Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Discovering Borrego's Spring Wonders


Last updated 4/23/2021 at 2:14pm

The many wonders that attract both residents and visitors to the wilds of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are on full display.

You may just have to look a bit harder to find them.

Spring is a big time in the desert. Temperatures are mild, wildflowers bloom, bighorn sheep lambs are born and migrating Swainson's hawks fill the clear desert sky.

All of these wonderful things happen each spring, but Nature, being the fickle Goddess she is, keeps us guessing as to the outcome. There is no doubt that the wildflower bloom is the most anticipated spring event, especially by visitors.

When rains begin early in winter and arrive in adequate cycles, February through April can be a magical time. Desert sands will be colored by vast fields of purple sand verbena, showy white dune primrose or happy yellow sunflowers.

Roadsides are lined with brittlebush in bloom and the brilliant red flowers of ocotillo dance in the spring breeze at the tips of the long whip-like stalks.

Birds and butterflies flitter about, feeding on the flowers and migrating Swainson's hawks will arrive in greater numbers to feed on the legions of big, green caterpillars devouring nature's salad bar.

That kind of spring is rare, and maybe that's not a bad thing. Yes, we have good spring blooms every three or four years, and the epic bloom a few times a decade, but if it happened every year, perhaps it would become routine.

That doesn't mean there is any less beauty.

It's just harder to find. Instead of a big screen show, this spring will be more of a treasure hunt, allowing desert lovers a chance to quietly wander to discover and enjoy the spring beauty.

"Sadly, we do not expect our wildflowers to be in showy abundance," said Danny McCamish, the Anza-Borrego's senior environmental scientist for the Colorado Desert District of California State Parks.

"Although the area has seen a few precipitation events since January, and even a few mornings with snowy mountains, this past year has been a relatively dry year for the desert."

"Overall, we will see some spotty or localized areas of bloom, many of which will be unpredictable and that often last a short time, sometimes less than a week," McCamish said.

But nature never fails, and this spring will still offer much to see for those willing to come and enjoy.

Coyote Canyon is already hosting secret gardens of red chuparosa flowers, ocotillo, agave and brittlebush. Hikers or those equipped with four-wheel drive can enjoy emerging wildflowers in Collins Valley.

Asters are blooming in Fish Creek beyond Sprint Mountain, and bright, yellow brittlebush are smiling at travelers on S-2 through Box Canyon. Canyons with water, such as Hellhole, Palm, Thousand Palms, Sheep and Indian are just waiting for you to explore and discover hidden gardens of spring blooms.

Bird lovers are already enjoying the arrival of migrating Swainson's hawks. Volunteers have already begun the annual Borrego Hawkwatch where observers are in the field every morning to record the number of birds as they launch from overnight roosts.

Hawkwatch coordinator Hal Cohen said the first week of the annual count has been successful.

"We counted around 50 Swainson's hawks this evening. The number may be much higher. They are located at the Date Farm around 1.5 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on Borrego Valley Road and if the wind remains calm tomorrow, they will kettle up for migration around 9 a.m.," he said.

That is a typical pattern for the birds and visitors can enjoy the best from the evening watch site at the Date Farm on Borrego Valley Road, or on DiGiorgio and Big Horn roads.

When migrating birds reach peak numbers in the next few weeks, the swirling groups of birds, known as kettles, can include as many as 700 or more birds. It's an impressive site.

Spring is also a beautiful time for bighorn sheep viewing. Hikers in Palm Canyon rarely miss the majestic animals, and an eagle eye can often spot herds on the hillsides as you travel up or down Montezuma Grade. If you are lucky, you may even spot an energetic lamb bouncing around on the boulders under the watchful gaze of adult sheep.

Enjoy this year's hidden spring season.