a saturday spent banding hummingbirds

Did you know that southern Arizona boasts the most diverse types of hummingbirds in the United States?  A couple weeks ago, Will and I went with our friends to the San Pedro House, just outside of Sierra Vista, to visit this historic ranch house where they tag hummingbirds.  In fact, we went on one of the last weeks that they do it because of migration season.  A lot of hummingbirds pass through southern Arizona on their way to Mexico.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

The area is significant for world bird conservation, and according to Bureau of Land Management, it has been “officially designated a globally important bird area.”  

While I’m not super into bird watching, and the San Pedro House boasts a good amount of walking trails and scenery, this time we went specifically to see the hummingbirds.  It was actually pretty incredible and interesting.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

The scientists and volunteers said that the best times to study the hummingbirds are around sunrise and sunset, because that’s when they are out and looking for food.  It was super interesting to watch!  

They used a simple drop cage to essentially catch the birds and then, ingeniously, got the public in on the studying by allowing them to gently and carefully carry the birds over to the people banding them.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

You could tell the poor things were scared, but everyone was very gentle while handling them and they made sure to feed them before setting them free.  Carrying the little hummingbird was wild!  Its wings were beating so fast that I could feel the air movement.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

There was a seating area under the tent where they were tagging the hummingbirds so that you could listen and learn.  One of the volunteers was super great—she spent a lot of time with us to answer our questions and tell us all about what they eat, when they eat, what their mating is like, and how their lives change as they mature.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

Will got to carry over the last bird of the day!

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

She was pretty young.  The females usually lose their color and turn brown once they get older.  You can see in the photo how green she is.  This one had been caught three times that day already.  

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

After we learned all about her feathers and how to tell she’s female, we set her free!  Not before a quick photo-op, though.

hummingbird banding in southern Arizona hummingbird banding in southern Arizona

I wish we had time to do more exploring around San Pedro house!  It’s right on a riverbed and is home to about 300 species of birds, not to mention the other animal life that are drawn to the water in this desert.

Do you guys like learning about animals?  I think of all birds, hummingbirds are probably one of my favorites.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by subscribing if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out

summer in the desert | Arizona Part III

As month three in Arizona pulled to a close, Will and I quickly realized that there were only a few weeks left in the desert before we will be moving back to North Carolina.  What a whirlwind we have had out here!  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

The #SuiteLifeofWillandJamie

In month three we settled into a little bit of a routine.  We went on a few adventures here and there, but also found ourselves staying at home a little more often.  I spent my time watching the last month of Big Brother season twenty (yes, it’s still on the air, and this was a FANTASTIC season), working my butt off in the workout program 80 Day Obsession, and working remotely for a company back in North Carolina.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I discovered the folly of bringing hot coffee on errands when it’s still summer in the desert.  AKA, don’t.  I didn’t drink any of it and was lucky to make it home alive after leaving the house in the afternoon.  

We also found this fantastic Jurassic Park Jeep and decided that whoever owns it needs to be our BFF ASAP.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

There is a fantastic mountain right behind our hotel.  One Saturday we hadn’t planned to do anything, so after lunch we took our books up to the top and sat together to read and enjoy the view.  I’ll be honest, the attacking bees, wasps nests, and plethora of ants were a little off putting but otherwise we had a fantastic afternoon.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III


I have mentioned before that Will and I love shopping on holidays.  We always need things, and the things we need are often expensive.  So we try to wait for holiday sales to really get our money’s worth.  We drove up to Tucson on Labor Day this year to hit the outlets.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I picked up a couple pairs of jeans from Old Navy for fifty percent off.  We also stopped by Nike, which had great sales compared to last year.  Will got a lot of new workout gear he’s been needing and I picked up a couple things as well.  I also stopped in J. Crew for some shorts and, in a surprise twist, walked out of Kate Spade with my first piece that was seventy-five percent off!

Also, shameless plug—my sister is a Mary Kay consultant if you’re in the market for one!  I’m sure she would love to help you!

summer in the desert | Arizona part III


Our food experiences in Arizona have absolutely never disappointed.  From some classic Taco Bell hot sauces (secretly probably Will’s favorite fast food restaurant) to some breakfast bowls in which you can see all the ingredients from a local cafe, we are basically eating our way through our time in the desert.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I was SUPER excited to finally find the holiday section tucked away in my grocery store and brought home our supply of pumpkin spice.  It was a blessed day!  We also went on a date night to our favorite Mexican food joint—La Casitas.  It is deliciously dangerous and we almost missed our movie (A Simple Favor) because we were enjoying ourselves so much.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

The Grand Canyon

Among our many adventures recently, the Grand Canyon was a huge one.  I’ve already blogged about it, so if you would like to you can read about the sunrise here, or our hike along the rim trail here.  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III summer in the desert | Arizona part III

We woke up at 3am, got ready, ate breakfast, and then drove about an hour to get to the park before sunrise.  It was incredible.  We stood there for an hour, easily, to witness the canyon see the first light of day.  I never regret early mornings while on vacation if the purpose is to experience a sunrise like this.  It’s probably one of my favorite things to do, and something I very rarely do in my everyday life.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

We spent the rest of our day at the canyon hiking the rim trail—12.2 miles.  It was an amazing seven hours in the presence of one of the most incredible natural wonders in the world.  

Once we had completed the hike, part of which was in the pouring rain, we hopped on a shuttle back to the visitor center to stamp our National Parks Passports and then learn a little more about the park before heading back to our hotel in Williams.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

This diagram of the Grand Canyon at the visitor center was really cool.  It was awesome to see where we had been all day.  

Once back at our hotel room, we crashed for several hours and then ordered pizza to eat in bed while we watched Harry Potter.  Now if that isn’t a perfect day, then I don’t know what is.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III


Our first time camping together (ever) was a bit of a disaster, and you can read that blog post here.  To be fair, mostly we were just ill-prepared and already a little grumpy before we even left the house.  But sleeping in a tent in the fresh air and under the stars is always worth it.

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

I have been dying to test out my tent since I bought it, and these views were certainly impressive.  My absolute favorite thing about being in Arizona has been the outdoor exploring we have been able to do.  Exploring like this was not something we were able to do back on the east coast, but we’re resolving to change that.  

summer in the desert | Arizona part III

As our time here in Arizona is pulling to a close, we’re busy building lasting memories, cherishing the time we have left, and watching all of the Harry Potter movies in existence.  #NoShame

If you have any suggestions for things to explore in southern Arizona or adventures we should go on back in North Carolina, leave them in the comments below!  We would love to hear them!

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like, don’t forget to join the family and subscribe if you haven’t already, and we’ll see you guys next time!

Jamie out

More posts:
Moving to Arizona | Arizona Part I | Arizona Part II

our disastrous first camping trip together

Our first time camping together was slightly spontaneous and outrageously under-planned.  We did little to no research, left much later than we intended to, brought no smaller bills to pay for our camping spot, and ending up setting our tent up with the use of flashlights and the very last bits of orange on the skyline as the sunset had already passed.

our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together

Parker Canyon Lake

The camping spot was actually super cute and had a great view.  It’s five or ten dollars a night, all the spots have easy access to the bathrooms, and the break in monsoons had left the place nice and green for us.

As far as we could tell, the camping sites were first come first serve.  We packed up some odds and ends for breakfast, brought some extra water, and then stopped at Subway to grab dinner on our drive out.  Unfortunately, our navigation took us the long way to get there so it took twice as long as anticipated.  We watched the sunset during our drive instead of from our campsite.

Despite a somewhat frustrating start to our spontaneous camping trip, we made the most of it.  We resolved to be a little more prepared next time, because a camping trip without firewood (and s’mores) may not even be a camping trip at all.  

our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together our first time camping together

Despite having purchased my tent almost two years ago, I had never actually used it.  It was super nice to break it out and realize that the six-person tent is huge for just the two of us.

Will is a very experienced and avid camper and backpacker.  He has all the gear.  Despite having brought all of it to Arizona with us, we unfortunately didn’t plan well enough in advance to use most of it.  The consequence of spontaneity, I suppose.  Hopefully in a few years we’ll have this down to a science.

our first time camping together

We woke up a little after six, as you do while you’re camping, got dressed and ate breakfast.  We didn’t bring any kind of camping stove or firewood, so I made do with a few creative food items from our hotel room back home.  One item on my wish list is definitely a french press, or at minimum instant coffee and a means to heat up water.  Your girl had the worst migraine of her entire life later that afternoon and starting off the day with zero coffee didn’t help.

our first time camping together our first time camping together

After we ate breakfast, we packed up the tent in the already eighty degree weather and then drove down to the lake to take in its views and enjoy its peace for a bit.

our first time camping together our first time camping together

Items I added to my camping wish list:

  • Table cloth
  • Bug spray
  • Tiny broom
  • Mallet
  • Better stakes 

Let’s be real.  It was NOT the best camping trip in the world.  Hopefully we’ll do better in the future, but hey, not every adventure and spontaneous trip is going to be golden.  Despite some loud neighbors (who arrived after we did and left before us as well—what a whirlwind!) the camp site was great.  You can rent boats at the lake, go fishing, or even swimming.  It seems like a great way to spend the weekend, honestly!  Next time we’ll arrive earlier, bring fire wood and coffee, and it will be ten times better.

Any suggestions for whirlwind camping trips?  I’d love to hear some easy ideas!  I’m used to tent trailers and campers, so tent camping as an adult is new to me!  I need all your advice in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by hitting that subscribe button below.

Much love,
Jamie out.

a very old castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Labor Day Weekend Part IV

Let’s be honest, Will and I had a very successful weekend trip.  We visited the site of a volcano, witnessed the sun rising over the Grand Canyon, and hiked almost thirteen miles along its rim.  Come Sunday morning, we were beat and ready to go home.  

We ate breakfast at the hotel, packed up, and then took some quick shots in the wild flowers beside the parking lot because we forgot to take our traditional selfies with our National Parks Passports that weekend.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We got on the road pretty early but encountered a detour as we searched for Starbucks and my Pumpkin Spiced Latte fix.  We enjoyed the first part of our drive through Flagstaff as we discussed the future and what life is going to be like once we are back in North Carolina.

What we did not anticipate or plan for was almost being out of gas, but then deciding to push it and drive thirty more miles to get cheaper gas, and then seeing a sign right beside that gas station for a National Monument just six miles down the road.

“Let’s do it!”  We were so excited.  

We decided early on in our trip planning that we didn’t want to go to a National Park because “we might as well since it’s right there.”  If we aren’t feeling it, we aren’t going to go—the passports aren’t an obligation.  But this castle opportunity was just too good to pass up.

Montezuma Castle National Monument
(proud moment as my husband is getting really good at this posing for the camera thing)

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Structures like this capture my heart.  I absolutely love learning about and exploring places where people actually lived.  Old houses, forts, castles—you name it, I would probably love to explore it.  Case and point—Will and I met at an outing where we explored an abandoned school house (read about it here).

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

In order to see the castle, you have to go through the Visitor Center, which was ridiculously busy on Labor Day.  We patiently waded through the crowds to stamp our passports and then to read about the history of the 800 year old cliff dwelling and its inhabitants.  The diagram above is a map of the castle floor plans, which the public is not allowed to explore any more.  Back in the day a lot of vandalism occurred and visitors would take pieces of the castle as souvenirs, so in an effort to preserve the history, we can only look at it from afar these days.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle was named one of the first four National Monuments in 1906 by President Roosevelt.  He called it a place “of the greatest ethnological value and scientific interest.”  The well preserved site has been protected ever since.  Early visitors could actually climb up to the castle using ladders (I’m so jealous), but as of 1951 we can now only gaze at it from paved paths.  

What is super interesting about the site is 1) why the inhabitants built so high up into the cliff, and 2) why they randomly disappeared and moved on after living there for several hundred years.  Learning about the people who once made this place home is the benefit of spending some time in the Visitor Center before jumping outside to see the structure.

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

It was super interesting to see up close.  It made us wonder about older generations who had to climb ladders to get home and what inspired them to build in the cliff face in the first place.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

As you can see, it’s pretty high up from the ground.  At least this would offer protection from elements and predators.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument

To the left of Montezuma Castle is another structure, “Castle A” that was excavated.  Because a lot of artifacts were lost when Montezuma was looted, the second dwelling offered a lot of information and understanding for anthropologists.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

This diorama was another cool picture into what life would have been like living in a cliff 800 years ago.  Check out their website here for more information and photos.  

Montezuma Castle National Monument

We headed straight home after the castle to get some much needed rest and relaxation before heading back to work that week.

Next up in our adventures—our first camping trip together!  Join the family and hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss the next post.  If you liked those castle photos, give this post a like and let us know in the comments the favorite historical site you’ve ever visited!

Until next time,
Jamie out

Read More:
Labor Day Part I 
Labor Day Part II Labor Day Part III