Now Until the Rains Come

The Peninsular Bighorn Sheep of the De Anza Country Golf Course will be making their way down from the highlands to the green of our country club until the rains come and new, native plant growth, occurs. They have no other choice but to search out food to eat for about one more month on the desert valley floor.

The dominant ewe has learned to take the herd down to eat every day around 10:00 in the morning. It is fascinating to watch them descend so rapidly and straight down the sheer rock cliffs, that they sometimes outrun the falling rocks that are dispersed as they jump. Today it took an agonizingly long time for three young males to get up enough nerve to cross the street, only to be frightened back up a third of the way in seconds flat. They are incredibly fast and agile, and almost silent on thickly padded hooves.

Once they feel safe enough on the golf course, the herd of about 30 sheep, settle down to graze for several hours before ascending back up to the top of the hillside where they remain until tomorrow. The sheep do a fair amount of damage to people’s landscaping, and especially to the barrel cactus, but most of us are happy to pay such a small price so that these native species of bighorn can make it through until the winter rains return.

Peninsular Bighorn Sheep

In my last post concerning the tarantula, I casually mentioned that I was hoping my sister Gayle and I would be able to see the bighorn sheep while she visited me in Anza-Borrego for my 62nd birthday. We went on a bike ride this morning, and what should we see, but a herd of 30 or more crossing onto the De Anza Golf Course!

First, the dominant collared female descends down from the mountainside and stops in the middle of the road to check for danger. She looks back and forth with her ears twitching and eyes darting and seem so wise and knowledgeable. When it is determined that all is safe, the lambs and yearlings follow down cautiously. When the ram fondly named “Bob” comes up from behind, he can’t help but be noticed as he shows off his magnificent head of horns. He has one horn that has been broken off at the tip and this plus his size and age distinguishes him from the other rams. His head of horns looks so heavy and burdensome, that he barely holds his head up. He is also seen doing what is called “snaking” which is an aggressive stance that is meant to drive the herd forward. He looks menacing and very powerful, and the young males and lambs keep a wide birth. The ewe just stood there and let him nuzzle her for awhile before moving on slowly. She has seen it all before and seemed almost bored with his advances. After he checked her out thoroughly, he stuck his tongue out and sniffed the air while promptly peeing. She had quite an amorous effect on him and it took him awhile before he followed her over to the green grass.

Another ram that was not as mature as the first ram, but big never the less, came down with a solitary ewe shortly afterward, and they deliberately ignored one other as they slowly crossed without mishap. Later, my sister witnessed them walk past each other and then hit horns loudly with sideways, glancing blows off the head. There were some play acting and ramming of heads, but nothing serious took place. It will soon be the rutting season, as this is November, but for now, it didn’t look like much energy was put into it.

How fortunate for us, that we were to be able to see the entire herd move across the street safely and settle down to graze on the golf course at the bottom of the hillside. The golf course is not a good place for these native, desert animals to graze, but it sure filled me with pride and wonder to see them survive in such a hostile environment. They only come down from the mountains when they absolutely have to, and only because their natural foliage has run out. I am pleased beyond words to have seen them today and to acknowledge that the herd has grown in numbers from last year. This is a good sign that the bighorn sheep in this area are once again stable! It is unfathomable to me why trophy hunters would want to decapitate one of these magnificent rams just for their horns!

A Day of Visitors

Oh, the joy of having my “Irish Twin” visit me for my belated 62nd birthday. We have been very close since birth and enjoy each other’s company very much. Turning 62 marked a difficult year of growth and change for both of us.

My sister had to give my aging horse Bella away to a good home because it has been too difficult for me to make the 2-hour drive to her house where she was boarded. Gayle and I have been riding together ever since I moved back to California from Sedona, Arizona, and she bought horse property in Perrie, California. The love of my life, Champagne Flight, a gorgeous chestnut Arabian gelding, lived with Gayle until his passing. I then adopted a Pasofino mare named Mija, a gaited horse that had been abused by trainers and never trusted anyone but me to ride her. And last but not least, Bella, another abused mare that learned to trust Gayle and me before giving her to a couple of young sisters who would take good care of her. I now ride a bicycle instead of a horse, but will always miss our horseback rides together.

Several nights ago, I was able to capture a few photographs of Callie’s midnight visitor, the black and white cat that enrages Callie so much. He is not long to this world if the owners keep allowing him to roam at night in the desert. I wish him the best because he is a gorgeous cat and seems like a very nice animal. He can’t understand why Callie throws herself against the glass and screams and shouts at him. His calm demeanor could make him an easy target for coyotes.

Yesterday while my sister and I were enjoying a glass of wine by the poolside, Gayle let out a gasp, and when my eyes followed hers over toward what she was upset about, there was Callie nose to nose with a tarantula! The tarantula had scaled the wall and was making his way over to the pool, probably in search of water. I rushed over to her while yelling “NO” and Gayle and I promptly escorted the tarantula back out to the desert on a ride on top of my broom. We were careful not to injure it as I helped him escape back out into the desert.

Living in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is beautiful this time of the year. The hot and dry summer months are finally behind me and I can stay home for awhile instead of escaping the heat in the 24ft RV. I also hope to see the Bighorn Sheep sometime before Gayle leaves tomorrow. They are making their way down from the mountains in an attempt to find food until the rains return. The desert foliage has all but dried out and disappeared and the golf course becomes a last-ditch attempt to survive until winter. Migratory birds like the mountain bluebird are enjoying the abundant seeds and insects while they make themselves at home for the winter. Callie gets to observe them at a safe distance on the windowsill. The desert is a hostile place to live in the summer, but now with cooling temperatures, my home has become once again paradise.

May my 62nd year be filled with personal growth and that I continue to be creative and contribute something meaningful to myself and to those around me.

A Night to Remember

Last night was Halloween. There are no trick or treaters out here in the middle of nowhere, but I did witness an extraordinary sunset! Usually, the sunrises are much more beautiful because the sun sets behind the San Ysidro Mountains and the lighting isn’t very good. When the sun rises, it illuminates the mountains. But last night was an exception to the rule! Watch as the colors change from gold and pink to deep purples and rose tones.