Thursday, August 7, 2003

August 4-7 the big and small (condors and hummingbirds)

Hi all,
This week at the lookout (August 4-7) the weather was phenomenally cool for August. I kept busy tracking 14 condors and adjusting to the flocks increased movements as the birds prepare for the risky
deer hunting season and the bounties (some of them lead tainted) that it provides. I arrived at the lookout Monday afternoon to meet Kathleen who had been there since the morning. She informed me of getting signals from a bird at 0845 in the direction of Huff’s Hole. A signal so early in the morning could only mean that the bird stayed locally Sunday night probably in the vicinity of Huff’s Hole/Lopez Canyon and may have been the same bird Kevin saw earlier in the day while mountain biking the ridge. She continued to track the bird as it moved north throughout the day. Monday night Mars was shining bright orange/red on the eastern horizon after the sun had went down.

Tuesday morning I began picking up signals at 1104 in the direction of Cuyama Valley and by 1357 birds were up and about towards Atascadero/Paso Robles with one bird roosting somewhere along
the Santa Lucia’s towards Hwy 41 and 46 in SLO Co. that night. I continued to get strong perching signals all through the night form this condor until Wednesday morning at 0918 when the bird was back up and flying. Wednesday afternoon at 1300 I began picking up the same bird again and tracked its movements from the Atascadero area across the eastern part of the county over to Cuyama Valley were I lost it at 1623. Surprisingly another bird decided to show up near Castle Crags at 1905 and stayed the night, again giving strong signals throughout the night. Thursday morning had birds moving around in the direction of Cuyama Valley by 0838 and the Castle Crags bird up and flying at 0910. Throughout the morning this bird seemed to remain near Castle Crags alternating between perching and flying (according to the blips on my telonix). I was quickly on my toes at 1310 when signals of this bird were coming in ridiculously strong in the direction of San Luis Obispo. Looking desperately towards Cuesta Ridge trying to get a glimpse of the bird I could not help but notice the 50 plus turkey vultures who were now in the area heading in the same direction towards San Luis. I imagined that the condor must had been mingling with this huge group of vultures as it moved across the county. I continued to track this bird as it moved towards SLO and promptly called Dr. Villablanca for him to see if he could pick up this bird from Cal Poly in San Luis. I got a call back at 1429 and indeed he had picked up signals from the bird and followed it as it moved from reservoir canyon area to lower San Luis/Edna Valley. I continued to receive signals from this bird on the west side of Cuesta Ridge throughout the afternoon.

Hi Mountain is full of Hummingbirds. The diversity this week at the feeders is greater than I’ve ever seen it. 5 species in all with two 16oz feeders providing an endless supply of food for these hungry little birds. In order of abundance: Anna’s (90%), Rufous, Allens, Black-chinned, and one tiny little gray Costa’s. The rufous and black-chinned seem to be the more aggressive. With up to 9 hummers on a feeder at once the food only lasts a little over a day before needing to be refilled.

Other special bird sightings: Golden Eagle & Phainopepla.

Until next week…
Mike Tyner
Hi Mountain Intern (Summer 2003)