Saturday, June 2, 2012

When in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, walk softly and carry a big zoom lens!

Such as the 24-1000 mm plus digital, interpolated zoom, and vibration resistant one, found solely on the Nikon Coolpix P510. Recently I carried the P510 and my venerable Nikon D70 up to Morongo and tried both and wrote about it here. Today thanks to a good friend, I was able to go back up and hunt for the elusive desert bighorn sheep again. I would like to thank my friend who will remain anonymous for the generous gift of gas money for the 200 mile round trip. I won’t forget it, offering this over breakfast, firing me up with enthusiasm to sally forth once more to the place I am falling in love with every time that I return to it, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, home of Senor Cottonwood, whose gnarly eminence you see at the top of this page.

I heard on the radio that it was expected to be about 100 degrees F in the low desert, when I turned off I-10 onto Hwy#62, it was about 99. Conditions when I arrived at the BMCP parking lot were about 94 degrees and breezy. So down the Mesquite Trail I went, as it is the quickest way to reach the Canyon Trail.
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Looking toward a raised viewing area in the main marshy area.

Once I got past the wooden fence that marks the official boundary of the preserve, down the trail a ways I met up with a fellow hiker who I had seen the last 3 times up. We stopped and shook hands, making some small talk, and I
asked him if he had seen any bighorn, and he said that there were a couple
not far off the trail. So pulse quickening, I thanked him and took off at a faster
clip, meaning about 1/20th a mile per hour faster. Here is the four eye view of
the hillside where I spotted the bighorn, about 3.
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This photo will probably look familiar to some of you, the sheep came back to the exact same place. Must be some good
eating there!

Okay, okay, sure I wore out that super zoom trying to find the sheep. As Paul
commented the other day sometimes you have to take the camera down and use “dead reckoning”- here are a few of the results. Now remember, I spotted
them with own four eyes first.
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This next one was made utilizing the digital zoom, I believe.
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Now I think he is telling me what he thinks of me.
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Remember if the right side of my blog name on the photo is cut short, just double click and a larger one will come up, then just
hit the back arrow on your browser to return to the post.
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Quickly sensing that I might be wearing out my welcome, I decided to head on down the trail, eager to spot more bighorn and my grizzled old friend, Senor
Cottonwood, who has probably seen it all at his location down by the 2 mile marker where the trail doglegs right. I decided to take a couple more photos of
small areas of the tree, hoping to find out something new, and I did.
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How long has that boulder been tied up with root, a hundred years perhaps?
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I never noticed that empty birds nest in the knothole above. I am really fond of the photo below.
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Looking at my notebook that I wrote in while under the Senor, I noticed
that I heard a songbird, and that un-caged, he was singing with the joy of
life, and living it in the moment, not a care in the world. It was a song of
such longing, of unrequited love perhaps.

After about 30 minutes there, with the breeze blowing gently, it was time to head back up the canyon. I walked slowly, scanning the lofty hillsides, pausing
every so often to do a double take, could that be a bighorn way over there?

This continued until I got close to the 1.5 mile marker and way up there on the ridgeline, and on the west rim of the canyon, I spied what I was sure was a bighorn- this is the view without the digital zoom, just the maximum regular optical zoom.
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And another where I used the digital zoom also.
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At this point he started down the rugged hillside and I lost him with the electronic viewfinder. After a few minutes, I continued over to the fallen tree blocking the trail and sat there in the shade, hoping in vain that I would spot him again. Alas, it was not to be. That wily old goat waited me out, running low
on fluids, I had to go after about 20 minutes there.

Now remember, I had seen the 3 sheep on the now to my east hillside earlier in
the afternoon and I was getting close. Imagine my surprise when I looked up
from the trail and spotted the Big Boss Ram blocking my way about 50 yards or so dead ahead! I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get his staring me down, but he turned away and started taking care of some real serious business, the Caesar salad in front of him.
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Again you can click the image to see a larger one in a new browser window, just click the back arrow to come back here.
These pics will be put up in the order taken. Sorry with the relatively slow processing time of the camera plus a tremor, the
photos might not be framed as I intended them to be when I pushed the shutter. My apologies in advance.
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He wasn’t concerned with my playing like a paparazzi.
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He appears to be saying, relax, he’s harmless in this photograph!

After about 5 minutes or so, he sauntered up the west side of the trail and joined up with what turned out to be 3 of his buddies. I didn’t notice the 4th sheep until I was walking away.
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In the photo below, the camera focused on the younger ram to the right. I have heard that sometimes the herd will split up and small groups of males will hang out together, at least until the rutting season begins.
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He noticed me for sure in the shot below! This is large size, pretty impressive, eh?
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I feel so honored that they allowed me to get so close, surely I couldn’t have been more than 40-50 yards from him, if that.
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Below is the “four eye” actual view showing the distance involved.
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He is a handsome one that is for sure.
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God what magnificent beings!
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With the digital zoom enabled below.
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I decided to leave that photo above large so that you can see what this camera system is capable of. Supposedly the digital zoom is not as sharp because it uses interpolation, but you sure could have fooled me with this shot!
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In the next photo, there might be some artifacts on the mouth area.
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The next may not be flattering but it does have good sharpness.
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In the next two photographs, you really see what the digital zoom on the Nikon Coolpix P510 is truly capable of. In more skilled and steadier hands, the camera is capable of magnificent results.
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What are you looking at? I know I am good looking, ask my ladies.
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The next shot wasn’t framed good but check out how sharp it is, again with the digital zoom, I believe.
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And below, a final photograph as I bid God’s fellow creature’s a warm goodbye. He ignored me and kept on eating, of course.
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There you have it. The rest of the slog up the trail was uneventful, 90+ heat
but surprisingly I didn’t run out of Gatorade Fruit Punch till I get back to the
parking lot.

It really was a great hike, well worth the 200 mile round trip in the un-air conditioned Morongomobile.

I hope you enjoyed the post, feel free to tell a friend about the “bighorn whisperer.”Just kidding


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