Peach Faced Lovebirds in Phoenix, AZ – Parrots in Cactus!

If you are walking down the city streets of Scottsdale or Mesa in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area, you are bound to hear the squeaks of little green peach faced lovebirds as they fly between the trees and cactuses.

Peach faced lovebird parrot saguaro cactus Scottsdale Arizona

A peach faced lovebird perches on a saguaro cactus.

They nest in the holes in the saguaro cactuses that have been made by other birds (mostly woodpeckers and flickers), and they are just as adorable as can be when they peek out of these nesting holes and look down at you.

Peach faced lovebird in a saguaro cactus Scottsdale Arizona

A peach faced lovebird peeks out of a saguaro cactus

I have wanted to get a photo of one of these little cuties sitting in a saguaro for ages, and I had the chance a few days ago when we were visiting with our friend John Sherman, a professional wildlife and bird photographer who shoots for Arizona Highways. He knew of a saguaro cactus nearby where the peach faced lovebirds hang out in the late afternoons. 

Peach faced lovebird in saguaro cactus nest in Scottsdale Arizona

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He is a full-time RVer who lives in a wonderful custom built Class C motorhome, and he has a mouthwatering collection of photography gear.  He very kindly he let me borrow his humongous 150-600 mm Tamron lens (that I have been lusting after) to take a bunch of shots.

Wow, what a lens, and WOW what a fun experience! (And thanks, John, for the inspiration to buy one a few months later!).

Peach faced lovebird parrot saguaro cactus Phoenix Arizona

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I’m not used to lenses that hang out nearly a foot from the camera body, so it took me a while to wrestle the thing into submission and make it stay still in my hands. But the little birds in the arms of the saguaro cactus waited very patiently as I got myself sorted out, and once I started shooting, they seemed happy to pose.

What a surprise it was to see one lovebird in the flock that was a blue mutation!

Peach faced lovebird parrot blue mutation Scottsdale Arizona

A blue mutation of a peach faced lovebird!!

Peach faced lovebirds are not native to Arizona. They are actually native to southwestern Africa! However, over the years escaped pet birds have established themselves in the urban Sonoran Desert, and they have become naturalized citizens of the state.  All the flocks in the desert areas here are descendants of escaped pet birds.

Peach faced lovebird parrot blue mutation saguaro cactus Scottsdale Arizona

Pretty in pink…and pretty in blue!

They love the dry desert heat of the Sonoran Desert because it is just like their ancestral home across the ocean in southwestern Africa! They are savvy to bird feeders, and they make the most of whatever offerings they can find in residents’ back yards.  Wisely, they seem to have developed a palate for yummy Sonoran Desert goodies too.

Peach faced lovebird parrot Mesa Arizona

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Not all “introduced” species are appreciated, and certainly not all of them have endearing little personalities like these guys.  This part of Arizona seems to attract special feral animals, though, and last year I wrote about the wonderful wild horses we found living just beyond the Phoenix city limits.  Arizona’s wild parrots have been enjoyed for many years (here is an article from Bird Talk Magazine about them.

Peach faced lovebird parrot in Mesa Arizona

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Wild parrots can be found all over the country, and a few years back we bumped into a wonderful documentary about a flock of wild parrots that has taken up residence in San Francisco.  This is charming movie, Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, is one of our favorites (blush), and we have watched it time and again, as it always makes us smile.

Peach faced lovebird parrot in a palo verde in Mesa Arizona

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Where do these peach faced lovebirds live around Phoenix? Check out the streets between 52nd and 64th Street and Cactus Road to Thunderbird Road in Scottsdale. They can also be seen in the trees between Albertson’s and the Shell station across the parking lot at McDowell Road and Power Road in Mesa, here.

Peach faced lovebird parrot on saguaro cactus Scottsdale Arizona

You’ll hear these guys’ high pitched squeals long before you see them!

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Other fun bird sightings from our Arizona RV travels — and on our boat in Mexico:

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Wild Horses Running Free

We’ve been hearing the yelps of coyotes every night lately here in the Tonto National Forest.  How fun!  Even better, we’ve been woken several times by clip-clop of wild horses running past our rig.  In the mornings, the horses stick around a while, munching on the grass and chasing each other around. The other day, one came running towards me, his mane flying, and I was so excited to get a photo of this wonderful and free spirited animal.

Wild horse in the Sonoran desert Arizona

Wild and free!

The horses can be seen from viewpoints on the spectacularly scenic Bush Highway along the Salt River in Phoenix, Arizona.  But they are easiest to find when you aren’t out looking for them!

The Travel Channel sent a crew out with helicopters, photographers and film people to get footage for a new show they are producing about treasured landscapes in America.  We caught up with them in a viewing area, and found out their helicopters had counted 70 horses. But the crew on the ground hadn’t seen any that day!!

Pair of wild horses drinking at the Salt River in Phoenix, Arizona

A mirrored pair of horses at the water’s edge.

We got really lucky down by the river’s edge where we watched them getting their evening drink. Two of them strolled slowly side by side, stride for stride, nibbling the grass while the glassy water mirrored their reflection.

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Rainbows over Cactus at Sunset!

The other day we were poking around in Arizona‘s Sonoran Desert getting lovely late afternoon sunset photos, when all of a sudden the sky went black and a rainbow appeared. Our adrenaline shot up and we both started running all over the place looking for the “perfect” saguaro and the ideal setting to get a shot of this majestic spectacle. Then the single rainbow turned into a double one, and a frenzy erupted.

In hot pursuit of a knock-your-socks-off image, we soon lost track of each other, and then the skies opened and it began to rain. We yelled to each other to no avail (why had we left our two-way radios in the trailer…again!?!). I stumbled out of the desert onto the highway and began trudging in who knows which direction. Where the heck was our truck?

I couldn’t believe my incredible good fortune when our photographer friend (and full-time RVer) Rick Henely suddenly pulled up next to me in his pickup.

“Need a ride?” He asked as he rolled down the window.

Did I ever! I hadn’t even known he was out here shooting the sunset and rainbows too! And how lucky for me that he had seen our truck by the side of the road and knew where it was. In just a few moments I was reunited with Mark and we were on our way home — and the deluge started in earnest!!

Here are a few of the images we all saw out there:

Desert Rainbow over saguaro cactus

Woa, buddy, you’re just about knocking me over!
What a great image — Mark took this one!

Rainbow over saguaro cacti in Arizona

A truly magical moment – from my camera!

Arizona Sunset

Opposite the rainbow, I whipped around to see a bright orange sky!

Rainbow Red Mountain Arizona Rick Henely Photographer

Rick found a gorgeous spot for his pics overlooking Red Mountain and the Verde River – WOW!

Thank you, Rick, for being there at just the right moment and for giving me that much needed lift!!

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Dancing in the Moonlight

When we settled into our current camping spot in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, I noticed a pair of saguaro cacti high up on a hill that appeared to be dancing together. Every morning the sunrise has turned the sky pink all around them, and every afternoon the sun has lit them with a golden glow as they’ve enjoyed an eternal moment of bliss together. I’ve been meaning to get their photo, but inspiration didn’t strike until last night.

I was buried in some indoor project when Mark suddenly looked out the window and said, “Look at that!”

The full moon was just starting to rise behind the pair. I rushed outside and caught them just as the big silver moon framed their romantic embrace.

Dancing in the Moonlight

Dancing in the Moonlight

When I came inside to download my photos, I wanted to give this one a special name. I knew there was some phrase about dancing and the moon that would fit the photo perfectly, but couldn’t quite find it. I did a Google search and came up with a few that were close: By the Light of the Silvery Moon, which was a clasic Doris Day song from the 1950’s, and Moondance, which was a 1970 hit from Van Morrison. But neither of these quite fit the lighthearted and free spirit of these two dancers that were caught up in their own private world on the top of this hill.

Then, finally, I found it — the classic 1973 song by King Harvest:

Arizona Desert Love

When we were out on a Sonoran Desert hike the other day we came across the most amazing saguaro cactus. This guy has such a huge bouquet of arms pointing in all directions that he’s like some Hindu god standing in the middle of the desert! We knew this magnificent cactus from last year, and it was so great to see him again.

Saguaro cactus with many arms in Arizona's Sonoran desert

Now THAT’s a CACTUS!!

Down by the Salt River we spotted two snowy egrets shuffling next to the water’s edge. They were rustling up dinner from the bottom. Yum!

Snowy Egrets by the water's edge

Snowy egrets grab a snack by the river.

The beauty of the rivers in the Arizona desert have captured our hearts completely. Some of my favorite posts about this area from last year (including a pic of this same big daddy cactus and the beautiful snowy egrets) are these two:

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An AZ sunset fires up the sky!

We went out for a stroll the other evening and suddenly saw the sky go wild with vivid pinks and dark storm clouds. The clouds won the battle for the sky in the end, and they spritzed not just us but also our truck that Mark had just spent the day washing and waxing. Ouch! Oh well, spots on a perfect wax job is a small price to pay for such a stunning sunset!

Sunset in Arizona with Palms

What a sky!

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A Sunset Between the Palms

We’ve been very busy around town in Phoenix, Arizona lately, tending to some personal business rather than sightseeing, but the gorgeous Arizona sunsets have made us run for our cameras every time. We were blessed with yet another beauty two nights ago. This one lit up the sky between the palm trees in a friend’s back yard!

Palm trees at sunset

By the way, this lovely photo is proof that you don’t need a big, expensive, fancy camera to take pretty pictures. Mark took this with my seven year old 6 Mega Pixel Nikon D40. I retired it several years ago, after it had done me great service, including five magazine cover shots. You can find them on Craiglist for less than two hundred dollars.

A much better deal, though, is today’s entry level DSLRs which have more resolution and video — the 24 MP Nikon D3200 or the D3300 (which has built-in wifi).

It has been really fun for both of us to go back to using this older camera for a while, since our D40’s were our constant companions during our first four years on the road. We’ve learned a lot since then!

Arizona sunset

Posted October 16th, 2014 – Our travels have brought us back to Arizona where we have been very busy with friends and family for the last few days.

Arizona is a land of absolutely stunning sunsets, and we have seen some real beauties. I especially liked this one from the door of our fifth wheel trailer as we traveled through the Navajo Nation.

5th wheel RV at sunset in Arizona

There is nothing like an Arizona sunset!!

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