Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Weekly Update (August 9 – 10)

Hi Mountain Lookout 2017 Interns –Emily Hermann, Cecilia Huizar, Gaku Ogawa, and Massupha Upachit

On Wednesday (8/9), we initially met up in SLO and Emily drove us up to the Pozo station and arrived around 9 am. Once we got to the Pozo station, we switched our vehicle to the US Forest truck and drove off to the fieldwork, which were a few miles away from the station. This field site was the second site that we’d been working on for the past couple weeks. As usual, we did our survey on the narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) alongside the streambed and collected the data on each plant to see if there was any breeding present in the area in this hot season. There was an abundance of milkweed in this field site and its colorful flowers make such a beautiful scene for us to enjoy. A couple of monarch butterflies were spotted flying in the patches and a caterpillar at its fifth stage was found devouring the leaf. As the heat temperature was nearly reaching its peak about 90 – 92 degrees, we decided to call off the survey and headed to the lookout for lunch around 1 pm. After lunch, Gaku, Cecilia, and I began our search for condor signals. Fortunately, we were able to receive two bird signals but have yet to see an actual condor. Hopefully, we could at least see one bird before our summer term comes to an end. When we finished the first round of the radio telemetry data collection, we walked back to the lookout and took a short break to stay out of the sun. In the late afternoon, Gaku and Emily did the second round of the radio telemetry but no signals received this time. After a hot day, we spent a wonderful night at the lookout enjoying the sunset, the full moon, and the stars.

On Thursday (8/10), we started our morning with a view of sea of clouds. It was just another fine day for us to work in the field. Around 9 o’clock, we headed back down to the second field site and began the data collection procedure. Things went smoothly because the weather wasn’t too hot and we finally finished up the second site and moved on to the third site. Yet again, monarch butterflies and a caterpillar were spotted in the area. Also, we found a lot of monarch butterfly’s wings laying on the ground so we assumed that in that particular area was a grave of monarch butterflies? We took a quick lunch break at 12.30 pm and resumed our work at 1 pm. When we were finishing up our survey at the third site around 2 pm, a small accident had occurred to the truck and Phyllis’s car. Fortunately, nobody got injured and both cars were zero damaged. For our vehicle, it was just a tiny scuff mark but it was easily removed by using some gel and a soft sponge. Thankfully, Eric, a captain from battalion 31 helped us remove the scuff mark and solved the problem.

I also attached pictures  that I took at the lookout from last week

- Massupha Upachit
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Weekly Update (August 2nd/ 3rd)

Hi Mountain Lookout 2017 Interns - Emily Hermann, Cecilia Huizar, and Massupha Upachit

This week, a thunderstorm that swept through SLO county Wednesday changed our usual day's work. The different weather certainly made for a unusual day as it was humid, hot and temperatures stayed between 80 to 83 degrees, which beats the typical blaring sun and dry 90 degree heat any day! We typically start our day surveying narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) along the stream bed, but due to a flash flood warning, we did not risk it. (Thanks for the heads up Dr. V!) Instead, we opportunistically surveyed woollypod milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa) along the roadside starting from the campground and moving our way up until we reached the lookout. We arrived at the campground around 9:45am and began our data collection. Similar to the A. fascicularis survey, we looked for evidence of monarch catepillars and butterflies' presence in the area. We were initially excited to see a monarch catepillars and two chrysalis but at the same time, were not so thrilled. Monarchs should not be here in our area at this time of the year, so hopefully these little critters survive the summer.

Not too long after we began our survey, it started to rain and we saw lightning. The rain was inconsisent. It would drizzle then pour out of nowhere and stop all together moments later. When it poured, we ran to the car so our data sheets would not get wet and we would wait in the car once the rain stopped. However, we only had to deal with the "rain" for the first hour or so. During the middle of our survey we heard first reports of the 2 fires that started on Highway 58/ Red Hill. Moments, most likely an hour, later we saw a smoke plume that was the Red Hill fire.

We returned to the lookout around 1pm and because we saw lightning earlier we decided to wait out until the late afternoon to do our condor radio telemetry.  We returned to the road to finish our A. eriocarpa survey, in which, we realized was not much left to be surveyed. We returned to the lookout once again, around 3pm. We decided it was safe enough to do radio telemetry, as we did not see lightning for a good couple of hours. Emily and I searched for signals until about 4:30 and had no luck. Unfortunately, we did not get any signals, this week. We ended our night reading up about the stars, animals and critters of California.

Thurday, we started our day, around 9am, back at the stream bed (Site: Tamarisk 1). It once again was humid hot and about 81 degrees. We resumed to our A. fascicularis data collection and saw a few more monarch caterpillars and butterflies. We had lunch between 12:30pm to 1pm and called it a day at 3pm. Was a tiring day but happy with our progress. Almost done with site two and will most likely begin Site 3 (after finishing Site 2) next week.

Other sightings:

Apart from our usual sightings of accorn woodpeckers, dark-eyed juncos, yellow-billed magpies, etc., I saw an Oak titmouse, which was my first time seeing one (but they are probably common around here). I didn't spot any Northern Harriers this time around (I usually see one every week).

We found a bone of a medium-sized mammal (that I believe may have been a coyote tibia). I didn't think about taking a picture, unfortunately. We also came upon a few large rib cage bones (probably from a cow?)

-Cecilia
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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Weekly Update (July 26/27)

Hi Mountain Lookout 2017 Interns - Emily Hermann, Cecilia Huizar, Nelly Guerra, Massupha Upachit, and Gaku Ogawa

After weeks of preparation and training, we embarked on our first over-night stay at the lookout!
On Wednesday (7/26), we got to the Pozo fire station around 8:30 am and walked out to our first field site about 60 meters from the station. Our goal for the day was to begin the milkweed survey, as well as work through the kinks of the data collection procedures. We are looking at the relationship between milkweed plants (Asclepias fasicularis and A. eriocarpa) and their distance away from a nearby stream bed up to 20 meters. The presence of the patches provides space for monarch breeding to occur, so we record if any breeding is present on the plants, or if monarch adults are in the area. Overall, the data collection went smoothly as the group found our routine for measuring, recording, and conflict resolution.

We finished data collection in the first site before lunch, and headed back to the station to relax and get out of the sun. After lunch, Nelly drove us up to the lookout for Condor Telemetry data collection, as lead by Massupha and Cecilia. Thankfully, we all got a refresher on the different sounds the receiver can make from interference, as well as hearing and recording two birds signals; both signals came from the direction of Big Sur.

After packing the telemetry equipment back up, we all headed back down the mountain to our second field site about 50 meters past the creek crossing. There was an abundance of milkweed from the mouth of the dried creek bed, a very different scene than years previous. We worked for about an hour and a half when we saw Dr. Villablanca's "Mod Bus" roll over the hill to meet us. He came up for the night to ensure that the survey procedures would still be effective in the new season and that we would all be settled in for the night. We talked through how the first day had been going and decided to alter our protocol to include a larger span of milkweed plants from the center of the creek bed.

Our long and productive first day was over and we worked our way up the mountain to eat and relax at the lookout for the night. We even pulled out the telescope for a late night celestial viewing party.

The next morning, we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise, ate breakfast, and packed up the lookout. As we closed up we decided to put the chains from the North and South shutters in the top drawer of the desk in case of vandals. Dr. V pointed out the small animal trapping sites and the other milkweed survey starting points on our way to our field work site for the day. The timeline for getting through the sites is vague at this point in time because there is a visible increase in population size as compared to last year, but we will do our best. 

The second day of data collection went smoother logistically, however it seemed like the heat and the long hours slowed us all down. We reached a stopping point around noon and decided to call it for the day, in order to stay on the safe side and avoid any heat sickness. When we got back to the station, we cleaned up the truck and all of our belongings and relaxed together for one last time as we ate lunch. It was a successful trip and we are all excited to see what the rest of the summer holds for us.

(We will be rotating who sends out the weekly updates. Nelly will be sending out next week's)

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

15th Annual Open House/Campout Event - Sat, Oct 1st 2016

Please RSVP if you are planning to attend the event and the number of people in your group by contacting Steve Schubert at s_schub1@msn.com or phone # (805) 440-9390

Bring your own lunch 11:00a.m to noon. The open house event at Hi Mountain Lookout formally begins at 12 noon, with introductions, condor program updates, lookout tours, and guided field trips. In the evening there will be a potluck dinner, evening program presentations, star gazing, and an optional overnight campout.

Visitors will find parking available close to the lookout throughout the day. Attendees are responsible for their own transportation. Note: high clearance vehicles such as trucks and vehicles with 4-wheel drive are highly recommended for the unpaved 6 mile drive from Pozo to Hi Mountain – there are stretches of rough road conditions along the way!

Schedule of open house activities at Hi Mountain Lookout

Morning activity:

Bird watching field trip – 10:00am -11:00am

Hi Mountain Lookout (elev. 3,199 ft.), Santa Lucia Mountains, Los Padres National Forest Meet 10:00 am at Hi Mountain Lookout. Emphasis will be on identification of resident and migrant songbirds and raptors in flight, and birding by ear (what’s that sound?). Habitats: oak woodland & chaparral Field trip leader: Steve Schubert, Morro Coast Audubon Society Easy walking conditions, about ½ mile along the lookout road.

Kids’ activities - 11:00am to 2pm, ongoing

-making plaster-of-paris animal tracks; condor biology, and radio tracking demonstrations
Picnic lunch 11:00am -12:00pm (bring your own lunch)

-tour the Hi Mountain Lookout facilities and Interpretive Center

- sign the guest register

Welcoming comments 12:00pm

Introductions of Hi Mountain Lookout staff, volunteers, and college student interns
by Steve Schubert, Volunteer Coordinator, Hi Mountain Lookout Project & Dr. Francis Villablanca, Professor, Cal Poly Biological Sciences Department

Morning birding field trip report by trip leader
by Steve Schubert

Updates on the California Condor Recovery Program
by Condor staff

Condor radio tracking demonstration
by Hi Mountain Lookout volunteers and staff Note: Those interested in becoming volunteers for the lookout project are encouraged to meet with our staff to arrange future training for condor radiotelemetry, facilities use, and scheduling

Auction of donated items and merchandise sales 1:00pm

Lookout Project fundraising conducted by Carolina Van Stone, Hi Mtn. Lookout Project Volunteer

Afternoon activities and field trips:
1:30pm
Geographical landmarks - a 360 degree view from the Pacific Coast to the Sierra Nevada - and demonstration of the original Hi Mountain Lookout firefinder

Led by Kevin Cooper, Zone Wildlife Biologist, Los Padres National Forest
2:15 pm

Native plant identification and geology walk along the crest of the Santa Lucia Mountains, along Hi Mountain Lookout Road
Led by Dr. Dirk Walters and Dr. David Chipping, Professors Emeritus, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society

Potluck dinner and sunset watch 5:00 – 7:00pm Wine serving compliments of Nancy and Bill Greenough, owners Saucelito Canyon Vineyard & Winery

Gas stove and oven in the lookout facilities are available for cooking and heating food.


Participants are encouraged to bring a potluck dish to share with their friends and guests.


Partake of Jim Duff’s famous pineapple upside down cake for dessert, an annual tradition!

Note: no open campfires, camping or backpacking stoves are permitted for cooking dinner or during the overnight campout.

Evening programs beginning 7pm by the lookout deck (wear layered clothing)

PowerPoint slide show presentations:

7:00 p.m. -7:15 p.m.
The summer internship program and biological field research projects at Hi Mountain, presented by the 2016 Cal Poly student interns


7:15 p.m. – 7:45 pm Big Sur and Pinnacles National Park condor population update by Richard Neidhardt, Volunteer, Pinnacles Condor Fund


7:45 -8:30pm Southern California condor population update by Vince Gerwe, Friends of California Condors Wild & Free and Estelle Sandhaus, Director of Conservation and Research, Santa Barbara Zoo

Astronomy observations
Telescopes will be set up for observations of the evening stars and constellations

Optional Hi Mountain campout
Camping sites are available Saturday night at ‘Cypress Hill’ near the lookout or at the USFS Hi Mountain Campground one mile down the road. Bring your own potable water. No open campfires, camping or backpacking stoves permitted – extreme fire hazard!

Visit the lookout project’s facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/condorlookout
and view the photo album of past open house events. Join is in our 15th consecutive year open house event!
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Saturday, May 14, 2016

20 Year Anniversary Event - Sat, May 21st

Come and discover one of the largest and most endangered flying birds of North America. California Condors are radio tracked from Hi Mountain Lookout, flying near release sites in Big Sur and Pinnacles National Park in Central California and the Bitter Creek and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuges in Southern California. This is an opportunity for you to learn more about condor biology and the reintroduction of these magnificent birds back to the wild.

The Hi Mountain Lookout Project was founded in 1996 and is a collaboration between Morro Coast Audubon Society, the U.S. Forest Service at Los Padres National Forest, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service California Condor Recovery Program, the Cal Poly Biological Sciences Department, Ventana Wildlife Society, and Pinnacles National Park.

Hi Mountain Lookout has been restored as a biological field research station. Tour the interpretive visitor center with condor and other local wildlife displays and an extensive library of local natural history references. Meet with our staff and community volunteers. The anniversary event will include condor radio tracking demonstrations and a guided walking stroll after lunch emphasizing native plant identification, bird watching, and local geology. Volunteers and staff will be participating in several work projects in the morning (meeting time 9a.m., optional).

The event begins at 11 a.m. Join us for a picnic lunch, followed by introductions, condor program updates, and a guided field trip near the lookout. Fund-raising Hi Mtn. Lookout Project merchandize for sale. Saturday overnight camping night near the lookout is optional (no campfires)

Visit the Hi Mountain Lookout Facebook page at www.facebook.com/condorlookout To RSVP for the event please contact Steve Schubert at e-mail address: s_schub1@msn.com
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