Saturday, September 27, 2003

Sept 25-26, 2003

Hi folks,
A little late on this posting, but some good stuff happened during the
2nd half of my stay at the Lookout last week.
Temps were mostly high and the breeze slight throughout the week. Lots
of helicopter activity on the south and east slopes of Hi mt. as
authorities continue to search for the Trout Creek pot farmers.
Now on to the good stuff……
On thursday September 25 at 1532hrs, condor B-168 ( a 6yr old male from
Ventana) flew right past the Lookout along the south slope of Hi Mtn. He
was cruising south with a group of TV’s and I picked him up right at eye
level, about half way between the Lookout and Huff’s Hole. Absolutely
amazing and I felt like all those days sitting up there alone in the
haze had finally paid off. Finally, great looks from the Lookout!!!
Watched 168 for about 30min that day, as he floated effortlessly around
the Lookout, at times ringing up over Trout Creek with 2 ravens, 3 TV’s
and a red-tail. Quite a cool sight. At about 1600hrs, 168 broke off from
the group and headed up Trout Creek along the Garcia Ridge. By about
1610hrs he was topping out over Piney Ridge, making for the Calientes,
Cuyama, or ????. Minutes later, I began to pick up a signal from B-171(
a 6yr old female from Ventana). She was headed north along the La Panza
and I got my first visual on her at 1645hrs. She seemed to be out over
the Pozo Valley, working the thermals against Black Mtn. Again, got
great looks at this bird, though she didn’t quite fill the binos like
168 did. Anyhow, I followed 171 in my scope until 1705hrs, when she made
a rapid, parachuting decent to the base of Black Mtn and I lost her
against the landscape. There are some big ranches up there and I saw her
descend just east of the largest one. Continued to track her through the
evening and into the next morning. She spent the night roosting
somewhere in Pozo Valley! Next day I tracked her, though never saw her,
as she lazily made her way back up to Big Sur. Tracked a few other
Hopper birds throughout the week, most just brief signals that quickly
faded to my east/southeast.
Had a few raptors move past the Lookout during the week, I guess their
migration is on. Had 2 juvenile Cooper’s, 1 Sharp-shinned, and 1 Merlin
at various times, all high above the Lookout and moving west to
east/northeast. Also had the (resident?) tiersel Peregrine blast past
the tower on 9/25, looked to be headed down into Huff’s. The birdbath is
a new, constant source of entertainment. Had up to 6 Ca thrashers on it
at once. Also saw (in various combinations) Sage thrasher, Wrentit,
Spotted towhee, Anna’s hummer, using the new bird spa.
Thanks to all who have worked so hard on this project so far. Its really
an honor to be allowed to spend a week in such a magnificent and sublime
place, Hi on top of the world.
**Correction to my last posting: Joe Burnett wrote to tell me condor
B-167, who I saw from the Lookout on 9/27 is a HE, not a SHE. Oops.
For some photos from my week at Hi mtn, go to:
click the album called “paul_sept 03″
Best to all, see ya on the 4th!!
-Paul Andreano

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Notes from the Lokout Sept 24, 2003

Greetings all,
This is a wireless transmission from the Hi Mtn. Lookout on Wednesday
September 24, 2003 at 2150hrs.
Been enjoying the Lookout for the last 2 days. Very hot and still
yesterday. Today the coastal fog penetrated inland valleys and
persisted throughout the early afternoon, cloaking the world around
me in a thick shroud to about 2500 feet. Quite a sight and some nice
relief from the heat. Cleared by mid afternoon, only a slight breeze
all day.
I tracked five condors yesterday, to my NW and SE/E yesterday. Of
note was B-167, a 6 year old female released in Ventana. I had been
tracking her for most of the morning as she moved north, seemed to
take the Sierra Madre-to-La Panza route. At 1515hrs I finally got her
in my scope, ringing up over American Canyon. Followed her for 20min,
as she made giant, graceful undulations along the La Panza, working
the updrafts effortlessly. She threw in a few stylish wing flexes as
she passed over the towers on Black Mtn., then cleared the La Panza
and soared out toward Creston. At 1535hrs several turkey vultures
floated through my field of view, as did a pair of red-tail hawks,
but B167 continued to ring up through the group, demonstrating her
clear condor advantage. Continued to track her into the evening, she
apparently hit the Santa Lucia, maybe by way of Atascadero, and
headed north. Lost her signal to my NW at 1730hrs. She continued to
give strong signals from the Santa Lucia all day today, first signals
at 1020hrs. I was hoping to see her pop up above the fog, but never
never did. She spent the day on the east end of Cuesta Ridge. Hard to
tell, but she may have even been out over SLO at times.
Her signal was strong to intermittent until I lost her at 1720hrs. I
didn’t track any other condors today day.
Relatively birdy at the Lookout right now. I’m happy to report that
there is a pair of Sage thrashers here and they’re not shy at all,
posing on parked cars and scrapping with the dozens of California
thrashers in our fruiting coffee berry bushes. They spend a great
deal of time trying to eat the berries, which they only accomplish
with much difficulty. I hope they show up for the Campout. The
California thrashers have discovered the new bird bath and today
there were up to three at a time splashing and drinking. I like
watching them drink, they have a funny way of outstretching their
neckss. Other recent locals include…2 Western tanagers, 1 Say’s
phoebe, 1 Peregine falcon, 2 juvenile Cooper’s hawks, a few coveys of
20+ California Quail, 15+ White-throated swifts, and the usual hoards
of Anna’s, scrub jays, ravens, and TVs. There is still at least one
Myotis bat living in the Hi Mtn. sign. No sign of the bears. 2 or 3
human visitors each day so far, one was 80 yrs old and had known
folks who staffed the Lookout in the 50’s.
Right now its windy and cool on the mountain. I may actually need a
blanket tonight. I’m baking cookies, so I really should go. Hope to
see you all at the 2nd Annual Condor Campout on Oct 4.
Until the next transmission,
-Paul Andreano

Saturday, September 20, 2003

field trip 9/20/03

Today I taught a class at Cuesta College for Community Programs entitled
“Condor Country”, a short course offered for the first time (in the more
than 10 years that I have been teaching a yearly series of natural
history lectures and leading field trips through the college). After a
classroom slide lecture about condor biology and the California Condor
Recovery Program/Hi Mtn. Project, I drove the van for our field trip up
to Hi Mountain Lookout in the afternoon.
The eight of us ate lunch in the shade (temp. in the 80’s) at the new
picnic table constructed by Jeff Osborn (worth a visit to the lookout
just to see his woodwork and the unique custom-built design made from
large slabs of pine… it is really that impressive). Intern Lisa
Andreano presented a condor radio tracking demonstration. I installed
the new bird bath and thistle feeder in the vicinity of the hummingbird
feeder (maybe all the local rambling bears will also benefit and want to
take a drink). A kettle of about 15 turkey vultures twisted and turned
in the air above, soaring with ravens for a long period of time around
the lookout in a steady northerly wind, and two juvenile red-tailed
hawks -siblings likely- played tag high above us, 500 ft. directly above
the lookout, their translucent white “windows” visible in each wing.
A good day to be so “Hi” up…
Steve Schubert

Friday, September 19, 2003

Condor off Hwy 46

This morning at about 8:30 I decided to try to drive to Villa Creek
to check out some sandpipers and whatnot. I had the telonics
receiver from yesterday afternoon’s search for California Condor
Y213, It was strange that the bird just seemed to disappear yesterday
afternoon with neither Holly at Hi Mountain or myself able to pick up
a signal from the bird after narrowing its location down to the
Atascadero/Creston area. Last night I drove from Paso Robles to Los
Osos via hwy 41 with the omni antennae on the roof of my car hoping
for a signal from the bird in some canyon, nothing. So I decided I’d
try to pick up the bird on my drive across hwy 46 to the Villa
Creek. Not but a few miles from 101 on 46 I began to pick up the
bird. The intermittent signal due to traveling through the
mountainous terrain grew stronger as I made my way up into the
hills. By about York Mountain road the signal was very strong and I
new I had a good chance of finding it. I pulled over and plugged the
yagi antenna in so that I could determine what direction the signal
was coming from. The signal was strongest towards the hills ahead on
the SE side of the hwy. I continued up 46 pulling over whenever I
had a strong signal to make sure I didn’t pass the bird by. This
took me to a pullout with a call box just beyond the entrance to
Santa Rita Ranchos. From this location you can look directly off the
hwy SE down into this gated community nestled among beautiful oak
woodland and mixed evergreen forest. There in one of these canyons
with scattered houses, barns, and orchards Condor 213 must have spent
the night. It was about 9:40 and I was able to talk on my cell with
Holly at the lookout. She wasn’t picking up signals for any birds.
But my telonics was screaming and I could tell the bird was perched
probably somewhere in one of these canyons. There was barely any
breeze and only a few turkey vultures were out flying. I was content
to stay in this spot until the wind picked up and the bird decided to
move. Finally the wind came and not 10 minutes later at 10:36 I
spotted 213 flying just above the ridge of one of the canyons I
suspected it in. But it only stayed in view for about 10 seconds. I
walked over to the entrance gate to the ranchos and one of the
property owners was leaving and of course was wondering what I was
doing. I let him know that I was tracking a condor and it had
probably roosted overnight in the vicinity. I asked permission to
drive in through the gate. He had no problem with it so I entered.
I found a couple spots with good views of the surrounding area but
was only able to get a distant visual of the bird one other time as
it was making its way to the SE. I would note that I found two deer
carcasses one on the opposite side of the call box on hwy 46 where I
first saw the bird and another fresh carcass of a young buck that
died along the waters edge of a pond on someone’s property inside the
community. By this time I had given up going to Villa Creek,
needless to say, and figured the bird would likely make its way back
down to were it came from, Ventura county. I left the ranchos and
headed back towards 101 stopping along the way at various places to
try and figure out what route the bird was taking. By this time,
11:40 Holly and I had the bird directly between us as I was taking a
signal from near vineyard road and 46. I continued to chase 213,
slowed down only by frequent pullovers to take signals and a classic
stop at In n Out burger. At 12:42 Holly had the bird between Black
mtn and Pozo Summit. The bird was on a mission to get home and
stayed one step ahead of me likely flying directly over Atascadero
and skirting the west side of the La Panzas as verified from
triangulation from the Lookout and myself on Park Hill rd out near
Pozo. I continued to follow to the gate at the end of Pozo Road and
had moderate but inconsistent signals at 1:30 straight up the valley
towards Avenales Ranch. I could go no further and hung out at the
gate marveling at the scenic beauty surrounding me and listening to
the telonics as 213 flew further and further away. As I headed home,
dropping off the telonics at Pozo Station, Holly still had 213 plus
167, 204, and 208 this time towards Cuyama Valley. By 4:45 Holly had
signals from 167, 204, and 208 towards Atascadero. And the cycle
Mike Tyner
Paso Robles

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Hi Notes

Notes from 9/1/03: Picked up 7 birds, total. Here are just the
highlights: The most noteable was AC9. As most of you know, he is the
legendary bird who was the last wild Condor to be taken into
captivity in the 1980s. He hails from Hopper Mt., and made only a
brief trip up our way. Maybe he was escorting the other 3 Hopper Mt.
birds, plus the 3 Ventana birds. All signals were coming from the
same general direction, off toward the Sierra Madre range. The
signals were sporadic and not reaching me all at the same time. This
is just a guess, but perhaps they were together in a loose group and
some went down to feed, as I wasn’t able to keep a signal from most
of the birds for long. The exception was Y216, a 3 and 1/2 year old
female from Hopper Mt. Her signal kept coming my way most of the day,
as it had done last week, Aug 26th.
This being labor day, I had LOTS of visitors! Cars, jeeps, SUVs, pick-
ups, horses & riders, and bicyclist! One group reported seeing ‘The
Bear’ on the road above the campground. I’ve seen tracks and scat,
but neither hide nor hair of the actual bear!
This week, 9/8/03, I didn’t pick up any signals from Condors. As
Mike, Paul, Lisa and Holly also noted, the birds aren’t moving around
much this week.
The weather at the lookout has been outstanding. The nearly full
moon, closely followed across the sky by Mars, was spectacular!
Bye ’til next installment. And hope to see lots of you on Oct 4th at
the Hi Mountain Lookout Open House!

Sunday, September 7, 2003

Sept. 5-7, 2003 - A bear of a time

Hey everyone,
For a change this week, to cover for Lisa who was going on vacation,
I staffed the lookout for the first weekend in September. I had a
great time on Friday with Paul who had been at the lookout since
Thursday morning. With no Condors for the last few days we spent
most of the day trying to identify many of the different named
mountains in the area using various maps. We finally picked up a
bird, 209, midday towards Big Sur. We monitored this bird closely
waiting to see if it would make the run to the south. Sure enough it
did and from the sounds of the radio receiver we were using to track
it with it seemed like it made a close pass by the lookout although
over an hour of scanning the skies with our binoculars did not
produce the bird. Better luck next time. We briefly had two Hopper
Mtn. birds to the southeast and that was it for the weekend as far as
Condors. The weather has been pleasant lately on the mountain in the
60s and 70s with a nice onshore wind which also made for some of the
best visibility I’ve seen since winter. Was able to see the Sierra’s
on Sunday, this time without the snow. Saturday at about 1:30 in the
afternoon while taking some photos of some of the late flowering
plants I heard a rustle in the bushes just in front of me. I backed
off instinctively and was able to make out the brown blunt ears of a
young black bear just 15 or so feet in front of me. I retreated to
the top of the cistern for a better safer view and tried to coax the
bear out with a few funny sounds for a photo but instead the
youngster decided to take off into the oaks. On the drive home not
even a mile from the lookout I turned a corner to find another bear,
same size and color, standing in the middle of the road. Other
highlights of the weekend were my first look at our new mucho grande
picnic table, one of the most impressive tables I’ve ever seen, an
American Kestrel hunting dragonflies, a flyby by a Golden Eagle, an
emergence of flying ants, and the continued presence of tons of
hummingbirds including Anna’s and a couple Black-chinned.