I live in the Sonoran desert of Arizona.

I know, so do the snakes. I hate snakes, and for someone who loves the outdoors like I do, that’s a problem.

I wasn’t sure how I might handle our move here, and remembered just a few years earlier when I had to outgrow my fear of  grizzlies in Yellowstone. Knowledge is always power. I joined a docent-led hike at Lake Pleasant, AZ to gain snake knowledge, and alleviate those fears. And sure enough, a snake, for practice. The poor lady in front of me was unfortunately the recipient of my death grip on her upper arm.

I hung in there. So did she.

That was ten years ago now, and I am good. I remain alert and pay attention to when the snakes emerge in spring. They are out there. This was their home first and while there is good reason to be afraid, I have learned rattlers are pretty docile. The one in the photo loved the shade of my rosemary bush.

It is what it is.

Today, with a challenge from Anne of the Lens-Artists community, I look at what other wildlife might in my own backyard, Wildlife Close to Home. The Sonoran desert is a birders paradise, a prime hideaway for desert tortoise, and a haven for rabbits…sometimes. It is also home to a variety of other creatures that were new to my vocabulary: javelina, chuckwalla, and coatimundi are a few. Photos of those will come someday.

Until then, I will explore the desert with eyes wide open. The desert is a beauty with lessons in adaptation and invitation.

We definitely have our fair share of monarchs.

And lizards? I never knew they came in so many colors.

To me, our desert burros are the most intriguing wildlife. Originally from Africa, they were instrumental in helping prospectors during boom times. When the mines went bust and the prospectors left, the burros thrived in the Sonoran desert. They roam around Lake Pleasant like a boss, but what I love most is hearing their bleats in the distance while we hike.

Great horned owls are commonplace if you know where to find them. We have heard them in the evenings and have seen remnants of their breakfast on our patio. That is life in the desert.

The first time I saw a great horned owl was while working at the National Cemetery in Phoenix. I spent four years as a volunteer gardener. The grounds director asked me to meet him near Shelter B. He needed me to be aware of a nest, for the safety of our visiting guests. I asked the question I always ask: Is it a snake den?

He laughed.

Instead the nest was tucked into a saguaro. And mama liked her space.

The great horned owls tend to return to their nests every year, and I was lucky enough to visit with the new families for the next two. This time, a proud mama and curious owlets. And the photos, while not crisp and clear as I would like, are such a cherished moment.

There are times when we just need to appreciate that presence is paramount.

And finally, I can’t sign off without talking about roadrunners. I had never seen one until I moved to the desert and was secretly disappointed it was not cartoon-like. They, do indeed, run fast and it is not uncommon to see them with lizards hanging out of their mouth. They are fun, and funny and are a welcome addition to my yard.

And you can’t mention roadrunners without mentioning coyotes.

I named her Faith.

Wind Kisses, Donna

Thank you to Sofia of Photographias for her challenge last week about exposure. Her idea, that inspired the varied interpretations made the challenge fun. Next week, Jude of Cornwall in Color will be the guest host for the challenge. Check it out. And learn more about the Lens-Artists Photo Challenges here.