Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Hi Notes

Hi Notes
Wed. April 23: I picked up signals from two Condors, briefly, in the
morning: OR199 and W219 must have taken a short morning excursion
north from Hopper Mountain. Their signals were weak and lasted only
an hour. No more Condor activity all day.
The House Finches at the lookout have been attempting to set
up ‘house’ in the gutters and behind the shutters of the lookout.
I’ve liberated three lucky ones and ‘buried’ three not-so-lucky ones.
The flowers are still blooming on the way up to the summit and most
of the birds I see are in pairs. Must be SPRING!
Bye ’til next week,

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Hi notes

Last week Steve Schubert sent a posting regarding their trek to Hi
Valley and Hugh’s Hole on Friday April 11th. I monitored both Condors
and the trekers from the lookout and got lots of signals from Steve
and crew via the radios, but nothing from the Condors. This week,
Wed. April 16th, there were no Condor signals, either. I did see four
Tulle Elk at the edge of the last meadow before the drive up the
mountain. There had been a good storm, but the road was in fine shape
and the flowers are still showing off their lavender, yellow, pink,
orange and white technicolors. Beautiful!
‘Til next time,

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Huff's Hole report

Yesterday, 4/11, Kevin Cooper and I made our annual trip down into
Huff’s Hole, in the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area of Los Padres National
Forest. We hiked from Hi Mountain Lookout -about 8 miles round trip-
down to Hi Valley and for about a mile beyond Hi Valley Rock we cut
brush and clipped poison oak along the trail, with the assistance of Tom
Murphey, USFS employee, and volunteer Neil Wilcox.

We found a pair of prairie falcons occupying Hi Valley Rock, and
volunteers and staff should be able to monitor their flights and nesting
activities this season from up at Hi Mountain lookout, by using
binoculars and spotting scopes. We did not find peregrine falcons at the
Huff’s Hole cliffs during our brief visit- last known nesting there was
9 years ago, but someday peregrines may return again and are still our
source of inspiration for making these annual treks into poison oak
habitat! These cliffs were also a historical California Condor nesting
site until the early 1970’s.

The day was pleasant with an increasing cloud layer, SW wind and
afternoon temperature was cool at 50*F, with the approaching storm
front. The Huff’s Hole protrero is bright green now with grass and some
colorful patches of fiddleneck, annual blue lupine, popcorn flower,
owl’s clover, brodea, etc. The Hi Valley grassy understory beneath the
oaks includes some buttercups, shooting stars, and blue-eyed grass. I
noticed the Cal Poly students had tagged a large valley oak- with
numerous acorn woodpecker holes- near Hi Valley Rock in one of their
study plots. I have been acquainted with that stately tree for 25 years
now, since first working at Huff’s Hole as a peregrine nest guard.
Chaparral shrub species blooming on the slopes included woolly-blue
curls, ceanothus, bush poppies, chamise (somewhat early), prickly phlox,
holly-leaf cherry, mountain mahogany (gone to fruit), clematis, black
sage, pitcher sage, poison oak, and wild cucumber.

Other wildlife sightings of note: a flock of band-tailed pigeons flew by
the lookout in the morning. a black-throated grey warbler was singing
from the blue oaks in Hi Valley, two ash-throated flycatchers were
calling from Hi Valley and Huff’s Hole, pairs of ravens flying about
near the cliffs and slopes, and it was good again to hear the frequent
calls of mountain quail, white-throated swifts and canyon wrens. We
followed signs of a bear- scat, tracks, and tree scratchings- for a long
distance into Huff’s Hole. Three wild turkeys were on the flats just
south of the Salinas River crossing near Pozo.

Kathleen Intorf staffed the lookout during the day. We kept in contact
and tested the reception of our hand-held radios- we had good radio
communications, but were not able to call out by cell phone when down in
Huff’s Hole. Something to keep in mind for future visits there- use the
radios if needing to callout in emergencies or reporting in to the
lookout staff.

Steve Schubert

Friday, April 4, 2003

Condor sighting

Kevin and Mary Cooper put in a long day working on projects at Hi Mountain Lookout on Sunday, Aug. 3rd. Afterwards, while mountain biking along the ridgetop, they spotted an adult yellow-tagged condor flying below over Huff’s Hole!! Those cliffs were last occupied by nesting condors in the early 1970’s.
Steve Schubert

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

lookout report

Spent Wednesday March 26 through Monday at the Lookout. It was good
to be back after being away for over a month. The cistern is nearly
full thanks to the new rain gutters and the ample rain that has
fallen in the last few months. There is a lot of work to be done to
prepare for Spring surveys to begin on our 75 study plots scattered
throughout Oak Woodland, Riparian, and Chaparral communities
surrounding the Lookout. So most of my time was spent out in the
field doing last minute verifying and setting up our final plots. A
lot of the smaller creeks have flowing water and are full of tadpoles
and other aquatic life. Two Western Pond Turtles and a California
Tree Frog was found in a couple deeper pools of a small creek cutting
through sandstone bedrock near one of our oak woodland plots. The
small sandstone ledges overlooking the this creek contained numerous
bedrock mortors created by Native Americans working the acorn crop.
While walking through another oak woodland plot nearby I nearly was
sprayed by a striped skunk. Luckily it retreated and only fired a
small warning shot. Along the riparian corridor of Trout Creek east
of the Lookout Thursday morning there must have been over 1000 Yellow-
rumped Warblers and 100s of Warbling Vireos both en mass possibly on
migration north. Wild Turkey, Mountain Quail, Golden Eagle, and
Cassin’s Vireo were the bird highlights. Two 10 inch rainbow trout
along with another smaller species of fish was seen in the creek.
Walking around off trail towards Buckeye Camp I came across some
fresh bear scat, near a water hole, that must have been left earlier
in the morning. On the hike back to the trailhead on Hi Mountain Rd.
I ran into some botanists from Berkley as they were keying out a
plant. They said they had been coming to the area for the last 30
years and mentioned that the spring that feeds Trout Creek has been
flowing every time they had hiked this trail. Another interesting
wildlife incounter included getting to close to a 3 ½ foot rattle
snake in the chaparral on the way out of Hi Valley Sunday afternoon
with Holly Messer. Monday morning bright and early picked up signals
from B170 and Or204 NW of the Lookout somewhere over the mountains
between Atascadero and Big Sur.