Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wildlife of the week

Chollas Creek is part of the Pueblo Watershed in San Diego and happens to be my front yard. Having year round water means there is an amazing diversity of wildlife in the canyons. Coyotes, Hawks, Skunks, Herons, Egrets, Turtles all live in the canyons near my house.

Here is a Snowy Egret that has been visiting the canyon this last week
Snowy Egret in Chollas Creek

This Great Blue Heron is a frequent visitor and I love watching him hunt, he is slow and stealth. His scat is a big white puddle of a runny mess
Great Blue Heron at Chollas Creek

This Redtail Hawk loves to hunt by sitting up in the Pepper and Sycamore trees. I have found him several times with a rabbit kill pulling the guts out
Red Tail Hawk
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On a recent trip to Anza Borrego Desert State Park we were treated to a herd of Bighorn Sheep
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

7 Days in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

The day after Christmas I headed out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park to meet up with a few friends and backpack for a few days and explore the Fish Creek area. We started the trip with a 3 day backpack trip that would take us from Indian Valley out into Canebrake, over to The Potrero and then thru Squaw Canyon going into Agua Caliente. Our first night in Canebrake yielded 24 degrees on our thermometer and I believe it, most of us had frost and ice on our sleeping bags in the morning and my mosquito net was covered with icy frost.

Here is a very large sand berm in Canebrake, you can see this easily on Google Earth
Large Sand Berm

From the berm we needed to hike all the way to the end of Canebrake where we would go up and over the easiest pass we could find and end up in The Potrero below Monument Peak.

Some finds along the way included this old canteen
Old Canteen

I asked Joel if he wouldn't mind showing us how it was done....
Joel & the 1917 Canteen

There are a few old water troughs still out in the wash and this windmill helped pump water into them probably not too many years ago but it is now defunct and it's pieces are scattered about on the ground
Old Windmill

Here is the gang as we head up towards the long and always uphill wash
Gary,Joel & Randy on the long alluvial climb in Canebrake

Joel found some nice obsidian flakes and an arrow point
Obsidian flakes and arrow point

I checked in on an arrow point I found out there last year and it seems to still be in good shape, right where I left it
Arrow Point

This is looking up towards the end of Canbrake Wash. We climbed over the pass you can see straight ahead but just to the right of the boulder outcrop
End of Canebrake looking at the pass over into Potrero

At the end of Canebrake wash looking back at where we hiked in from. The Pepperwood Trail is straight ahead in the far distance going up the draw into McCain Valley.
Looking south from the end of Canebrake. The Pepperwood Trail is straight ahead and goes up the draw to McCain Valley

We spent most of the 2nd day ascending and descending this pass and then finding a place to camp out for our 2nd night. On our 3rd day we headed down the old jeep road and passed over the small saddle between Vallecito Valley and the Agua Caliente campground.

Weather was still a bit cool and the skies were gorgeous
Joel & Randy

The cross over into Agua Caliente from Vallecito is another one of those deceiving treks where you are trudging uphill the whole way. At the top it turned into a really nice bouldery canyon, I would recommend hiking this up from the Agua Caliente campground.

There are numerous springs in this area and signs of wildlife were everywhere. I am guessing this coyote scavenged something from a trash can at the park, looks like plastic of some sort
Scat with plastic

Scat with plastic

This herd of Bighorn Sheep seemed comfortable with us watching them for awhile. Look at the natural camouflage of them...just amazing....

One older Ram, maybe 4-5 years was with the group but they were mostly all ewes and a few late lambs

This guy was munching very happily on the bottom of knocked over barrel cactus, if I was thinking at the time I would have recorded it with the video option on my camera but I was time....

We ended the backpack trip at Agua Caliente after 3 long days. This gave us a few days to head over to the Fish Creek area and explore. From our campsite in Fish Creek we saw this beautiful sunrise light on Whale Peak
Sunrise on Whale Peak from Fish Creek Wash

We spent one day hiking up thru Sandstone Canyon and around it's many drainages and a second day exploring the east side of Fish Creek Wash. Each side had very different terrain characteristics. The west side seemed harsher with more steep walls and the usual desert vegetation whereas the east side seemed to have more gentle slopes and lots of concretions and less vegetation.

Our Sandstone Canyon hike included passing by Diablo BM, here is a view of Sandstone Canyon from one of the ridge lines
Sandstone Canyon

This looks to be a pile of concretions someone has put together up on a small hill
Concretion pile in Fish Creek

Edrotes- Black bristled desert beetle walking on the alluvium. He was about the size of pencil eraser
Edrotes- Black bristled desert beetle walking on the Alluvium

On our last day we stopped and checked out the Elephant Knees. This area is very cool, highly recommended
Elephant Knees

After we climbed to the top of the Mighty Knees we were able to see in all directions, just an amazing place. This is looking at the entrance to Split Mountain and to the south are the Fish Creek mountains and CIA
View of Split Mountain from the top of the Elephant Knees

Here is a link to a 360 degree panorama Virtual Tour from the top of the Elephant Knees I made. I recommend you go Full Screen once it loads.

Here is a link to a 360 degree panorama Virtual Tour from the top of Fish Creek near our campsite, it has the morning sunrise on Whale Peak. I recommend you go Full Screen once it loads. If you zoom in close enough you can see the Laguna Observatory and snow that has blanketed the east flank on the mountains.

Fish Creek is known for it's fossilized remains and Paul Remeika has a document on the National Park Service website describing some of the features in Fish Creek and we were able to view some of these amazing fossil prints on our trip.

Here are some avian prints
avian prints

Elephantoid ceiling cast
elephantoid ceiling cast

Feloid prints
feloid prints

Llamoid Prints

For more information about Anza Borrego fossils you can check out Paul Remeika's book on Amazon Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert

This was a great trip with some really good company, I look forward to our next trip together in the desert.

Total Mylar Balloons - Probably 20+, I had 13 just in my pack.