Friday, December 13, 2002

Hi Notes

This first observation is actually from Atascadero, not Hi Mountain. FINALLY I got to actually see the object of my tracking efforts! The day after Paul saw the ‘Atascadero Crew’ on Mon Dec 9th, I was
driving West on Hwy 41 into Atascadero. I looked over to the North and saw three BIG black birds in the dead upper branches of an oak tree behind the Bank of America. Like Paul, I went into ‘birdwatcher
mode’ and forgot the rules of the road. I did make it safely to the parking lot of the business complex behind the B of A and spent about 1/2 hour gawking at OR209, Y192 and B170, who were quite unconcerned
that a dozen humanoids were staring at them. OR209 opened his wings briefly, so that had his size and the number tags on his wings not been enough to identify him, the white triangles on the under side of his wings were a dead giveaway! What a thrill!

OK, now to Hi Mountain: I arrived at the lookout Wed. Dec. 11 at 0830 (I’ve come to like military time and since we use it to send in data, that’s what I’m going to use here). It was interesting to see that only one of the birds that I’d seen the day before in Atascadero was still there: B170. He wasn’t alone though…I got signals from B167 and B168 as well. All three birds stayed until late afternoon, and I’m assuming they flew back to Ventana because I stopped receiving signals late in the afternoon and didn’t get any Thursday morning. The weather at the lookout has become decidedly winterish! There is a
weather station at the lookout which records wind speed, direction, wind chill, temperature, rainfall, etc., which makes it handy to determine just how cold you are! It was 41 degrees when I arrived and
got all the way up to 47 degrees at 1430. With the wind chill (wind blowing at ~30 mph), it was as cold as 34 degrees. But with my turtleneck sweater, 3 sweat shirts, 1 wind breaker, 1 parka, 1  balaclava, 1 ear warmer, 1 beanie, two hoods, 2 pairs of gloves, 1 pair winter bicycling tights, 1 pair levis, 2 pairs socks and 1 pair of hiking boots, the only thing that wasn’t covered with wool, cotton, or down feathers was my eyeballs.

The only birds I saw that day was 1 Calif. Thrasher early in the morning, 1 Sage Sparrow(?), 1 lonely Turkey Vulture at 1330 who circled once and then got the heck out of there. I had come to the
conclusion that the birds were several points higher on the IQ scale than me for not coming up there, but then at 1600 here came two Red Tailed Hawks from the west. They ‘kitted’ for awhile, then soared off to the east. At the same time, a Goodyear Blimp was gliding from north to south. Quite a study in contrasts!
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t pick up any signals when I monitored at 0600 hours Thursday morning. I had to leave early, so that was the only reading I took.

Another day and night in paradise!
Kathleen Intorf

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Atascadero Condors (again)

Hi all,

While driving north last monday on my way to work in Tahoe, I encountered several Ventana birds as they soared low over downtown Atascadero. It was about 1320hrs and I was driving N on the 101, just
entering Atascadero. Heavy, low clouds and scattered sprinkles. Making my usual scan of the skies and sorting through the kettles of TV’s, I spotted an yellow tagged CA condor flying low over the 101 overpass at HWY 41 E. I made a pretty hazardous lane change and exited the freeway at the 41 off ramp. Sitting at a red light on Curbarail, I spotted another condor with black tags moving toward the 101, must have been less than 25 feet over the Rite Aid shopping center to my north. Fumbling with my binos, notebook, cell phone, and stick shift, I managed to pull into the Chevron station at 41 and 101unscathed. From the Chevron, I had a total of 4 condors, all were less than 50ft above the ground, but had started ringing up by the time I parked. I was never able to get tag #’s, but I did see one Or bird, one Y bird, one B bird ( I think it was 171), and a mystery bird that may have been a W bird.

The Y and B birds were paired and moved directly over me and on up the 41 W toward the Santa Lucias, gaining elevation. The Or and W(?) birds were also paired up and came in from the Salinas R. area off the 41 near the cemetery, I believe. The Or and W birds were following behind the B and Y birds, made a few turns over the Rite Aid and peeled off back toward the riverbed and houses. As soon as I lost the 2 birds headed west, I sped off toward the Salinas R. bridge looking for the other 2. I checked the area for an hour with no luck.

**As an interesting side note, a woman pulled into the Chevron while I was looking up. She asked if I was looking for condors. She said she owns a large piece of property on a hill behind Heilman’s junk yard
where she watches condors perch on her water tank “almost every day”. She was quite friendly and interested in the safety of the birds. This may be a good spot for VWS mobile trackers to check out and, based on her enthusiasm, I don’t think access onto her property would be a problem.

I must say, watching California condors fly over downtown Atascadero is an eerie experience. With so much open country in all directions, these guys seem to be showing a preference, or at least an extreme curiosity,
for the dangerous and populated areas along the 101 (especially Paso Robles and Atascadero) as they make their way south to the Sierra Madre and sometimes on down to Hopper. I’m scared for these guys. Watching from the Chevron, I couldn’t help but feel like these birds entered a time machine sometime back in the Pleistocene and fell out over downtown A-town, December 2002. As majestic as the condors are to watch, something’s just not right with this picture.

Hope this email finds you warm and well. Happy Holidays,
Paul Andreano

Monday, December 9, 2002

Observations from Hi Mountain

Notes from ‘On Hi’:
I drove up to the lookout to check for any rain damage Sat Dec 7.
There had been very little rain, so all was well. I picked up signals
from the following Condors that evening (all in Atascadero):
B170 (male), Y192 (female), OR209 (male), and B168 (male). I arrived
at the lookout at 3:30 PM, so only tracked them for a couple of
hours. I stayed overnight, along with a Cal Poly student, Austin, who
was doing some biology studies on Hi Mountain.
I began monitoring early Sunday morning, intending to leave by 10:00
AM…however!…I was picking up so many birds, I couldn’t leave! The
following are the ‘early birds’ that I picked up all day (in
B170 (male), Y192 (female), B168 (male). They didn’t become active
until late morning, probably because it was so foggy.
The following are the late arrivals that I began getting signals for
around noon:
B167 (female), Y194 (female), OR209 (male).
That’s a total of 6 Condors in one day, the most I’ve ever gotten.
Two of them are birds I’ve never picked up before: B167 & B168.
Other highlights of the trip: A Northern Harrier, two Red Tailed
Hawks perched in the Cypress tree across from the lookout, and a
couple of Calif. Thrashers serenading early Sunday morning. And…2
mountain bikers and 3 hikers Sat. evening.
This is my first message posting…hope it worked!
Kathleen Intorf