Each year in the desert has its own routines as well as echoes of previous trips. Some years I’ve spent many early-morning hours at the Gilbert Water Ranch, watching birds, taking photographs, filming video. This year, I had to make a point of getting out to it in the days before we were scheduled to leave Gilbert for points Floridian and South Carolinian.
Walking through the Riparian Preserve is like visiting with an old friend: I may not see or hear anything new, but the familiar conversation has a certain charm, nonetheless.
There’s the statuesque great egret (I think it stood like that without moving for at least 30 minutes) and the vanishing snowy egret, a reminder of others like it and of the challenges in keeping birds in the frame.
There’s the ubiquitous mourning dove: self-satisfied, to my eye, and just a little self-consciously cute.
There are the elegant female and male avocets, scooping up less-than-elegant slimy bits to eat.
There’s a cinnamon teal, re-triggering my quest for photos of birds with their wings flared.
There are the invasive, annoying, yet striking starlings.
There are the always amazing black-necked stilts.
There’s the tiny Anna’s male hummingbird.
There’s the skulking green heron who almost forgot he was out in the (almost) open.
And there’s the chortling cactus whose amused face saw me on my way for this year, thinking of the birds I saw whose picture I couldn’t get at all due to their size, speed, distance, or position under cover: night-crowned black heron, Abert’s towhee, verdin, dowitchers, great blue heron, yellow-rumped warbler, gila woodpecker.
Yes, I’ve seen it all before. And yet it’s new every time.