Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Anza Borrego Desert State Park was named after the 18th century explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, the spanish word for sheep. ABDSP is the largest state park in California and is home to the Peninsular big horn sheep. I happen to live in Borrego Springs, a small town next to the park, and while biking around De Anza Country Club, I am delighted to encounter chance sightings of the sheep when they are forced to come down to lower elevations when foraging becomes difficult to find. It is usually several collared ewes or females that lead the herd with the young frolicking behind and the big males in the back. Some of the juveniles mock fight during rutting season and you can hear the boom of their horns when they make contact. The bigger more experienced males plod along at the very back as if they have seen it all and try to ignore the pesky young teenagers. The dominant male has a gorgeous set of horns and brings up the rear and is protective and powerful looking. If the ewes stray away from the herd he snakes his head and shakes his horns and forces them to band up tighter. It appears to me that the females have a say in where they will end up foraging, but have to tow the line in staying close together. I try to keep my distance, and always have a palm tree I can duck behind if i am charged. This particular herd looks very healthy and there are about 5 kids, or young sheep that have come down from the higher elevations for the first time and act so  curious. The sheep are searching for the grass on the golf course and I suppose there are mixed emotions concerning them grazing when golfers are trying to play. It is survival for the sheep though. Because of the natural springs in the area, park visitors may see roadrunners, kit foxes, mule deer, iguanas, red diamond rattlesnake, ( one of which I almost ran over with my bike sunning in the middle of the street) coyotes, golden eagles, jack rabbits, kestrels and mule deer. It is an oasis in the desert and is home to the only native fan palm tree.  I have lived here for a year and a half now and after surviving the outrageous temperature of 124 degrees over the summer, I am appreciating the mild autumn. We have experienced two good rainstorms this week and maybe the wildflowers this spring will be abundant. I cycle all over ABDSP and Borrego Springs and have found it to be a wonderful place to cycle, take photographs and enjoy a big sky and lots of sunshine.

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