Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird at YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, CO, 2014

I am a minister, a photographer, and a nature enthusiast. One of my favorite subjects is photographing hummingbirds. In South Texas, we have four seasons of hummingbirds. However, some species we only see in winter, when the birds are not at their prettiest state. So, when I went to camp with our youth at YMCA of the Rockies, in Estes Park, Colorado, I was hoping I might have the chance to photograph some hummingbirds. I took my 300mm lens for this purpose.

We were taking part in the Student Life Camp with our youth. I knew the schedule for camp would be very busy with very little time left for me to do any personal photography. Yet, I was in the Rockies and I wanted to see if I could find some hummingbirds. I knew from my reading that some hummingbird species thrived on the mountain flowers in summer. I knew that I could expect Rufous in the mountains, I wasn’t certain what else I might find.

I also came to camp with an awareness that my time was not going to be about me. My Youth Minister, Helen, had been through much emotional stress in the weeks before camp. Her first grandbaby had been born while the family was on vacation in California. Then, the night before we left for camp, her father passed away. As the Senior Pastor, I do not always make the trips. I was glad to be on this trip because I felt I needed to be there to help Helen in any way I could. I was there to be her servant, as well as serve the needs of the youth and student staffers who came with us for the week. I had a full plate and my role was to empty myself and be like Jesus, a servant to the many.

Yet, even in service, God has a way of smiling on you and showing you some love. I found a few moments of wildlife photography that were God opportunities, or maybe better, God smiles. These moments happened quickly and wonderfully.

First, when I first checked into my room in the guy’s dorm, I stepped out onto the balcony and I was greeted by a hummingbird. A female hummingbird hovered in my face for a few minutes, and then flew off. I jokingly tell people that she was saying: “I hear you are a hummingbird photographer. Welcome to the YMCA of the Rockies. See you around…” At that moment, I knew there were hummingbirds in the area and I wanted to search for them.

The next day I had some free time early in the morning, so I began walking up the mountain looking for hummingbirds working the flowers. Summer in the mountains is like spring in Texas. Wildflowers are everywhere, and that is where I expected to find hummingbirds. I found this male Broad-tailed hummingbird in an area of flowers that he was protecting. I took several shots of him that morning, although I wasn’t happy with the results. That was a Monday. I spent several days hiking with the students, teaching, running errands, and shuttling students to Bear Lake in the Rockies as part of my duties for camp. Then, Wednesday, I had another opportunity for revisiting this site and looking for the hummingbird.

It had rained in camp. The good part of the rain is that the sky was left with a haze of clouds which made for perfect conditions for photography. I went searching for the bird again. At first I couldn’t find him. I walked around for a while looking and listening for his chirp. Then, as I was looking at some thistle on a hillside, there he was feeding on the thistle. I noticed him perching on the bushes near me and alternating between the bushes and a pine tree, where I had found him previously. This time, it was afternoon, so I had to get the sun behind me. That required that I find a spot on the hill and sit down on the wet soil and grass. So I found myself a place to sit and made myself a still as possible. Hummingbirds will allow you to be very close to them as long as you are still. I was wearing camouflaged clothing to help me blend into nature. The Canon 300mm lens is heavy and hard to hold for long periods of time. So, I made a tripod of my arms and knees holding my camera and lens. The hummingbird decided to perch in a bush in front of me. It was a God gift. He stayed there posing for a few minutes while I took several shots, one of which is shown above.

Jesus taught that if we serve the Kingdom of God above other things, then God will take care of the other things we need. It is about priorities. When God gets glory and our hearts are set in the motion of love and service, God will handle the other details of our lives. God has shown this to me many times and in many ways. In spite of what some may try to teach you, God is personal. He loves us and cares for us. What is most, God wants us to love others in the same capacity which He has shown love to us in Jesus. It is call Christlikeness.

When I walked down the hill that afternoon, I knew that God had been there with me. I knew in my spirit this was God’s doing. While on the trip, God gave me a few wildlife photos like this one. In my heart, they were God smiles for giving myself to minister to others.