Monday, August 21, 2006

Condors and Hi Mt. Interns

As a Hi Mtn volunteer, I wanted to give another perspective on this
summer’s interns & their visits to the two condor release sites . . .
First, I want to say that I think these trips are important since the
interns are tracking these birds every day and otherwise, might never
get to see them! The intern’s interaction with the field biologists and
the work they do to help the condors recover is valuable for them to see
the “real” lives of the people who are dedicated and working so hard to
have this program succeed.
Back at the beginning of July, Kelly, Meghan, Karine (Stuart was out of
town) & I drove down to visit Hopper Mountain. Dan Tappe of US Fish &
Wildlife Service was our “guide” - As soon as we arrived, we were able
to view roosting condors in snags - we were joined by one of their
interns who brought a scope and a group hiked down to get a closer look
- We stayed at the “ranch” with Dan & the three Hopper Mt. interns (one
coincidentally also from Cal Poly) and the next day toured the whole
site, visiting their empty fly pen (as their birds had been moved out to
Bitter Creek), catching views of Lake Piru, viewing a nest site w/ a
chick inside & parent(s) guarding outside! It was very thrilling and
Then, last week, Stuart, Meghan, Karine (Kelly is away), John (who wrote
the LA Times article about Hi Mtn last fall) and I went to meet Sayre
Flannagan at the Ventana Wildlife Society office at Andrew Molera State
Park in Big Sur. We met one of their interns, Joseph Brandt, (who is
just finishing his internship) and their brand new intern: Abbey.
We caravaned into the Ventana Wilderness for over two hours to find a
rustic “cabin” with a distant view of one of their condor feeding sites
(a scope allows for identifying the birds that visit that site). Joe
Burnett joined us and we spent time helping them clear brush from the
footprint of their new flypen. As Joe chainsawed more brush, the interns
dragged it, stacked it and got scratched up by ceonothus and madrone.
We enjoyed a meal together watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
The next day there was more clearning . . .with shoveling & raking to
help improve the road to the flypen. There were a couple of large
madrone stumps that needed clearing (Only one got successfully moved. .
.) We dug a trench and laid a water line. It was hot, dusty work with
pesky flies in your nose, mouth, eyes & ears . . .we all have bruises
and scratches but no one complained! The interns worked hard and I
think helped immensely (and John & I both wished we weren’t senior
citizens! My back still aches!)
We were all able to observe junvenile condors and mature condors
interacting, feeding, socializing and the interns “knew” the specific
birds that they had “tracked’ this summer!
I am most impressed that our Hi Mtn interns want to do this type of
selfless work to help wildlife and nature and that they had the
oppportunity to see such fine role models, dedicated and living the
lifestyle it takes to protect an endangered species.
I am grateful and humbled by all my experiences with the people who are
trying to make this recovery program work! Hope to see YOU all at the
Hi Mountain Open House Sat. Oct 14th so that you too can meet these
awesome people!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Week Trip

Just thought I would let everyone know that the Hi Mtn Interns had a blast at Ventana. I would just like to extend my thanks to everyone at Ventana for having us! Besides extremely bad poison oak and mosquito bites I had a lot of fun clearing brush in order for a new flight pen to be built. I found it amazing how we watched the sunset and ate every meal with condors near by. Hi mountain was the same, still no sight of condors. However, there was a baby coast horned lizard sitting on the wall along the driveway. It was so tiny and cute! That’s all I can think of for now.
Later, Meghan

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Condors and Cats

Hi all! I’ve just returned from my stay at the mountain and had a great time, as usual.
Seeing as how Kelly is off enjoying herself in Hawaii (taking classes of course) we had to do a bit of schedule flip-flopping and Joel was kind enough to take over Sunday at the lookout. Thanks for
everything! Monday was beautiful and a bit chilly which was a nice change. I’ve been hearing that condor activity tends to die down in August, but I was surprised to track quite a few of birds from all 3
stations. Stuart and I shared duties today and almost filled an entire telemetry sheet! Sadly no sightings. I’m beginning to think our group of interns won’t be lucky enough to see any at the lookout this season. At least we are welcome at Hopper and Ventana!
The cat, whom I’ve temporarily and affectionately named “Spike”, is doing well. She pops her head out from under the porch when I arrived and continues to ‘meow’ at my heels throughout the day. Stuart and I fed her cans of tuna and bowls of milk today. I really hope we can
find a home for her.
Not a lot of visitors over the past few days, aside from the 5-6 Pozo firefighters. They drove up this afternoon just to enjoy the view and learn a little more about what we do at the lookout. They all really enjoyed the visit and we told them they’re more than welcome to come back any time. Also, an older man drove up with his (I’m assuming) grandson or nephew. Apparently he came up to the lookout 6 months ago for a local Audubon event and wanted to return. It felt really comforting to have a fellow birder up there!
That’s all I’ve got. Can’t wait for our Ventana trip!

Another week and no Condors

But it’s okay. Karine and I, maybe Stuart, Marcelle, and John are going to Ventana next week to meet more people in charge of helping these awesome, majestic birds recover. Honestly, I can’t wait. One, I love Big Sur and two we’re going to help build a flight pen!
Update at the lookout: No sightings of condors, but I did see another Bobcat and a bunch of birds. The weather once again was weird and I’ve never been that cold in August before. I had at least 4 layers on and a ski hat! The fog was desne on friday and it finally cleared up on Saturday. I get excited everytime I track a new bird or ones that haven’t been tracked in awhile. When the same old birds are flying around and are being tracked, I always wonder when are they going to stop by Hi Mtn and pay us a visit.
Interesting story of the summer: Somehow a domestic cat has found it’s way to the lookout and is loving the attention. Chances are she was dumped off by some mean person and has managed her way into the lives of the interns. If anyone knows or wants an all black, very sweet, young cat, let me know asap. As of right now, I’m planning on taking her back to civilization on Sunday. I’m just too worried about mountain lions or bears, etc getting her. When she’s back in SLO, she’s going to be living at the Cal Poly Cat Shelter were she will have a very nice living space with other cats and volunteers that will love her. And yes it’s a no-kill shelter. Please let me know if anyone wants to adopt a cat.
I think that’s about it for now. I wonder what next week will bring???

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Summer 2006

This summer has been amazing! We started the summer with a trip to Hopper, where we saw about 10 Condors. This was amazing must of us had never seen a California Condor so it was a thrilling experience. The rest of the summer has been spent tracking these wonderful birds,
some days we get over 10 different signals, other days fewer but everyday is a new experience at the lookout. Although there has not been a Condor sighting at the lookout the sightings of other wildlife
are abundant. There have been sightings of Black Bears, Bobcats, Coyotes, Poorwill and a Golden Eagle to name a few. OF course there are the resident birds which include Dark-eyed Junco, Band-tailed Pigeon, California Towhee, Bewick’s Wren and Anna’s Hummingbird. The hummingbirds have been going crazy with about 20 or more visiting the lookout daily! NOt only is the lookout visited by wildlife but we have had many visitors over the past couple weeks including a group from
Pozo on the 4th of July, the Atascadero Fire Crew, a couple from Michigan and some kids from Napa Valley. All of the visitors have been extremely excited about Condors and the lookout.
The weather has been interesting as well. Some days it is so hot with temperatures in the upper 90’s and then just two days ago it was in the 60’s. This past weekend the humidity was over 85% and the fog was so thick you could only see for a 100 feet.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their summer as much as we are at the lookout!!
Take Care, Kelly

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Crazy July up at Hi Mt.

The month of July has been an exciting month for all the interns. We’ve been able to master the equipment, track condors successfully, and learn to manage life in the wilderness. So far we haven’t seen any condors hanging out by the lookout, but we’ve been tracking a lot of Pinnacle birds and a few from Hopper and Ventana. Hopper called us the other day, because they lost signals from another bird. We finally tracked the bird a few days later and everyone was very excited to hear the good news. The past weekends up at the lookout have been very hot and hardly any wind, the dogs don’t like this weather at all. Karine and I have made several trips down the mountain to the Forest Station to get ice in order to keep semi-cool. Then we stop by the creek and let the dogs go swimming for a while to cool off. Last weekend, what a change. I got up there on friday in shorts and a t-shirt. I later had to put on sweat pants and a thermal. Well, mother nature once again played a trick on me. It was only 65 and 35 mph winds. Later that day the fog blew in and set off the smoke alarm, because of the humidity. Needless to say I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t see no more than 150 feet because of the dense fog. No condors yet, but the other wildlife has kept us entertained for the time being. That’s it for now.