Monday, September 23, 2002

Adventures in Condor County

Greetings everybody,

Its been an exciting and adventurous weekend on the Lookout, with lots of condor movement in all directions. For the past few days, Gretchen from Hopper has been mobile tracking around the Carrizo, Black Mt., Castle Crags, and the Calientes. We’ve spent a bit of time overworking our cell phones and attempting to triangulate on birds along the La Panzas, north from Atascadero to the Carrizo, and east over Lion Canyon and the Sierra Madre. My opportunities for this sort of trackng have been few this summer and I must say its a whole lot of fun. Comparing notes with Tessa at Hopper, the three of us surmise that B-155, a nesting female, may have spent as little as 1 hour in the last 3 days on the Refuge (where her nest is).

On Friday eve I was joined at the Lookout by VWS intern David Harpee. We woke up early on Saturday and drove over the La Panzas to meet Gretchen and hopefully get a glimpse of B-155 and Y-213. Along the way on Pozo Rd, we encountered four Tule elk, a few Mule deer, and a gigantic badger. The sun was just getting up and the canyons were still cool and quiet. We spent most of the afternoon driving the rats nest of roads in the La Panza wilderness, constantly scanning with the omni and stopping for directional signals at high or open spots. We had intermittant signals for Y-213 and B-155, and ended up following 155’s signal to Hwy 58 and Bitterwater Rd. Looking across an endless fenced plain, hundreds of cattle and hogs milling about in the dust while 2 TV’s idly picked at a withered cracass, we stopped to have lunch on an oven baked shoulder. A white pickup pulled up and Gretchen approached the vehicle. About 40 min later, thinking Gretchen needed to be rescued, David and I also approached the truck and began to listen in on the conversation. To make a long story short, the man was Darryl Twissleman, nephew of legendary condor activists Eben and Ian McMillan. As a child he traded vulture eggs he collected with Karl Koford. He spoke with a deep understanding of his land and a lifetime of condor memories. As he talked (and talked, and talked), B-155 moved to our south, then past us to the north and out of range. We never saw her but it felt like we had touched a piece of Condor history out on that dusty road. David and I made it back to the Lookout before sunset. By 2335 I still had signals for Or-212, Y-190, and Y-192 on the back of the cuesta ridge or somewhere near Atascadero. What a day….

As you’ve already read in previous postings, there have been many condor sightings in SLO county during the last week and a half. Nick Todd’s tracking efforts today confirm a suspicion I’ve had since Roger Zachary’s Atascadero sighting last week. Based on the strength and direction of my signals from Hi Mt. on those two days, it is safe to say that a group of at least 5 Ventana birds has been spending a fair amount of time within the Atasadero city limits this summer. Could they be tuning in to the roadkill along the 46 and 41?
Anyone who drives these roads frequently can attest to the numbers of deer carcasses. In any event, I hope that this area will continue to be monitored, be it from Hi Mt., mobile, or both. Atascadero is a crowded place and I worry for these birds.

Seems like this Lookout project is really rolling along now and its been wonderful being a part of it this summer. I never get tired of waking up on Hi Mt., wondering which birds will pass by or stop to roost on a nearby ridge line. I feel like I’m really finding my niche up there right now and my internship ends next weekend. It will be strange going back to a normal life, not knowing where the condors are; not having that better than average shot at seeing a black dot rise on the horizon, turning slowly and stiff winged, as my Telonix goes beep, beep, beep, beep……..

Thanks to all the friends and volunteers (especially Bill Bouton) who’ve chipped in to beautify the Lookout lately. It should be in good form by the Grand Opening on October 12.

Thank you for your continued support and interest,
Paul Andreano