ve remained both surprised and captivated by all the forms of life that just *thrive*, here.

    And, I just remembered that I didn’t post the cactus flower post — oops, as the flowers come before the fruit!

    There are places, too, around here, that sell Saguaro jam. It’s good stuff — I can’t quite explain the taste, but it’s sort of like funky berries with a tang.


  8. Awwww, Venus, thank you. : )

    Let me preface your camera question by saying that I know nothing about photography, cameras or technique, lol. I just see these amazing sights and frame them. Perhaps the beauty of the shots makes up for my lack of knowledge and expertise. One day when life is less busy, I’d like to take some photography courses.

    I use one camera — a digital camera — a Canon PowerShot A620.

    I know how to use the flash, and some of the settings — such as “landscape”, “portrait”, “night scene” just by turning the little wheel.

    It’s why I love the camera, because it takes great photos even if one isn’t up on all the settings, etc.

    I do feel held back (by my own lack of expertise) when trying to take late dusk or night photos, and when doing close-ups or zooming in on things.

    But, usually if I take a shot two or three times, one will come out the way I was hoping.

    So if you, like me, are not camera savvy but want to take great photos, this camera is awesome. : )


  9. P.S. to Venus —

    Forgot to add I only use the lense the camera is attached to … no extra attachments or anything.

    With the settings you put the camera on, it does its own adjusting.


  10. You are the first person I know who takes such amazing photographs with point & shoot. Most photographs that good I come across were taken by DSLRs. Now you are my inspiration to be more adventurous with my own little Canon. Thanks Em! 🙂

  11. Hooray for Venus!

    Your photographs are pretty awesome already, if I may say so, myself!

    I think it’s just that, these days, the digital cameras and their technology are really on the mark.

    It’s why here and there I say I feel like a photography fraud, lol. But, I concentrate more on the sights I see, and there’s so much beauty around here that special techniques aren’t really needed. A good eye — to see the beauty in what other people barely glance at — is the secret.

    Thanks for the compliments on my photos. : ) Now, what is a DSLR?


  12. Oops, that should have been “good eye for composition…” 😉

  13. The new cameras do have much better optics than the little old instamatics we used to use, however, you still need to have a good for composition to get those really amazing shots.

    DSLR=Digital Single Lens Reflex. Those are the really good cameras that you can buy various lenses for, like those enormous zoom lenses you see the pros using.

  14. “A good eye — to see the beauty in what other people barely glance at — is the secret. ”

    Emily, that’s a beautiful quote!

    And the photos! Everytime you post them I want to visit Arizona all the more.

  15. Thanks, Digital Dame. : )

    You guys are making me blush. I love that everyone enjoys the photos as much as I enjoy taking and sharing them. : )
    I feel like the shots come from the same place the writing does — there’s a similar feeling to both, for me.

    One of the things I like about taking photos is that they exist just to exist. No competition, no agents, no years of research. Just fun; just enjoying myself out in nature and snapping the beauty.

    And thanks — now I know what a DSLR is!


  16. Awwww, thanks, Tasha. : )

    It is so beautiful, here. There’s not a day that passes that I don’t make it a point to watch the sunset, or to appreciate the beauty all around me.

    There are so many cardinals right now, just too cute in their yellow beaks and with little tufts on their heads. I’ll get a good shot of one, some day.

    My goal is to get a photo of a coyote. They’re like ghosts — it’s there, you blink, and it’s gone, blending back into the desert seamlessly.


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