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Buford
Buford
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7/6/2015
Buford
Buford
Posts: 200
I am comfortable in the Anza-Borrego Desert, having been camping there since I was a child. After hearing about the sheep count for the first time on a family trip as a kid, I have always wanted to participate. As a hiker/backpacker/peak bagger I filled out the sheep count orientation and volunteered for a backpacking assignment.

The sheep count orientation was worth attending for anyone that has any interest in sheep. At the orientation I got assigned to Palm Canyon, 2nd grove. I have been up past 2nd grove many times, and knew from previous count data that sheep were almost always spotted there. I also met the other members assigned to the count site, another experienced desert hiker/SAR member, and a married trail running couple who had never camped before but were very into sheep made up our team of four. All of us first timers for the count.

I arrived at checkin right before 3pm the day before the count, and the rest of our team was there and ready to go. I briefly talked to someone that had counted from 2nd grove before to get info on the count site. The info and the topo map in our packet made it really easy to find our count spot. We hiked up Palm Canyon and spotted quite a few sheep before 1st grove on the way up.






There was plenty of water at first grove trickling down into a pool created by a man made stick and sand wall. After 1st grove, there was no water all the way up past our count site. Just past our site, there was a good pool of clear frog filled water being fed by a trickle from the rocks. We were happy we had filterable water close by, and didn't have to hike far each day to refill.

Our count site was a little hill on the side of the canyon with a good view up and down canyon, including a vantage point for the water source up stream. We setup our shade tarp the first day and looked for sheep near the water, only to hear rockfall on the Indianhead ridge line behind us. One of our team members quickly spotted our first sheep due to the rockfall, and I saw the little one with it minutes later. Spotting them without binoculars would have been impossible. Later in the day we saw a different sheep up on the ridge line. That was it for day 1. One member of our team had a camera with a good telephoto lens, hopefully his pictures came out well.

Sheep were on the ridge line behind our site:




Day 2 was a big blank. One member of our team finally saw a sheep at 7pm, when it didn't count, on a very distant ridgeline up canyon. It was perfectly outlined against the sky and again only visible with binoculars.

There is a sheep on the little saddle of the left distant ridge line:


Day 3 was almost a blank. I spotted a single sheep glassing down canyon. Turns out that sheep was soon spotted by 1st grove right after it left our line of sight. We finished with only 4 official sheep over 3 days of counting, plus some bonus sheep on the hike up and back.

There is a sheep somewhere on the 3rd hill back. Only visible with binoculars or a long lens.


We started the hike out a couple minutes before noon. We saw plenty of sheep below 1st grove of course.








I was prepared for the heat, and it was not a problem. Hiking and counting in the heat were not an issue. The heat would get uncomfortable, but the shade made it doable. I knew our site almost always saw sheep in years past. I was glad we didn't go 3 days and see no sheep like some teams. That would be difficult. The hardest part for me was sitting there for hours looking and seeing nothing without being able to go out and explore the area. It would be much easier to sit and look if there were more sheep in front of us. Our team was excellent. At least we had great people to hang with and talk to for hours of not seeing sheep.



Despite having gallons of good clear water, not one sheep went down to it during the count. This was surprising to me. Overall a good experience. I just wish we counted more sheep.

Sorry about the cell phone snapshots, I am not a photographer.
edited by Buford on 7/6/2015
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ziphius
ziphius
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7/6/2015
ziphius
ziphius
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Great trip report Buford, glad you got out there and saw some sheep. I gotta commit for next year, never done it. Any photos of your camp area? Did folks bring tents or sleep out under the stars? Those are really good photographs, I would not have guessed cell phone at all. - Jim

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dsefcik
dsefcik
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7/6/2015
dsefcik
dsefcik
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Great report Buford...I will write something up for our site in the next few days.

You never know what you will see during the sheep count, you may get tons of sheep or you may get none. This year was not particularly hot so my guess is they were not out looking for water as much but I am no expert. I totally understand the frustration and boredom of sitting around all day and not seeing any sheep, my first count we saw a few sheep and many were already counted by a group below us. I hope your experience was positive enough to sign up again next year but totally understand if not, this event just isn't for anyone which I am sure you now understand much better.

I am wondering why your 7pm sighting did not count, did Steve specifically say that?

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Buford
Buford
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7/6/2015
Buford
Buford
Posts: 200
For sleep I brought a bivy and sleeping pad. I thought the bugs might be an issue. At worse, they were a minor annoyance. Water was too far away for bugs to bother us at camp. Bivy not needed. Another in our team brought their tent, no rain fly. Others didn't even bring sleeping pads/bags. We camped on a nice sandy beach. They just laid down beach towels.

Our camp from the count site:



Count hours were from 0700 to 1700, and on the last day 0700 to 1200. Sheep before or after don't count.

I missed you at checkin, I think I talked to one of the people on your team though. Can't wait to see the pictures from Rattlesnake spring. I did meet another forum member at check out.

I likely would count again.
edited by Buford on 7/6/2015
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dsefcik
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7/6/2015
dsefcik
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Buford wrote:
I thought the bugs might be an issue. At worse, they were a minor annoyance.
Interesting, we had so many flies and bees it was really, really bothersome, we used mosquito nets some of the day to keep them off us and one of our counters was stung several times. Glad to hear you did not have to experience this.

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surfponto
surfponto
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7/7/2015
surfponto
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Was all set to do it next year until I heard about Daren's bee encounter Just Kidding

Thanks for posting the trip report Buford, along with the great pics.
Really gives you an insight to what it is like.

Bob

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dsefcik
dsefcik
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7/7/2015
dsefcik
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surfponto wrote:
Was all set to do it next year until I heard about Daren's bee encounter Just Kidding
You seem to threaten doing it all the time but never go...will next year be for real?? smile

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surfponto
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7/7/2015
surfponto
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I am hoping so.
Mary has talked about doing it also.

Ashley at the ABF posted a nice TR about her first experience.
http://theabf.org/i-see-ewe-shortish-diary-anza-borrego-sheep-counter



dsefcik wrote:
surfponto wrote:
Was all set to do it next year until I heard about Daren's bee encounter Just Kidding
You seem to threaten doing it all the time but never go...will next year be for real?? smile


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dsefcik
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7/7/2015
dsefcik
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I have too many photos to post, you can see all of them here:

http://www.darensefcik.com/Photography/Anza-Borrego-Desert-State-Park/Bighorn-Sheep-Count-2015/50432774_DV9dvK

I have been counting at Rattlesnake Spring for the last 4 years, before that I counted at Upper HellHole Canyon. Rattlesnake Spring usually has more sheep than the other count sites but is also considered the most difficult site to count at. We backpack in and out during the evening hours and catch the shadows of sunset and the dark of the night. Because of this we also count 3 full days instead of the usual 2-1/2 days. During the Spring we will make one or more trips carrying water up to the site and burying it so we have water to drink during the count, we do not drink from the spring. The result of all of this is we get to see many sheep that others do not. This year we had a total of 73 unique sheep and too many flies and bees to count The weather was especially nice compared to previous years. All in all a good count this year.

We are not particularly close to the sheep when we count, I used a 600mm lens this trip for most of the pictures. Binoculars and a spotting scope are a must for us to accurately count and identify the sheep. The camera and 600mm lens helps us to identify repeat sheep. This especially difficult if they come back in a large group of twenty or more.

Here is our count site as seen from the spring where the sheep drink




















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surfponto
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7/7/2015
surfponto
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Wow Daren,
Sheep shots are amazing and I was tripping on the closeup shots of the flies.
Will look at the rest of your photos tonight

Bob
edited by surfponto on 7/7/2015

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ziphius
ziphius
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7/7/2015
ziphius
ziphius
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Great photos Daren. Congrats on another year. With that many sheep, you guys gotta be on your toes to sort them all out and ID them. What were the longest periods during the day without sheep at the spring? Was your team 3 or 4 people?

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Buford
Buford
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7/7/2015
Buford
Buford
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Great pics from rattlesnake. I've been meaning to check it out in the winter. I've only seen it from the Villager ridge line.

Cool that you guys had lots of lambs. We got lucky and saw one of the only lambs counted in our area.

Can't believe the bees were that bad. We had a swarm go by, sounded like a jet, but no issues. There were a lot of bugs when we went to get water, but again no issues.
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dsefcik
dsefcik
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7/7/2015
dsefcik
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Jim (ziphius) wrote:
Great photos Daren. Congrats on another year. With that many sheep, you guys gotta be on your toes to sort them all out and ID them. What were the longest periods during the day without sheep at the spring? Was your team 3 or 4 people?
4 people this year, we were breaking in a new guy to replace Gary, he retiring, this was his last year. Each day is different, some days we have action from 6am to 7pm, others we have dead times all day and it is extremely boring and then 30-40 will all come down and dance around the water, then it gets tough to sort out. I guess unlike the other count sites, we have nobody else to contend with for seeing the same sheep and we count from sunrise to sunset, ain't nothing else to do.

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dsefcik
dsefcik
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7/7/2015
dsefcik
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surfponto wrote:
I was tripping on the closeup shots of the flies
Those were the small ones, billions of them...also had a few white crickets






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DesertWRX
DesertWRX
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7/9/2015
DesertWRX
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We were at Yaqui Pass. Pretty deluxe spot, but saw only 1 sheep, a ewe missing her right horn. Saw her Fri and Sat morning.
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dsefcik
dsefcik
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7/9/2015
dsefcik
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DesertWRX wrote:
We were at Yaqui Pass. Pretty deluxe spot, but saw only 1 sheep, a ewe missing her right horn. Saw her Fri and Sat morning.
But how many cold beer bottles did you get to see everyday?? I know for me none....Toast
Thanks for hanging in there, maybe next year you will get lots of sheep....

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ziphius
ziphius
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7/10/2015
ziphius
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Why is Yaqui Pass so cushy? Are you in the shade of the tamarisks?

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Borregolinda
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7/10/2015
Borregolinda
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Jim (ziphius) wrote:
Why is Yaqui Pass so cushy? Are you in the shade of the tamarisks?


It's at the primitive campground off Yaqui Pass road. Big asphalt area. So he brought our motor home this year so the counters had a bathroom! And even though we live in Borrego he just stayed there each night. So pretty cushy! And they sat on flat ground under an EZ up rather then in bushes or on a hill! Which he has done before! He was at YP last year as well and zero sheep.
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