Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blogger makes spur of the moment decision to hike in the desert, meets up with 23 bighorn sheep along the trail.

In my whole life, I have only seen bighorn sheep a couple of times in the wild,
one each time, plus I have seen bighorns at the Living Desert and alongside
Hwy 111 in Rancho Mirage.

Yet my last two trips to the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve have yielded sightings of 3 or 4 the first time, and 23 yesterday.

Both times were near the confluence of two intersecting canyons and were down around the 1.75 point on the canyon trail. The first sighting I was hobbled by only having a 4x zoom digicam with me, yesterday I had a 18x zoom digicam and it really made a difference.

Some of you have probably hiked down the canyon trail and are familiar with
the rise where the 1.5 mile marker is located at. Here is a panoramic image to
refresh your memory. This photo was taken yesterday, before I saw the first bighorn.
Note: If you click on each image they will come up in another window, and will be full sized, not cutoff on the right edge.
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Clicking on the above picture will bring up a larger version so you can see more detail.
The next photo shows where I saw the bighorns on the hillside to the right of the trail.
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In the top image, I was standing next to the 1.5 mile sign and heard a sound
like rocks falling. I looked everywhere but didn’t see anything, probably because I was mainly looking at the canyon wall to the left, in the direction of
Joshua Tree National Park, for some reason or the other. Once I got farther down the trail, looking to my right at that hillside, gave me the surprise of a
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Can you spot all the bighorn sheep in the above photo or in the one below, which is the area directly to the left?
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This photo above may have to be resized smaller to get all on the screen, if all my logo bottom right isn’t displayed, then it cut off part of the photo. I wanted this one to be full sized so that you can see all the bighorn. I also made videos but will put them up in another post. Below is another view slightly to the left.
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The next photo shows the location where I took the bighorn photos above and gives you an idea of the distance. You can see them on that hillside if you zoom in.
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I count at least 13 bighorn sheep in the photo below. How many can you find?
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Another nice view of a couple of resting bighorn.
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Something is going on with the bighorn on the far left in the picture below. My problem was that it is exceedingly difficult to see any real detail in the electronic viewfinder which was almost worthless in direct, bright sun conditions such as in these
pictures. Is it giving birth?
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After taking a ton of pics and a few videos, a lot of it shaky due to my benign tremor, I decided to continue down the trail to meet up with my old friend Senor Cottonwood, located at mile marker #2.
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I wonder just how many people over the centuries have sat upon that exposed root and pondered the folly of it all? Someone also recently moved that old broken off limb closer in off the trail, probably the gas pipeline truck guys, as I did see tire tracks that ended up the road a ways when it turned into the major wash that it is in places.
Below is the view you see when you sit on the big root there, in panorama format.
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After about a fifteen or twenty minute break, it was time to get moving before my old bones totally stiffened up- carefully, because I thought and hoped that
I would meet up with the bighorn sheep again.

And boy, did I.
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I hadn’t even turned the corner on the dogleg left going back up the trail when I saw something big and tan take off yards past a big creosote bush that I was looking through. Then several took off toward the wall,now on my left, where the others were before. All this was to be revealed to me very quickly and is on video, admittedly poor quality until the very end.

So there was a standoff, about seven bighorn ahead of me on the trail, and what turned out to be about sixteen huddled close together on a hillside opposite from the smaller group.
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The next phot is of the same group, I count fifteen bighorn from this angle.
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The next shaky photo is of the smaller group heading up the hillside, on the other side of the trail, opposite from the larger herd.
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I count eight in the above photograph and fifteen on the other side. Unbelievable, I don’t blame you if you are thinking this isn’t possible, finding 23 bighorn together in the wild, like this. I still am pinching myself.
Below is the last still photo that I took of the smaller group.
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Now for some more background information. The surface water, the sometimes
stream has all but dried up at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. The temperature
was mid to high 80’s, just perfect, and there was absolutely no one but me
down in the canyon. I spent four hours hiking from the parking lot down
to Senor Cottonwood and back, taking ample time to watch the bighorn
sheep and to photograph them

I never saw anyone except near the parking lot and that was about five people.
Folks, you through the miracle of photography, and I are the only ones who saw this truly magic moment. By the way, the last sighting of the whole herd
was around 1530 or so, in the afternoon.

Long time readers of this blog, have I or haven’t I been saying that you just have to visit this place? Everyone knows that this is one of the premier bird watching in all the world, well, now you know that it is also a heck
of a place to observe bighorn sheep! My memory card filled up, it was such a
disappointment to me, not to be able to film the juvenile bighorn jump across
a chasm at least nine feet across, through the air!

What a moment, one that I will never forget no matter how much longer that I

Now comes the hard sell. You too can experience this wonderful place. Just hop into your car and head out I-10, take Hwy 62 about nine miles or so up
to the village of Morongo Valley, and watch for the big sign pointing the way
to the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Or just follow the directions in the link
at the beginning of this post.

One thing that I forgot to mention. The wind was blowing from the sheep toward me, so that they didn’t get my scent. I believe that is why I was able to surprise them. But the fact was they did not seem scared at all, there is no
hunting in that area, being a nature preserve as well as an area of critical concern.

There will be a followup post with embedded videos from this day so expect that in a day or so.

Nature lovers, thanks for visiting the backporch and I hope to meet up with
you on the trail one day.



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