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