So the end of August marks the end of Hurricane Harvey's reign of terror in Texas and especially the Houston metro area. While my apartment complex was flooded with 4ft of water from the nearby Braeswood Bayou, which resulted in a loss of power for around 4 days, I was safe with some friends and their families up in Tomball about a hour Northwest of my complex. Luckily my apartment is on the 3rd floor so I didn't have any damage when I got back to my apartment on Wednesday the 30th. By the time I got back power was already restored and people on the 1st floor were starting to empty their damaged belongings onto the curb and salvaging what they could. At the time of writing this post the 1st floor of the entire complex is vacant and repairs have already started. Houston is a tough city and things are starting to get back to normal, but there's still a lot of work to be done and the help from all the first responders from all over the US is simply amazing! Anyway I just wanted to mention the storm since it did impact my trip a bit, but only by half a day so it wasn't too bad.
My original flight was supposed to leave from Houston IAH at 10:15a on Saturday Sept 2nd, but my flight was delayed due to the first responders from out of state using IAH as the main rallying point. My flight ended up leaving around 7p so I didn't get into Tucson until around 8:30p. The flight is 2-ish hours, but due to the timezone change and the fact that most of Arizona doesn't recognize daylight savings time. Once I got my rental car I drove down 40 minutes South to my hotel in Green Valley.
The next morning (Sunday Sept 3rd) I woke up around 5a in order to get out to Madera Canyon before dawn. Madera Canyon is a great park that has a lot picnic areas, hiking trails, and fire pits and outdoor grills for just getting out and enjoying nature. The canyon is just a short 20min drive Southeast of my hotel so I didn't have any problems getting there before sunrise. I stopped at a few trail entrances and hiked a bit before sunrise, taking my camera with me, but branches were too low on those trails and I couldn't really get any clear shots through the foliage. I turned back and made my way up to Santa Rita Lodge.
Madera Canyon is a great birding area and if you want hummingbirds Sant Rita Lodge is the best hotspot in the canyon. The lodge has its own gift shop where the staff has various feeders set up, 10 of them for hummers. I parked down the hill a bit and walked up to the gift shop with my camera and 70-300mm lens and settled in. All of the feeders were empty when I got there and the staff hadn't opened up the shop yet. The hummers were already there en masse buzzing around trying out the feeders to see if any had anything left.
I started shooting and after a while I retired my 70-300 and brough out the big guns, meaning my 200-500mm lens. I decided to give my SB-500 flash and reflector a try too. After failing to adjust my settings correctly for the flash I eventually gave up on it and decided to just use the natural sunlight and see how that went. I got about 450 shots the first day, 400 the second and third days, but I managed to troubleshoot the flash issue and was able to use it effectively Monday and Tuesday. After 7-8 hours I decided to call it a day on Sunday and packed up my equipment and headed up the drive to do some more hiking. Further up into the canyon the drive terminates into a loop surrounded by more picnic areas with trail entrances that lead up into the mountains.
I parked, got out, and decided to take the trail up to Josephine Saddle, the first a lower saddle of Mount Wrightson. I took my camera with me, keeping the big lens on it and putting my smallest lens in my pocket for landscapes. I figured I could get some good shots up top. About halfway up the 6mi round tril trail I turned back. I strained my back too much and I didn't think about it til I turned around, but it was probably the weight of the camera sling on one shouler that caused it. O well, lesson learned for next time I guess.
I got back down the mountain just fine and went back to my hotel around mid-afternoon to call it a day. I ended up getting dehydrated and stopped for more water and gatorade on the way back, but still got a pretty bad headache that didn't go away until the next morning. Being in Houston I know heat, but that's usually with high humidity. Arizona heat is very different! Sweat in Houston sticks to you enough for you to wipe it away or let it roll off. Arizona is so dry sweat evaporates immediatly to where it doesn't even bead up. It makes you think you aren't even sweating that much. Another lesson learned for sure. Don't underestimate high heat, with zero humidity!
Anyway Monday and Tuesday were pretty unvenetful compared to Sunday. I took it easy on the hiking and stuck to Santa Rita Lodge so I could make the most of the time I head left, but I still packed it in around mid-afternoon each day. Now that I've written a short little essay about the trip onto the photos! I decided to break them up by species again so enjoy!
Anna's Hummingbird (large gallery)
Anna's Hummingbirds at feeders
Borad-billed Hummingbird (large gallery)