Tuesday, August 30, 2005

MCAS in Audubopn Magazine

Howdy folks,
The current issue of Audubon Magazine features this article on the MCAS and Hi Mountain Lookout.I pasted the text below, or you can follow this link to the story…..
Chapter Spotlight
On the Lookout
It was on an early spring day last year that Steve
Schubert of the Morro Coast Audubon Society set off
with colleagues and family members into central
California’s Santa Lucia Wilderness Area. Clearing the
trail of brush and poison oak as they went along, they
made their way past a pair of nesting prairie falcons
into Hi Valley, then up to an observation point to
view a known peregrine aerie in the cliffs across an
intervening canyon. Schubert scanned the cliffs with
his binoculars. “I found myself saying, ‘Oh, my God,
there is a condor in a cave!’ ” he recalled. The bird,
Condor B168—identified by the numbers on its wing tag
and by telephoto lens and videotaping—is an
eight-year-old male that had been released by the
Ventana Wilderness Society.
The history of Morro Coast Audubon, chartered in 1967,
is spiced with tales of service and adventure.
Schubert (above), an environmental educator who joined
the chapter more than 30 years ago, when he was a
biology major in college, is a past chapter president.
He and Kevin Cooper of the U.S. Forest Service are
cofounders of the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout Project,
which now involves several agencies and institutions
in tracking the wide-ranging condors. Here, in the
Santa Lucia wilderness, the chapter is repeating its
pioneering work in identifying vital bird habitat and
helping reestablish endangered species.
The best known of Morro Coast Audubon’s projects is
its long-running peregrine nest watch. By the 1960s
the falcons’ population had crashed in the United
States, their eggshells thinned by DDT residues.
Biologists then knew of only two nesting pairs on the
California coast, one of them in a pothole cave on
Morro Rock, an eroded volcanic neck emerging from the
sea off the small city of Morro Bay, about 200 miles
up the coast from Los Angeles.
In 1967 chapter volunteers began monitoring the nest
around the clock. The nest guards returned, along with
the falcons, year after year, resulting in much
behavioral data and the occasional arrest of poachers
scaling the rock with climbing equipment. For a time
during the late 1970s and early 1980s the California
Department of Fish and Game paid for a full-time
warden. But as nest failures threatened the continuing
existence of the aerie, chapter volunteers cooperated
with the Peregrine Fund in various projects to
stimulate peregrine reproduction on the rock,
including the placement of captive-bred chicks in the
nest. Falcons that had fledged at Morro Rock spread
across California, helping to rebuild the state’s
once-decimated population, now estimated at more than
250 breeding pairs.
“The falcon pair at Morro Rock successfully hatched,
reared, and fledged two young in 1993, the first
nesting attempt there without human intervention in 16
years,” Schubert says proudly. “Last year there were
two active aeries on the rock. Each fledged
young—noteworthy because in California peregrines
don’t usually tolerate another peregrine nesting pair
— By Frank Graham Jr.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Lookout News

Hi all
Over this past weekend, Julie, Emily and I went to visit the condors and condor crew up in Ventana. We had an incredible time! First of all… Big thanks to Jim, who spent three days with us, showing us everything, Jess, Sayre, and James. You all were awesome! I look forward to working with you all
again some time! Jim took us out along the coast to track some birds. We got to see some condors feeding at one of the feed sites on a hill and saw bird #164 at one of the coves. Later in the day, we drove out to the base camp in the Ventana backcountry to stay two nights. The backcountry was absolutely gorgeous! We saw bobcat run along the road and some incredible views of the coastline. Our time at base camp was filled with some work and a whole lot of fun. Yes, the work was fun! Jim let us help take… um, condor food… down to a feeding site. More fun than it sounds, really. We also helped paint the base camp cabin in leafy camoflauge. Unfortunatley, there were no birds around the cabin, but we had a great time anyway!

We came back from our Big Sur excursion on Sunday afternoon. On Monday morning, Julie and I were at the lookout bright and early. It was surprisingly cool and cloudy, with a little bit of rain! Julie and I tracked several Ventana birds that had been visiting Hopper as they moved north. It was quite exciting to get some strong 360 degree signals (but no visuals) from some of the birds.
Good times all around this week! Have a great one everybody!
~Jamie Miller
Hi Mountain Intern


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Big Birds and Little Birds

Since our lookout carries an avian theme it’s not suprising their are 3 hummingbird feeders stocked with daily fresh sugar water. The result is 25 to 30 Anna’s Allen’s and Rufous Hummers hanging out at
the lookout,with 4-6 at a time at the feeders. A pecking order based on age and bravado determines the right to feed. While tracking a condor last week ( visiting from Big Sur) the juvenile hummingbirds
would sit on my telemetry antenae while I scan the horizon with it and wait their turn for the feeders. The whole scene is a rather bizarre way to sum up the incredible diversity in birds. I wonder how many
hummingbirds could sit on the back of a conder and hitch a free migration ride. They might need it when all of the devoted Cal Poly interns go back to school. Speaking of courage, the California
Thrasher requires a very special chaparral habitat, which could threaten its poulations as habitat shrinks. Every week I observe the Thrasher’s quest to visit our bird seed feeder (he’s almost their !
and its time for him to learn to adapt, his latest issues were with a Mourning Dove and a half grown bunny ! See you next week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lookout News

Hi all,
Julie and I had a good three days up at the Lookout! Although we missed Greg since he switched shifts! The weather was nice, about 85 degrees and breezy all weekend long. On Sunday, we took a day off from field work to do a full day of telemetry, and we ended up getting around 25 visitors! There were a couple caravans of about 8-10 people and their dogs that were out for a Sunday drive from Lopez. It was nice talking with everyone. They all seemed very interested in the condors and the work we do at the lookout. We had several visitors on Monday and Tuesday, as well, though not nearly as many as on Sunday.

In wildlife news, we had three Purple Martins fly by the lookout all three days we were there. The California Thrashers are coming back around. I haven’t seen them since early June. There are always at least 8 or 10 Band-tailed Pigeons and a flock of Anna’s hummingbirds at the feeders. Two Allen’s
hummingbirds occaisionally swoop in and chase off all the Anna’s from the feeders, then fly off. It makes for great evening entertainment! We even got a fly-by from a Peregrine Falcon! Alas, no condor sightings…

On Sunday night, Julie set up a motion sensor video camera and scent station downhill from the Lookout. She got some great footage of a gray fox rubbing its face all over the sticks we had covered with the scent oils! I’ve been setting a few Sherman live-traps around the lookout lately, to see what small mammals are running around at night. Over the last two weeks I’ve caught several pocket mice (Chaetodipus californicus), a couple deermice (Peromyscus maniculatus), and a Narrow-faced Kangaroo rat (Dipodomys venustus)! At sunset every night a female mule deer and her two fawns graze along the roadside or on top of Cypress hill. Hi Mountain never ceases to amaze me with its diversity of wildlife and gorgeous sunsets!
Well, until next time… Have a great week everyone!
~Jamie Miller
Hi Mountain Intern