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.