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