Hiking at Ramsey Canyon, Sierra Vista, AZ

I made my first trip over to Ramsey Canyon today. I can confidently say that it won’t be my last … probably doesn’t hurt that it’s only 12 miles from the house I’m living in here in Sierra Vista:

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So I made my way down Ramsey Canyon road, and arrived at the Nature Conservancy a little after 8am this morning. I had a little cash with me, since I’d read on the website that there’s a small fee. It’s $6 for visitors, but only $3 for Conchise County residents … which my new drivers license proves that I am. Before I even got out on the trail, I’d already decided that next time I go out there (probably Saturday), I’m going to take them up on their $35 yearly pass deal:

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After I paid, a nice gentleman gave me a little intro brief with a map on the wall, told me about some of the good spots to go, and then left me with my own little map/pamphlet to keep in my pocket. A quick restroom break, and I was out the back door and onto the trail. Funny thing, I’d come out here with the intention of taking pictures of birds. I knew there was a trail, it is named Ramsey Canyon afterall. What I wasn’t aware of is that the trail goes uphill about 700′ … and it’s fairly steep near the lookout at the top. I did not realize that this hike was going to end up being real, legitimate exercise. lol, I’m going to need to get in better shape if the long hikes are going to be a regular thing for me.

Anyhow, here’s the view as started up the trail:
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As I said, I came out here to shoot birds (aside: I was not terribly successful in meeting that goal btw), but I’m certainly not upset if I get the opportunity to take pictures of other forms of wildlife. Less than 10 minutes into the woods, I was not disappointed, as this deer walked almost right in front of me … then just stood there and posed.
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Along the trail, there are a couple of little cabins, some of them long since abandoned. I believe this one is the James House.
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During this first part of my hike, I had the 70-200L lens on my camera (didn’t want to bring the big Sigma 50-500mm on a hike as that thing weighs almost 3 lbs), and was scanning the trees for birds. I did actually see a few hummingbirds, but they were very high, and I could never get one in focus before it fluttered away. I was beginning to fear that this might be the view in most of my pictures:
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After a while, I came to a sign for the Hamburg Trail, which leads up to the Overlook, just on the other side of the boundary to the Coronado National Forest.
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At which point I was given a little idea of what the next 1/2 mile was going to be like:
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And it just kept getting steeper near the top:
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Fortunately, there were benches along the way, and a few times I was tempted to just give up and go back down. But I figured I’d made it this far, and who knows, the view at the top might be worth it. (supposedly the top is the best place to see hawks and eagles … unfortunately they weren’t there this morning). When I got up to the Lookout, I found that I had a cell phone signal again, so some of you may have already seen this picture when I shared it on Facebook:
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Even though my camera allows me to change lenses, my idea for this hike was to keep the long lens on my camera, and just use my Nexus 5 smartphone for any sort of wide angle shots, as the camera sensor in the phone is actually quite capable. For comparisons sake, the one above was taken with the smartphone, and here’s the same general view with a Tamron 28-75mm lens on my Canon:
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This kind of confirms for me, that unless I have a specific shot in mind, the cost/benefit of changing lenses on my “real” camera vs. just using my smartphone might not be worth it.

After taking in the view, I was presented with a choice: I could go forward (and a little downhill) towards Brown Canyon, or I could turn around and go back the way just came. I was a hard decision today, but somewhere down the line I do plan to take some longer hikes.
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On the way back down, I saw the sign that hikers coming from the Coronado National Forest would see if they ventured towards Ramsey Canyon:
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Once I got to the bottom of the Hamburg trail, I decided to check out the Bledsoe and Grand View loops … hopeful that I might finally see some birds:
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I didn’t see any birds right away, but there is a stream that runs through the canyon:
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And that gave me the chance to get a picture of one these little water strider bugs:
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The moist ground also meant there were a few flowers:
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Since I still didn’t see any birds down near eye level, I decided to switch over to the macro lens and see what kind of insects might be hanging round. I found a fly:
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A grasshopper:
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And even a butterfly:
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Now, I’ll tell you what, I’m very particular about the types of shots that I share. Normally if I totally miss the focus on what I was trying to capture, the picture just gets deleted. In this case, I’ll make an exception, as I’m kind of happy and disappointed at the same time. I very nearly got a good shot of a hummingbird moth in flight:
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If not for that twig distracting my autofocus, I might have got him. Oh well, now that I know these things are there, I’m sure I’ll capture a good, in focus, shot at some point in the future.

Finally, as I ventured down the Grandview Loop I encountered some birds I could get pictures of. I’m not positive on the identifications, but using this Birds of Southern Arizona page as a reference, I’ve made a few preliminary guesses:

This one appears as though it might be a Lucy’s Warbler:
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Same bird “in action”:
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Best first guess on this guy is Northern Mockingbird:
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Next I actually got a decent shot of a couple of Mexican Jays:
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And finally, the last two bird shots of the day were again, not quite perfect on the focus, but Acorn Woodpeckers are just too cool not to share:2014-03-16 at 11-40-20

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As I made my way back to the entrance, I snapped a quick shot of a couple just starting their hike:
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Took in the view one more time:
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Then headed to the car.

But I’ll be back!

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