Sunday, March 30, 2003

March 30, 2003

Greetings all,

I woke up in Los Osos yesterday morning (an unusual occurrence for me
lately) and got a call from Nick Todd who also happened to be in Los
Osos with Jan Hamber. Anyone who was outside yesterday can attest to
what a beautiful one it was, and Jan suggested a drive up to Hi Mt.
Along with Lisa and Henry Ponterelli, we took an unusually smooth drive
up the hill to the Lookout. It was mild and slightly breezy on the
mountain. The lush green carpet on the valley floor is such a striking
contrast to the parched, sun baked hills I stared at all last summer. I
hesitate to say that I’d forgotten just how incredible the view is from
Hi Mt. I’ve never seen anything like it on the Central Coast.

As you can imagine, the birds were also out enjoying this most
spectacular day. They may also have heard that Jan was in the
neighborhood and just come out to say Hi. Our first set of signals were
at 1237, when we had Y-194, B-168, and Y-190, all moderate and
inconsistent signals, to our SE. By 1242, these three birds were joined
a fourth Ventana bird who is not on my list. This group of birds stayed
to our SE until 1350. For a time we felt that they were moving north,
though our last set of signals were south of where we first picked them
up. Getting to the Lookout so late, I’m not sure if these guys were
headed south all day, or had just made a day trip to the north from
Hopper/Sespe. At any rate, I’m sure they ended up near Hopper by day’s
end. At about 1345 we began picking up signals for another group of
Ventana birds on the west Cuesta Ridge. Between 1400 and 1600, we had
moderate to strong and consistent signals from Or-204, B-167, and W-231
to our immediate NW. At times B-167 was giving a very strong, broad
signal that I’ve always interpreted (scientifically) as being “real
close”. B-167 and W-231 seemed to move east and closer by 1530. These
could easily have been Atascadero-area signals. By 1530, Or-204 was to
our distant NW, the other two still lingering to the south. By 1605, I
had lost Or-204 and W-231 altogether, but began to get weak signals from
R-256 (a recently released juvenile and my first time tracking one of
the new Ventana cohorts!). Between 1630 and 1708, B-167 and R-256 seemed
near and to our NW, still on the west Cuesta Ridge. By 1730, I only had
a now distant signal from 256, and by 1745, all signals dropped off.
Ahhhh, it felt great to stand on Hi Mt and track again, especially in
the company of such great folks…. Enjoyed a postcard sunset in the
company of Mike Tyner and headed down the road about 1930.

Other notable sightings and stuff……
Numerous Mountain Quail near the campground and up by the Lookout.
Counted 19 common Poorwills on the drive down the hill. Also saw 2
Bobcats near the gate and a HUGE Mountain Lion that bounded across W.
Pozo Rd. about 1mi west of Pozo Station. (I remember, last summer,
several of the guys at the Pozo Station talked of seeing Mountain Lions
at this spot late at night). Also, I wanted to commend Amy Scarp on her
efforts in the Hi Mt. Visitor Center. There is now an amazing collection
of past/present condor field notes downstairs and I spent some time
soaking up inspiration from Karl Koford, Fred Sibley, John Schmitt, Dave
Clendenen, and of course, Jan Hamber. Very cool, thanks Amy.

Until my next trip up the mountain, thanks to all who continue to keep
the Lookout alive. Seems like its time to really start waving that Yagi
around up there. The road is prime for driving, so plan you next visit
to the Lookout soon!

Cheers, Paul

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Hi Notes

Yesterday, Wed. March 26, 2003, was a slow day for Condor
tracking…there were no signals all day. The most memorable bird
sighting for the day was a Belted Kinfisher on a telephone wire just
south of the Las Pilitas turn off on Santa Margarita Lake road.
For any of you who are thinking of driving up to the lookout you will
be pleased to know that the road has been expertly graded by the
Forest Service and is as smooth as glass now (well…it IS a dirt
road on the side of a mountain made of boulders…but it is a VAST
Upon opening the visitor’s center door at the lookout, I was amazed
to find a beautiful metal sculture of a Condor! It has about a five
foot wing span and is curved just like a bird in flight. It has
chains attached to the tops of it’s wings in order to hang it. There
is also a metal sign that will be placed at the gate leading to the
lookout. I met Mike Tyner (Cal Poly student) on his way up to the
lookout as I was driving down. He said a friend of his created these
metal marvels.
There were six visitors to the lookout Wed.: 4 Cuesta students and 2
Forest Service employees from Arroyo Grande.
That’s all for this week.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Hi Mountain

The Cal Poly Crew is getting ready to start up another round of field
work at Hi Mountain…we love spring. Towards that goal I spend
Saturday afternoon and evening around the lookout. Things are not as
quiet as that were a month or so ago. Many of the wintering birds have
begun to vocalize. There was an abundance of American Robins working
the Toyon berries. The California Trashers seemed to be much louder and
persistent than last month. A couple of other signs of spring include
lots more insects up and about, many flowering plants (phlox, bush
poppy, shooting stars, lupines, vetch and entire hillsides of Ceanothus
(buckbrush)), and large patches of miner’s lettuce in areas that are
blazing hot and bone dry by summer. We did succeed at setting up
several Owl calling stations that will be monitored for the next few
months. We even got some call backs on our first night out. All in all
it looks like it is shaping up to be a fun and productive field season
up at the Lookout.

Hope to see some of you over the next few months.

Francis (aka Dr. V.)

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Sunday 3-23-03 at Hi Mt.

Today was our first day of actual monitoring after having been checked out
by Steve Schubert a while back. Kathleen Intorf was good enough to meet us
at the ranger station early to get us access to the telemetry equipment. It
was foggy in the Pozo valley at first but cleared off later. Scanning at
1000 Hr produced nothing but later at 1330 we picked up signals from Condor
Y194 at a bearing of 330 degrees. The signal was moderate at first but then
faded to weak then nothing. We were very happy to have made a telemetry
’sighting’ on our first day.

Visitors included the resident BLM manager of Carrizzo Plains along with
her two Flat-coated Retrievers. Also a mtn. biker stopped in.

A grand day.

Dick & Pat Boyd

Friday, March 21, 2003

Hi Notes

Wednesday, March 19, 2003 was spent ‘observing’ one intrepid lady
Condor! I picked up the signal from just one bird, but was able to
follow her from the Ventana Wilderness area, through Atascadero, and
all the way to Hopper Mt. I tried my best to find her with my
binoculars, but could only make out a group of about 6 Turkey
Vultures in the direction of the signals I was receiving from Condor
W231. I talked to Joe Burnette at the Ventana field station and he
said W231 is a young bird (I’m guessing recently released this
winter). W231 was one of four Condors that I tracked 3 weeks ago,
making the same trip. Don’t know why she was alone this time around,
but I say ‘You Go, Girl!’
Despite our efforts to keep the rain out of the lookout, it managed
to get in past our Duct taped doors. So in addition to wielding an
antenna and Telonix receiver, I did duty with a good old mop and
rags. It must have been quite a storm: there were three rock, mud and
shrub slides on the road up to the lookout, but they only came across
half of the road and were not a problem.
The flowers are still blooming and it is a beautiful drive up to the
Top ‘o The Mountain!

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Hi Notes

It was a beautiful day at the lookout yesterday, March 12, 2003…but
no Condor activity to report. I talked to Pam at Hopper Mt. and she
said that two of the birds I had received signals from last week
(Y194 & OR209) stayed at Hopper Mt. and that W231 & OR199 returned to
In addition to the usual bird population at the lookout, I had two
human visitors: One bicyclist (Bob) and one pedestrian (Dave). The
weather is very mild and the wild flowers are putting on quite a show
for those who venture up the mountain.
Bye ’til next week,

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Hi Notes

Hi Notes
Finally, after several months of not receiving signals from the
Condors, I picked up signals from four birds on Wednesday March 6.
They all seemed to be together, travelling from North to South
(perhaps from the Ventana Wilderness area to the Hopper Mountain
area). The four birds were Y194, OR209, OR199 and W231. It was a
sunny but somewhat chilly day at the lookout. The drive to the
lookout is beautiful, with shooting stars and manzanita still in full
bloom. There were 8 wild turkeys strolling along the side of the
road, near the lowest water trough, when I drove home at about 4:30.
Bye ’til next week…