Friday, December 17, 2004

Condor Sector 3

Checked out the morro coast cbc sector 3 “west cuesta ridge” today in preparation for count day tomorrow. Had a fly-by adult CALIFORNIA CONDOR with yellow tags heading north along the ridge between the two radio tower facilities. This was at about 11:15. Couldn’t read the numbers and couldn’t keep up with it even in a car. It was breezy and the bird was doing a lot of flapping when it passed me by. Not too many birds up there but the usual. Had a couple SAGE SPARROWS. Nice to see the chaparral currant blooming.
Mike Tyner
Paso Robles

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Condor Sighting in MDO

This morning I was leading a Camp KEEP hike with our 6th grade students on the Valencia Peak trail in Montana De Oro State Park. At 700 ft. elevation the girls in my hike group were admiring the coastal scenery with blue skies, scattered cumulus clouds, and a cool breeze from the north. Vultures, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers were of interest to point out, but then at 10:30am I got more excited by telling the kids to use their binoculars to look in the distance at a soaring golden eagle, something we see on our hikes in MDO only once or twice each school year. But no, a longer look through the binoculars convinced me instead it was a soaring California Condor! My co-worker Lynne Haley was further up the trail with the 6th grade boys in her hiking group, so I gave a call on the radio to tell them to take a look. Amazingly, at the same moment I called on the radio to give the alert she was coincidentally having a discussion about condors and their large wingspan, and as she talked some of the boys were just beginning to notice there was a large bird soaring and circling up high. After several minutes of viewing, the condor glided beyond Valencia Peak and headed south out of view through the Irish Hills; however, more than an hour later during lunchtime with the students at Spooner’s Campground a condor appeared again flying near the coast. It headed inland soaring high over the northern ridge above Islay Creek, accompanied by 6 ‘tiny’ turkey vultures. We watched until 12 noon. John Roser and I had distant views of clean white underwing panels that suggest it was an subadult or adult bird. The condor never flapped a wingbeat during our observations.
It was one year ago in early October 2003 that a similar sighting occurred when another Camp KEEP staff member was leading a hike to the same location on the mountain in Montana De Oro. A condor swept by at close range. That day the radio signal for that condor was picked up by Kathleen Intorf and radio tracked from Hi Mountain Lookout- the condor apparently roosted overnight somewhere in the Irish Hills before departing from the area heading south. Unfortunately, a few days later that condor disappeared and its death may have been related to the raging fires and smoke in southern California.
The Irish Hills are a hop, skip and a glide away from the usual condor flight paths over the Santa Lucia Mountains or the inner coast ranges.
Steve Schubert
Los Osos

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hi Notes

Greetings from Hi Mountain Lookout. Since my postings have been sporadic, I’ll do some catching up on past happenings and sightings from the top of the world:

9/1/04 Mountain Lion sighting and 10 minute observation (already posted). There are castings of the tracks at the lookout for those who would like to see what they look like. I’m assuming that Cal Poly
student Jeremy White made the castings, as they are dated 9/2/04 and that was part of his ‘four day shift’. Good job, Jeremy! Tues. 9/14/04: Took a short walk down the trail leading to Hi Valley,
looking for the Sage Sparrows we had been seeing for several weeks. Nothing exciting to report….except…. Wed. 9/15/04: Tony Kent came up to the lookout and we took the same short hike and found mountain lion tracks on top of my tracks! The lion had probably gone down the trail late that night or early the next morning since the tracks were on top of all my tracks, both coming and going to the lookout. We also saw some very good prints of a bear near the gate. Never did find the Sage Sparrows!

Tues. 9/21/04: Arrived at lookout and immediately picked up signals from four Condors as they headed toward the lookout from Hopper Mt. Three of the four (#164, #168 and #190) continued to Big Sur, but one (#204) spent the night at Huff’s Hole. We TRIED REALLY HARD to get a visual sighting on the bird, but he flew to the West of the lookout and probably remained behind the ridge, out of view. He continued on to Big Sur also. Interestingly, all four Condors are males. It must have been the guy’s night out! Also seen Wed. were a flock of Cedar Waxwings and the first White- crowned and Golden-crowned sparrows for the fall.

Tues. 9/28/04: Tony came up to the lookout again (he has become addicted to the beautiful views and allure of this special place, just like most everyone who visits Hi Mountain!). We hiked down to Hi
Valley for a sneak preview of the birds that we might see on Sat. Oct 2 at the Open House. A short list includes Fox Sparrows (the first since last year), Woodpeckers (Nuttall’s, Acorn and N. Flicker), Kestrel, Hutton’s Vireo, White & Golden-crowned Sparrow, and all the usual suspects (Towhees, Thrashers, Goldfinches…etc.). If you are planning to come to the Open House (and I hope you are!), you will have a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains, the ocean and a beautifull star-filled sky at night. Bring warm clothes (parka, gloves, hat) for the evening, as it does get chilly in the late afternoon.

See you Saturday October 2, 2004 for a fun and very interesting Event Filled Day and Evening!

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Hopper Mountain Visit

Hi all,
Following is an interesting report from Cal Poly student and Hi Mountain Lookout volunteer Ali West, regarding her recent field training and orientation tour at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County. This was the second field training opportunity our lookout interns and volunteers have been provided this summer. ‘Thank-you’ to the staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for making this valuable field experience possible.
Steve Schubert
Ali’s message….
Hey Hi Mt. Crew~ Just wanted to give you an update on our Hopper trip!  Kathleen, Joel,
and I had an awesome time.  After a very long, hot drive there…we spent a fabulous day with Dave, an intern from Minnesota.  He was really nice and spent his entire day being our personal tour guide. We visited the flight pens, checked out a blind they use near one of the feeding sites, and of course saw about 20-something Condors feeding at another feeding site.  We also got acquainted with the telemetry equipment that they use, and came to realize how off some of our frequencies are from theirs, for most of their birds.  Needless to say, Kathleen made sure to record all of those frequencies so that we can experiment with them at the lookout and see if we have better luck trackng Hopper birds. I would have to say, and I’m sure Kathleen and Joel would agree, that the highlight of the day was hiking way down into the valley to meet up with Jenny, another intern, who watches over the Condor chick in a nest across the valley.  On our hike down we walked right past these
huge snags only to find two magnificent Condors roosting in them!!!! They were so close!!!! Like twenty feet up in a tree! I got some great photos! Once we got way down in the valley, and met Jenny, we were lucky enough to watch the chick through a telescope and have Jenny explain to us everything she records about it’s behavior throughout the day!  Very awesome.  Just before we turned around to head up the trail Joel spotted a Black Bear in the distance….a nice place to spot
a black bear…I say.  But that was really neat too.  The hike back up was pretty hard-core and we were all quite impressed that Jenny did the hike every day. We didn’t get back to the ranch until around 8pm.  We did sooo much on Tuesday, that we decided to head out around 10:30ish on Wednesday.  After a little car trouble and a nice lunch in Santa Barbara we were home.  All-in-all this was a great experience that we all gained a lot from.  We were sure to remind everyone down there to try and make it to our open house on Oct. 2nd! Anyway, Just thought I’d fill you all in!  
Talk to you guys soon.   ~Ali

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Hi notes

It’s been eons since I posted the happenings at Hi Mountain Lookout…even though I still make my weekly visits to paradise! Yesterday was an especially unusual day, however, and needs to be
shared! On my usual morning walk down the road from the lookout, I stopped to look at a covey of California Quail through my binoculars and what should meander into my field of view but a Mountain Lion! And she was much closer than binoculars warrented! Not having encountered any Mountain Lions in the past, I wasn’t sure if I should try to scare her away, sneak away, or just watch. I decided on the later and was rewarded with 10 minutes of observation as she strolled down the road, sat down a couple of times and just seemed to be enjoying the view towards Huff’s Hole. Gradually she became aware of me and I could see her body language change as she became more wary (kind of the way I was feeling for the last 10 minutes!). She got up from her sitting position and began to lope away down the road. She seeemed to float on the air, her movements were so fluid and effortless. Such a beautiful sight…I was spellbound! It’s been a great summer sharing the lookout with the Cal Poly Interns and volunteers. The Condors have been regular visitors to Hi Mountain for a couple of months now (although they haven’t favored the middle of the week when I’m there!). Jeremy, Ali, Jenn, Amy and Joel have had great views of up to 8 Condors at a time…and mostly on the weekends! Visitors are always welcome and you may be lucky enough to see Condors or Hi Mountain Lions!


Friday, August 27, 2004

Recent Events

Hi all,
Last week Kevin Cooper conducted an onsite field trip to Hi Mountain Lookout attended by 15 U.S. Forest Service staff. This was the new Los Padres Forest Supervisor’s first visit and orientation to the project. The Forest Service staff were very appreciative and supportive of all our efforts at the lookout.

On Aug. 26th we had a 5 hour planning and discussion meeting in San Luis Obispo at the conference room of the Cal Poly Bio. Sci. Dept. Attendees were volunteers, staff and agency personnel from the Hi Mountain Lookout Project, U.S. Forest Service at Santa Lucia Ranger District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Hopper Mountain NWR, Morro Coast Audubon Society, Cal Poly Biological Sciences Department. Ventana Wilderness Society, National Park Service at Pinnacles National Monument, and Friends of the Carizzo Plains National Monument. It was an opportunity to get together for a meeting in a centralized location, improve future communications and exchange of condor radio and GPS tracking data between our different groups, and to stay connected. This working group expects to continue meeting like this more frequently in the future.
Our interns and volunteer staff at the lookout this summer continue to be rewarded for their long hours of work by visual sightings of Californa Condors flying by, nearly every week!
Steve Schubert
MCAS Volunteer Coordinator

Friday, June 18, 2004

Lion at the Lookout!!

Hi all,
After receiving a thorough onsite training session from Kathleen- benefitting greatly from her experience and expertise- I staffed the lookout Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. I had a number of projects to work on before our 3 Cal Poly student interns and volunteer staff come on to staff for the rest of the summer field season.

Sleeping outside on a cot upstairs on the catwalk, I was still awake at 1am watching the Milky Way galaxy, constellations, and shooting stars. A gray fox was vocalizing nearby, and later I awoke to nearby frequent soft mummering sounds that I could not identify.

Walking about still groggy at 5:30am- 15 minutes before sunrise in the soft light of dawn- I was startled into instant alertness looking down at 4-toed predator tracks on the roadway near the lookout (close to the beginning of the stone retaining wall). Mountain lion tracks! I tried to think what else it could be and measured several tracks that were all 3 1/2 to 4 inches long. There had not been any visitors with large dogs since I arrived the day before, and the tracks were fresh from the night before because two tracks overlaid my vehicle’s tire tracks, where I had driven the previous afternoon. The impressions were not sharp enough to look for details like the lobes on the heel pads, but what else could they be? So, once again I have a story to tell of the many, many times in the field over the years having had close encounters and evidence of being near a mountain lion, but I have yet to actually see one!

What woke me up at 5:15 am was not the dawn songs of chaparral birds and a distant-calling mountain quail, but one very large horsefly making a loud humming sound in flight a few feet away from my head. Soon one became nine humming horseflies, all flying in a tight group at the northside of the lookout (the only place completely protected from the light morning breeze). The horseflies chased and darted at each other with amazing speed and rapid maneuvers, bouncing around in the air like a pin-ball machine in fast motion. Soon after sunrise, 30 minutes later, it was all over and the flies were gone, perhaps to go torment living flesh somewhere else. A potential study in crepuscular horsefly behavior?

During the early afternoon on Wednesday I picked up radio signals from one of the Pinnacles condors due north from the lookout, away from the usual location. A phone message with Wildlife Biologist Jim Peterson confirmed that the day before 3 of the condors had flown south away from the immediate vicinity of the Pinnacles release site.

The Anna’s hummingbirds are furiously competing for all the feeding ports at the two feeders. Hummers also perch on the edge of the birdbath to drink and dip their bellies in the water in flight to bathe. Juv. scrub jays are feeding on the apricot tree next to the water cistern, stabbing the fruits repeatedly with their beaks to get at the flesh. Swallowtails and other butterflies are often engaged in
hilltopping” flights. Along Hi Mtn. road the toyons, old man’s beard (Clematis) and chaparral penstemons are flowering. Finally, to emphasize the value of making observations over a period of time in one place, after all my previous trips to Hi Mtn. Lookout I had never noticed until this visit, that there is a solitary madrone tree growing about 1/3 mile distance east and below the lookout, on a n facing slope among the live oaks. A handsome tree to view through the spotting scope.

Steve Schubert

Thursday, June 3, 2004

W-231 at Huff's Hole

Hi All,

To add to Jamie’s experience with ‘lost’ communications: Yesterday while I was at the lookout, I received a call from Jessica Koning from Ventana Wilderness Society. She reported that Condor #242, a 3 1/2 year old male who has a GPS transmitter on one wing , had spent two days in the vicinity of Lopez Lake and Hi Mountain on May 24th and 25th. I was quite surprised to hear this, as I had been monitoring from the lookout on both these days and had received NO signals from him whatsoever. This adds an interesting twist to our information gathering efforts. Apparently these birds can ‘hide’ from our receivers when they are on the south side of the cliff face at Huff’s Hole and at Lopez Lake. We had a similar experience with Condor # 168 whom we had seen and received signals from while actually at Huff’s Hole on April 6th. I was not able to pick up signals that evening upon returning to the lookout, nor the following day. We had attributed this to his failing transmitters, which are
sending out weak signals, at best. Back in March, I had picked up very strong signals from Condors #208, #209 and (again!) #231 right at the lookout and, from Cypress Hill, saw them perched on the same rock outcroppings that Jamie mentioned, to the West of Huff’s Hole. Maybe we will have to set up a floating monitoring station on Lopez Lake! Any volunteers? In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for very large, beautiful black birds soaring over San Luis Obispo County. They are definitely making frequent visits and possibly checking out the real estate for future ‘rooms with a view’!

Kathleen Intorf

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

W231 at Huff's Hole

Hello Everyone,
I was at the Lookout on Sunday, May 30, and got just a few signals from Pinnacles birds in the morning. Around 1:20pm, I got a strong signal from W231 (freq. 5703 & 5601) all the way around the lookout. I finally got her signal narrowed down to the direction of Huff’s Hole. I couldn’t get a visual on her from the lookout, so I went over to Cypress Hill and scanned the horizon. She was sitting on the small rock outcrop to the right of the main crags of Huff’s Hole. Jim Miller, my dad, and Andre Garcia, my friend, arrived just in time to grab the spotting scope and join me on the hill. She sat there for quite some time. I never saw her leave the rock, but I lost her signal at 3:10pm. Her signal appeared and disappeared so suddenly that she may have just been on the other side of the rocks. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I kept getting a weak signal from her in the same direction, but I did not see her again. I was hoping she would circle the Lookout a bit, but I guess she just wasn’t interested. It was a wonderful experience for my dad and my friend. They’ve heard all my stories, and now they got to see it for themselves!
Have a great week everyone!
~Jamie Miller

Monday, May 17, 2004

May field trips

Last weekend I drove a van with 10 passengers up to Hi Mtn. Lookout for a field trip with my Cuesta College Community Programs class entitled “Condor Country”. The next day 6 participants with the group ‘Friends of Lopez Lake’ also arrived on a field trip to the lookout . Both days staffer Noll Roberts demonstrated radio telemetry and picked up signals from condors at Pinnacles National Monument. I was fortunate to find a peregrine falcon soaring near Hi Valley Rock while viewing through a spotting scope from the lookout catwalk. The flowering coffeeberry shrub (near the cistern) and the yerba santa shrubs flowering alongside the lookout road were full of hundreds of honeybees, a mix of butterflies, and the occasional assassin bugs lying in wait to ambush the other insects visiting the flowers. Found one large whiptail lizard up along the ridgeline.
Steve Schubert


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Exciting weekend at Hi Mountain!

I arrived at the Lookout around noon on Saturday, May 8. I met up with my friend, Danielle Castle, at the gate, and found Jeremy White, his brother and a friend, and Charlie Blair already at the Lookout. I began to open up the Lookout, and Jeremy, his brother and his friend went for a hike down to Hi Valley. Around 12:40, Danielle called over to me, “Umm, Jamie, there’s a really big bird out here. You might want to come see this.” Sure enough, there was B168 soaring around the Lookout!!! We all rushed to our cars to get our cameras and binos. At times he soared so low that we didn’t even need binos to see his tags! Jeremy told me that they could even see him from way down the trail. B168 stuck around for about 30 minutes. He soared with the Turkey Vultures, dwarfing them. He was also mobbed by a Red-Tailed Hawk! I pulled out the Telonics, but couldn’t get a signal from him on either of his frequencies. Eventually, he went on his way south towards Hopper and we lost sight of him.
Sunday morning, May 9, I got up early and started taking signals. Around noon I looked out the window and B168 was back! He stayed only for a few minutes this time, then soared out over Pozo and disappeared. Still no signals from him. I am so fortunate to be a part of this!
Have a great week everyone! 
~Jamie Miller

Monday, May 10, 2004

Condor B168 at Hi Mountain

This past weekend CondorB168 was back again, soaring above Hi Mountain Lookout for about 30 minutes, according to lookout staffer Jamie Miller. B168 had been observed at a cave entrance on the Huff’s Hole cliffs below the lookout on April 6th, and since then has travelled north and south between Ventana Wilderness Area near Big Sur and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County. Jamie had no radio signals from the condor while in view, and since the radio transmitter is not working we should continue to keep a ‘lookout’ for visual sightings of B168. The Hi Mtn. Lookout staff would appreciate communications from any of you with the Ventana and Hopper Mtn. condor staff- by e-mail and/or phone contact- whenever B168 is known to have left your area or is ‘missing”, so that we can be more on the alert for his possible movements again in the Hi Mtn. vicinity.
Steve Schubert

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Condors at Hi Mt!!!

Condors at the Hi Mountain Lookout!!! 
On Sunday the 4th of April a California Condor flew over the lookout, circled and headed south towards Santa Barbara County. On Saturday the day before, Amy Millan picked up a strong signal from the north. The signal was from w231 a female born on the 30th of April in 2000 and released in Ventanna Wilderness the 5th of April in 2001. This is the same Condor that has been traveling back and forth from the Ventanna Wilderness to Hopper in the past month. On Sunday mourning Jamie Miller was receiving a signal from w231 from the north. Finally the signal was so strong we knew she had to be very close. Everyone at the lookout began to scan the horizon towards the north and Black Mountain. Dr. Villablanca a professor at CalPoly, a former CalPoly Student who used to volunteer at the lookout, two visitors from England, a family from Atascadero, Jamie Miller, Jeremy White and I saw the condor flew directly towards the lookout from the north. She was almost at eye level and seemed to be curious about all the commotion. The Condor flew right above the lookout, circled around, flapped her beautiful wings and headed south along Garcia Ridge. When she was above us we could clearly read her tag. Dr. Villablanca noticed she was molting some of her primaries as well. We continued to pick up her signal from the south for several hours. After volunteering at the lookout for several months now it was so amazing to see a condor right above our heads. Later that day Jeremy White and I hiked down Hi-Valley trail to look for the Peregrine Falcon nest site. After about an hour we saw a pair of Prairie Falcons. Then maybe about a half an hour later we heard a contact call from a Peregrine Falcon. The falcon headed towards Hi-Valley Rock and out of a hole in a crevice another Peregrine Falcon came out. We were able to see within an hour a pair of Prairie Falcons and Peregrine Falcons. The day before there was also a pair of immature Golden Eagles that soared by the lookout. Lots of raptors at Hi Mountain !!
Cedrick VillaseƱor

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Huff's Hole

Yesterday, 4/6/04, Kevin Cooper and I made our annual trip into Huff’s Hole, in the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area below Hi Mountain Lookout. Our group of nine, including 3 of my visiting family from Oregon, cleared the trail of brush and poison oak and made our way into Hi Valley. We cleaned out the soil and organic debris from the Chumash grinding holes near Hi Valley Rock and continued on along its base, where we were alerted to the presence of a pair of territorial prairie falcons by there cak-ing vocalizations. One falcon perched at the edge of a pothole with whitewash- a probable eyrie- located on one of the outcrops between Hi Valley Rock and the Huff’s Hole cliffs- this was the same pothole eyrie where peregrine falcon chicks were cross-fostered with prairie falcon parents many years ago, by Lee Aulman from SCPBRG and Kevin Cooper from USFS.
We reached the green protrero of Huff’s Hole and made our way up to the observation point where last year in May- viewing across the intervening canyon to the cliffs- a resident pair of peregrine falcons had been observed bringing prey into an eyrie. While the rest of the group was sitting down and getting out food for lunch at 12 noon, I arrived at the OP and decided before eating to first scan with my binoculars and search for a perched peregrine somewhere on that massive cliff exposure- no luck, but then…
I found myself saying “Oh my God, there is a condor there in a cave!”. I viewed an orange head and black feathers exposed on the edge of a large depression in the cliffs, more than 1/4 mile distance. For the next 3 hours, we watched with binoculars and spotting scope, and photographed with telephoto lense and by videotaping. Condor B168 was identified by his wing tag numbers and by the telonics equipment that Kathleen Intorf and Mike Tyner used to get a radio signal- he is a Ventana Wilderness Society released bird, a 7 year old male. The condor entered and disappeared into the cave about a half hour, reemerged awhile preening and stretching wings, then took flight soaring above the ridgeline about 25 minutes, sometimes among neighboring turkey vultures. The condor
appeared to be departing to the north above the ridgeline beyond our view, for our apparent last look at it, but then returned up high and swept back and forth above the cliff face. More excitement when B168 was dived on by a red-tailed hawk (Gary Guliazi later spotted the red-tail’s stick nest occupied by an incubating adult, on the cliffface below where the condor had been attacked).
I was videotaping as the condor swept along the cliffs and circling around “Dragon’s Head”, and was pleased for my niece Emily who is gathering information, incluing videotaping, for her high school science project and talk she will be giving on California Condor research…it was dramatic firsthand experience in the field for her, in spite of her great fear of poison oak, ticks and bugs in general! The condor made several more brief flights by the time we departed and took a last look back to the cliffs in the distance at 3pm.
We sweated our way up the exhausting climb back to the lookout on Hi Mountain…a good day had by all. We will now be looking into B168’s other recent radio tracking movements and whereabouts by communicating with the VWS and USFWS condor staff. Monitoring condor activity at Huff’s Hole will continue, where last condor nesting occurred in the early 1970’s more than 30 years ago.
Steve Schubert

Sunday, March 7, 2004

Work Weekend March 5th-7th

Hi all,
Over the three day weekend a total workforce of 20 were onsite at Hi Mountain Lookout, coming and going at different times. Several camped out one or two nights. Much was accomplished, assisting contractor John Porter with installation of lightning protection, electrical grounding and other safety improvements.

John Porter was a safety contractor for many years working for the Forest Service on many Sierra fire lookouts, and was referred to us by Kathy Ball from Buck Rock Lookout in Sequoia National Forest. John made the long drive to Hi Mountain from his residence near Lake Isabella in the southern Sierras.
With the use of a jackhammer, pick and shovels four trenches approximately 80 feet long were dug from the corners of the lookout- with great exertion by our volunteers- to bury the copper grounding
wires for lightning protection. Installing electrical conduits and welding the copper grounding wires around the lookout before burial also kept the workers occupied. Other group projects included: levelling an uneven rocky surface- using the jackhammer- that was difficult to walk across and using that rubble to fill in the depression around the Visitor Center entranceway; installing a chainlink mesh to fill in the lower gap on the stairway to prevent potential injuries due to falling through; brushing the slope below the lookout; setting-up a blue bird nesting box and bird feeder; cleaning the Visitor Center and redesigning the framed wall hangings; telemetry training for new volunteers, and other helpful projects.

For the potluck dinner Saturday night, the upstairs oven and stove were put to good use by Michaela and Lisa making dinner preparations. The group socialized upstairs by candlelight into the night, as the full moon and Jupiter were rising in the east and Venus was high in the west. A persistent 20 to more than 30 mph wind from the NE blew most the day into the evening, yet there was not a breath of wind just a few miles away below in the Pozo Valley (more amazingly, during the Feb. 25th heavy rainstorm the weather station recorded a maximum wind gust of 135 mph!!)
Thank-you to all for all the hard work and great accomplishments this weekend. Hope to see many of you at the May 8th picnic for staff and volunteers.
Steve Schubert

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Forest Service Recognition

Hi everybody. I just wanted to let you know that the Washington office of
the Forest Service recognized the Hi Mountain Lookout Project as an
excellent example of the Naturewatch program, and gave us some good press.
I was happily surprised at our regional meeting with the award. I plan to
piggyback on this and use the exposure to help obtain some funding.
Seems like every time we get the word out, we get recognized. Good Work!
I’ll be at the lookout next weekend for the work day. Hope to see you
Kevin Cooper, Forest Service Biologist.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Hi Notes

I spent a couple of pleasant days up at the lookout this week and was rewarded with signals from two Pinnacles National Monument condors: Bk 265 and Bk 287. I don’t know if these two birds just have stronger transmitters or if they are up and about more than the other 4 birds, but I’ve picked up at least one of them the last three times I’ve monitored from the lookout. As was reported by Steve Schubert, two Condors were SIGHTED from the lookout last week. They were W231, a four year old female and B168, a seven year old male. W231 is the same bird that I sighted from the lookout Oct 1, 2003, which causes me to speculate that they MIGHT be checking out Huff’s Hole for a future nesting sight. W231 probably hasn’t reached sexual maturity yet (usually 5 or 6 years of age), but
she’s close! Keep your eyes peeled for huge black birds with white triangles under the leading edge of their wings!

‘Til next time,

Monday, February 9, 2004

Condors at Hi Mt.

Last Friday, 2/6, USFS wildlife biologists Kevin Cooper and Tom Murphey were working on improvements at Hi Mountain Lookout, joined by several Cal Poly students staffing the lookout. They had a sighting of two condors ‘chasing’ each other over the Huff’s Hole cliffs below, then continuing on and perching in a tree near one of the large rock outcrops to the east of Hi Valley Rock. Kevin got the telonics out to take a radio tracking reading and was able to identify the two white-tagged condors as a 7 year old male and a 4 1/2 year old female. A condor was also seen from Hi Mountain as recently as last November. Last nesting activity of condors at Huff’s Hole was in the early 1970’s.
Steve Schubert

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Hi Notes

OK…I’ve been remiss is posting of late, so I’ll play catch-up, beginning with the great news from yesterday’s trip to the top of the world (well, SLO County): I picked up signals from Blk287, one of the newly released Condors in the Pinnacles National Park! This precocious bird jumped to the head of his class by escaping from his holding pen while still at Ventana Wilderness a few months ago. He flew free for about a week before being re-captured and transported to the Pinnacles with the rest of the group of six youngsters and their mentor, Hoi. Having gained this vast amount of prior experience, he has become the ‘Alpha’ bird at the Pinnacles and tends to fly higher and farther than his fellow feathered friends. Just prior to these birds being released (end of Dec.’03, beginning of Jan.’04), we had a scare concerning the whereabouts of AC9, as he had been missing for more than a week. As it turned out, his transmitters had ceased to function. Since then they have managed to capture him (not an easy task as he has become quite good at avoiding the trap) and fit him out with a Satellite as well as a radio transmitter. As most of you probably know, AC9 is the only free flying Condor from the last 22 Condors in existence, taken into captivity in the late 1980s. Needless to say, he is a VERY special bird!

Last week (Jan 12) while at the lookout with a potential volunteer, Donna Bower, and her friend Rick Clack, Rick spotted two mature Bald Eagles perched in a tree between the lookout and Pozo. Quite a
beautiful sight! We also saw a Bobcat darting across the road on the way up to the lookout.

The week before that (Jan 7) I had gone to the lookout with yet another Donna (O’Shaunnesy). We were amazed to see a flock of 175 to 200 Wild Turkeys just passed the Santa Margarita Lake turnoff on the way to Pozo. Once at the lookout, we embarked on a hike to Hi Valley and REALLY enjoyed the hike DOWN. The hike back UP from Hi Valley caused my heretofore under-used hiking muscles to protest vigorously for the next of couple of days. During the winter months there isn’t a lot of Condor activity, as the birds tend to stay ‘home’ in Ventana, Hopper Mt., and now the Pinnacles, most of the time. It is always beautiful at the lookout, with a view of the Sierras to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West on clear days. The weather can be chilly, giving us an opportunity to sport our warmest cold weather togs.

Don’t miss the Condor exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay and learn more about these grand birds!

‘Til next time,

Friday, January 16, 2004

Jan 12-15 at the Lookout

It was great to be back up to the lookout after being away for 2 ½ months. The place looks better than ever with the new storm doors, rockwork, pruning, and change of season. Green is coming back to the hillsides and soon they will be alive with all types of flowering plants. Mountain Quail that have been quiet for the past few months are beginning to call again but only very early in the morning before the sun comes up. The birdseed that has been put out on the ground has been attracting a lot of sparrows. A flock of 20+ `Oregon’ Dark-eyed Juncos makes its way to the seed many times a day. From the catwalk you can see and hear the flock coming up the wooded hillsides on their rounds. They will feed for a few minutes and then they will be off, spooked and taking cover in the brush. They are very fearful of coming out in the open. But once a few brave birds venture out then the rest of the flock and other species not associated with the flock will join in on the feeding. Golden- crowned Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, California Towhees, Spotted Towhees, Purple Finches, Western Scrub-Jays, Fox Sparrow, and even a `Slate-colored’ Dark-eyed Junco all take part in the feast. Maybe with all the action at the seed the local Sharp- shinned Hawk will find an easy meal. Not only birds but also small mammals at night feed on the seed as evidenced by the sunflower seed shells downstairs left by the deer mice that still seem to be able to get inside the building. Only a few Anna’s Hummingbirds are using the one feeder that is left out. The birdbath attracts all the birds that visit the seed plus Lesser Goldfinch, Wrentit, and California Thrasher. Although I did not see the latter two using the bath at all for the last few days I was up there. In the late summer and fall they were both constantly using the water. Maybe with the wetter season and cooler temperatures there is less need for them to seek water or maybe they are just getting the water from other locations, or both. Throughout the day I had views off various birds perched on Hi Valley and Huff’s Hole rocks: Red- tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, Common Raven, an unidentified falcon, and Turkey Vultures. The Vultures sometimes chose to sit on the rock rather than stand. Had brief signals from two condors up towards Big Sur and stronger signals from three condors towards the southwest in Santa Barbara County. Just as I first picked up a signal from one of the birds to the southwest I got a message from a friend who claimed he was almost positive he saw a condor heading north while driving on 101 near Los Alamos 20 minutes earlier but he couldn’t ID it for sure. The direction of the signal I was getting placed the bird 10-15 miles to the northwest of Los Alamos at the closest. So it may either be possible or just coincidence that it was a condor he saw and one I was tracking. Later I picked up a signal for another bird in the same general direction. Maybe the `Condor Country’ tour with the Winter Bird Festival will be lucky enough to spot one.
Mike Tyner