Summer has arrived in the desert and it is HOT. Temperatures hover near 110 degrees during the day and drop to a chilly 90 just before dawn.  

On Sundays the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden opens at 6am for members, a perfect opportunity to get outside before the heat of the day and remind myself of how my camera works. It is a desert garden so there are always cacti to shoot, in the early morning there are often a few birds, and you can usually find an odd bloom.

I dragged Jeff out of bed and across town for a 6:30am arrival at the garden. At 95 degrees we were unsurprisingly the only ones there, making it eerily quiet, too quiet for our liking. Where are the birds? Strike one. Still hopeful, we headed toward the wildflower section only to discover the plants had been pulled and the area covered (including the cacti) until the next growing season. Strike two. Now what? We came for the cacti blooms and the birds and we have nothing to show.

With a heavy camera pack on my back, camera and big lens around my neck, I was already covered in sweat.  I wasn’t going to last 10 more minutes. Just as I was thinking this was strike three, a fellow ran up out of nowhere and asked, “do you want to see some owls?”. When you walk around with a big lens, it looks like you are a photographer. Sometimes size does matter.

Sure enough, deep in the shadows of a thickly branched tree, were three little screech owls. They were doing what I should be doing, sleeping. I waited for movement, the sweat dripping off my brow as I tried to hold the long lens steady. Finally, a group of grackles landed on the treetop squawking, causing one of the owls to open one eye and then the other as if to inquire, “Who? who’s making all that racket?”.  Hey, maybe I got my bat on the ball after all. Click.

“Who? Who’s making all that noise?”

The heat was forgotten, it was time to find other hidden treasures to shoot.

Next up, the hummingbird garden, an area designed to attract hummingbirds. This poor fellow was coming up short. It was barren.

Looking for flowers in all the wrong places.
Finally, a flower of sorts. It will have to do.

This nesting lady was pretending she couldn’t be seen.

You can’t see me.

Engrossed in shooting a butterfly on a cluster of clover, this Road Runner hopped up next to me  to show off his breakfast. 

One small bug, I think this guy is on a diet.

The more I looked around me, the more I saw. Because we were the only ones in the garden, the critters seemingly got bolder.

This young cactus wren is waiting impatiently for his feeding.

Note from Mom, “You’re on your own!”

Even the birds get hot and need to take a dip.

Ooh, it feels so good.

This  horny lizard was so excited to pose for me, he stopped here and then came a little closer. Little did he realize he came too close for me to focus my lens.

He puckered up, “Kiss me,” he said. Thinking he might turn into a prince, I told him I was already married.

Around the last bend, amidst some wild sunflowers, were our new favorites, the peach-faced love birds.

Look, I am not just a pretty face!
Sunflower seeds for breakfast, would you like some?

I did find an uncovered cactus and a couple of flowers too.

The morning light makes these red needles glow.
A night bloomer has almost finished opening.
Cool white flowers, where else, but in the shade.

All in all, a day that looked like a strike out, turned out to be a good outing, perhaps a clean single to left?

Remember, it’s all about the light and keeping cool.