Sunday, October 14, 2007

October Report

It was another beautiful day at the Lookout on Saturday. Fall is my favorite time of the year on the Central Coast….Everything smelled fresh and the river was still passable….It was foggy when John & I arrived in the early AM …. pretty chilly for us “coastal” folks but when it cleared mid morning, you could see storm clouds moving up the Carrizo, the Pacific was steel blue…and it felt nice & warm out of the ever-present wind. I am so glad they invented “hooded sweatshirts”! Filled the bird feeders and had many “takers” (hummingbird feeders were empty, no surprise there) - On the way up we saw a spike buck, a coyote and a large covey of quail. I tracked mainly Pinnacles birds as usual, throughout the day but caught signals from several Ventana condors over in Pinnacles’ direction…(7 total birds were out and about despite the weather!)

Only one set of visitors this day….and on the way down, Pozo was having a loud “concert”. So glad to come home to the good news about lead ammo billl being signed…


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Lookout Birding Field Trip Report, Oct 6, 2006

Field trip report by Alan Schmierer, Field Trip Chair, Morro Coast
Audubon Society

Location: Hi Mountain Lookout to
Huff’s Hole
Observation date: 10/6/07
Number of species: 26
Mountain Quail 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Band-tailed Pigeon 3
Northern Pygmy-Owl 1
Acorn Woodpecker 3
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 7
Western Scrub-Jay 7
Common Raven 2
Oak Titmouse 7
White-breasted Nuthatch 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
California Thrasher 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Spotted Towhee 10
California Towhee 3
Rufous-crowned Sparrow 2
Sage Sparrow 3
Fox Sparrow 50 Conservative number. Most not
identified by race. Photo of one appears to be “Slate-colored”.
White-crowned Sparrow 8
Golden-crowned Sparrow 10
Dark-eyed Junco 12
Western Meadowlark 1
Lesser Goldfinch 2
Lawrence’s Goldfinch 7

Friday, October 12, 2007

6th Annual Open House

The 6th annual Hi Mountain Lookout Project open house event was attended by 55 people, coming and going throughout the day and into the evening. Thank-you to field trip leaders Alan Schmierer for birding, Dr. David Chipping for geology, and Dr. Dirk Walters for native plant outings, and to Estelle Sandhaus from the Santa Barbara Zoo for speaking in the evening about condor nest monitoring in Southern California. Paul Andreano was ill and sorely missed, so we will have to hear about his Mongolia experiences another time!

Birding field trip highlights included 2 black-throated gray warblers foraging in a valley oak near the Salinas River crossing and a pygmy owl calling in Hi Valley. Fresh bear tracks were found on Hi Mountain road near the Salinas River.

Marcelle Bakula was in charge of the annual raffle ticket sales and prize awarding. Our project benefitted with $165 raised from the raffle fundraising.

Skies were cloudless, temperatures cool with a persistent wind from the NE throughout the day. We took shelter in the lookout upstairs in the evening after another spectacular sunset to partake of Jim Duff’s now famous pineapple upside down cake for dessert. Throughout the event folks had a chance to visit and talk with friends and acquaintances, and catch up on happenings.

Once again, thanks to all for putting on the event and attending. A good day was had by all.

Steve Schubert

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Open House 2007 Schedule

Hi Mountain Condor Lookout Project 6th Annual Open House/ Campout Saturday, October 6th, 2007
Schedule of Activities:
Birding Field Trip 7:30am-11:30am Hi Mountain to Hi Valley, Santa Lucia Wilderness Area, Los Padres National Forest Meet at Hi Mountain Lookout. Habitats: chaparral, blue oak woodland, riparian woodland, rocky outcrops Strenuous hiking conditions and steep slopes in the Santa Lucia Mountains. Bring water and snacks. Some poison oak along the trail. Advanced registration requested: contact Steve at or #805 528-6138 Leader: Alan Schmierer, Morro Coast Audubon Society field trip chairperson (for more details and information, contact field trip leader at
Bird Watching Field Trip 9:00am - 11:30am Pozo Valley to Hi Mountain, 3,199 ft. elev. Meet at Pozo Ranger Station. Habitats: grassland, riparian woodland at Salinas River crossing, valley oak, blue oak and coast-live oak woodlands, chaparral Easy hiking conditions and car pooling. Advanced registration requested: contact Steve at or #805 528-6138
Picnic lunch 11:30am - 12 noon
-Hi Mountain Lookout Interpretive Center open - please sign guest register
-Raffle tickets for sale
Welcoming comments and introductions 12 noon
-Morning birding field trip reports by trip leaders
-Hi Mountain Lookout Project year in review and recognition of staff and volunteers Steve Schubert, Volunteer Coordinator, Morro Coast Audubon Society
-Updates on the California Condor Recovery Program Condor staff
-Raffle drawing for donated prizes- annual fundraiser Afternoon activities and field trips
-Geographical landmarks- a 360 degree view from the Pacific coast to the Sierra Nevada Kevin Cooper, USFS Wildlife Biologist
-Condor radio tracking demonstrations by condor staff and volunteers
-New volunteers training session - practicing with radio telemetry, facilities use, and scheduling Meet with Hi Mountain Lookout staff
-Native plant identification walk Leader: Dr. Dirk Walters, San Luis Obispo Chapter, California Native Plant Society
-Geology overview and walk Leader: Dr. David Chipping, Geology Professor, Cal Poly, SLO
-Animal vocalizations workshop Speaker: Kevin Cooper, USFS, Los Padres National Forest Wildlife Biologist
-Late afternoon sit down chat with condor biologists and staff, reminiscing about experiences in ‘Condor Country’
Sunset watch and dinner A gas stove and oven in the lookout staffing facilities are available for cooking and heating food. Participants are encouraged to bring a potluck dish to share with their friends and guests. Note: no campfires are permitted for cooking or during the overnight campout.Evening guest speakers 7pm
California Condor and Raptor Research powerpoint slide talks
-Estelle Sandhaus, Conservation and Research Coordinator, Santa Barbara Zoo “Condor nest guarding and monitoring efforts in Southern California”
-Paul Andreano, Santa Cruz Predatory Predatory Bird Research Group and past Hi Mtn. Lookout Intern “Trapping and banding birds of prey and life among the nomads in Mongolia, Summer 2007″
Astronomy -Telescopic observations of the evening skies
Optional Hi Mountain Campout Camping sites are available for Friday and/or Saturday nights for staff and volunteers at ‘Cypress Hill’ near the lookout. Other vehicle camping sites are located on the ridgeline near the entrance gate - with a view overlooking the mountains and coast - and at the USFS Hi Mountain Campground, located one mile down the road from the lookout. There are picnic tables and outhouses at the campground- bring your own potable water.
Driving directions are here. Please contact Steve Schubert at or at # (805) 528-6138 to RSVP if you are planning to attend the open house event and the number of people in your group. Thank-you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Website Update

Howdy folks, in case you haven’t noticed our site has been updated. is now being powered by Wordpress, and although the content hasn’t changed much, the functionality of the site has evolved tremendously. For years now I’ve been trying to find a way to allow our staff, interns, and volunteers to easily add content to this site, without having to learn web page coding. It is now possible.

As you can see, our home page is now set up in “blog” format, and our staff can publish to this page via email or by logging in right here. Photos can still be uploaded to the Photo Archive, once you’ve set up an account there. The static pages (top tabs) won’t change, and house the content from our old site. Additionally, all the list-serv posts, essays, field notes, species lists, announcements, and Hi Mt. senior projects from our old “text archive” are now accessible right here, either through the Archive page, the Archive categories/months links, or by using the search bar (at top right). Play around with it and let me know how it works for you! Paul Andreano

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In Memory of Brian Walton

walton_and_lee_and_sunset.jpgHello all,
Below is a message written by Dr. Eric Johnson, retired Ornithology Professor, Cal Poly, SLO, in memory of recently deceased Brian Walton, Director of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group......
Brian had a strong attachment and love for the Hi Mountain and Huff’s Hole area. Brian found and reported nesting peregrine falcons at Huff’s Hole in the early 1970’s, at a time when the species was very endangered and extremely rare throughout it’s range in the West. For several years a nest watch was set up by the Forest Service to protect and monitor this peregrine site, and I was hired as one of the full-time nest guards at Huff’s Hole in 1978, my first introduction to the Hi Mountain-Huff’s Hole area.

At the time, in the late 70’s, Hi Mountain Lookout was still an active Forest Service fire lookout. For several years in the late 1970’s volunteers from Morro Coast Audubon Society conducted a yearly Huff’s Hole peregrine falcon nest watch, staffing and occupying Hi Mountain Lookout before the Forest Service lookout would come on duty each year during the fire season.
Over a period of several years Brian Walton and his SCPBRG staff conducted innovative endangered species management techniques at the Huff’s Hole and Hi Valley peregrine falcon and prairie falcon nesting cliff sites, by removing and captive-hatching thin, fragile peregrine eggs (and encouraging double clutching at the wild nest), cross-fostering young peregrines into nests with prairie falcons, and setting up a hack box release site for young peregrines.
Indirectly, the very concept of the Hi Mountain Lookout Project -now functioning as biological field research station and interpretive center- would never have come about without Brian’s influence and the history of events that took place at Huff’s Hole near Hi Mountain…a legacy of his efforts and involvement which began there more than three decades ago.
Brian attended and spoke to the group at the annual Hi Mountain Lookout Project open house event in October, 2005. We were very pleased that he was able to visit and see all the work accomplished at the lookout since he had last visited there many years ago. He spoke about the special connections with people and places that can develop and will be maintained over a lifetime, and lives that are changed and career paths established at a place as special as Hi Mountain.
On July 17th several SCPBRG staff made a memorial climb to the top of Morro Rock. Brian Latta repelled down to the southside peregrine eyrie and collected eggshell fragments. The event was also attended by several of Brian Walton’s family and friends. The memorial event in Brian’s honor was written about in the local newspapers.
Steve Schubert Volunteer Coordinator, Hi Mountain Lookout Project
Eric Johnson’s message:
To the group: I am informed by Jamey Eddy that Brian Walton, Director of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, suffered a massive stroke and died yesterday, June 15.
Brian was a graduate of Cal Poly in the early 70’s. He was a student in my Ornithology class, and did his senior project with me on Cooper’s Hawks in SLO County. He subsequently obtained a Master’s degree from San Jose State, where Dick Mewaldt made him work on Song Sparrows in the hope that Brian would learn to look on ‘dicky birds’ as more than just raptor food!
At Santa Cruz, Brian and his group were directly responsible for the recovery of the Peregrine Falcon on the Pacific coast, from California to Washington, and in the Cascades and the Sierra. Many of you worked for him as nest monitors, at Morro Rock, Diablo Canyon, the Big Sur coast, and especially Huff’s Hole.
Brian’s program of captive breeding, fostering, nest manipulation (double-clutching), and hacking Peregrines was his life’s work, and if you see a Peregrine you probably owe Brian a ‘Thank You’. More recently he and his people have been actively involved in the recovery of the U.S. population of Aplomado Falcons.
Brian had a special place in his heart for the Peregrines of Morro Rock, and swore that as long as he had anything to do with it the Rock would always fledge Peregrines. As far as I can recall he was true to his word.
Brian encountered health problems when in his early 30’s (Type I Diabetes) but tried never to let that interfere with his work. He finally underwent a combined kidney and pancreas transplant, which was successful for years.
Brian was devoted to birds of prey, and a Conservationist who indeed truly made a difference. He will be sorely missed.
Eric Johnson, Stuart, VA

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Field Trip to Hi Mt.

Hello all, Today, 6/2, I taught a course through Cuesta College Community Programs entitled ‘Condor Country”. The classroom meeting and Hi Mtn. Project powerpoint slide talk was attended by 12 enrolled participants, followed by a van field trip to Hi Mtn. Lookout. One couple was celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary today, and the husband had no idea what was going on until walking into the classroom with his wife, who made all the registration arrangements in advance but kept it a surprise. Another highlight was meeting and talking with 81 year-old James Barlow and his wife Pat. James worked one season for the Forest Service in 1954, on patrol duty in Lopez Canyon (before there was a dam and lake there!) and along the Arroyo Grande to Pozo road route. It has been more than 50 years since he last visited Hi Mtn Lookout! He remembers the old wooden structure that predated the existing metal tower.
After lunch and a tour of the lookout facilities, Marcelle Bakula (who was enrolled in the same class 2 years ago and has since become a dedicated volunteer) demonstrated radiotelemetry tracking - a Pinnacles condor signal was picked up to the north. The group took a walk along the ridgetop before heading back down the mountain.
The Pozo fire crew came driving up in a large USFS fire truck to take their lunch break and lounge on the outside deck. Hopefully they will be able to accomplish some fire fuels reduction and trail work for us again this summer season.
Flowering along Hi Mountain road the 1/4 mile between the gate and lookout: chamise, yerba santa, deerweed, woolly blue curls, yellow star thistle, mountain mahogany, golden yarrow, climbing penstemon, monkeyflower, hummingbird sage, pitchersage, chorizanthe. Also flowering along Hi Mtn. Road from the lookout to Pozo: Clarkia (farewell to spring), clematis, dudleya, penstemon, chaparral honeysuckle
The Yerba Santa shrubs are abundantly flowering and were visited by swarms of insects: numerous checkerspot, hairsrtreak, sulfur, fritillary and skipper butterflies, honey bees, bumblebees, wasps, bee flies, and flies. Swallowtail butterflies were ‘hilltopping’ in ascending spiralling flights near the lookout. June is always butterfly month at Hi Mtn.!
A western pond turtle was picked up and moved out of the way at the Salinas River crossing near Pozo.
It was a good day all in all to take a field trip to Hi Mountain, as always.
Steve Schubert

Monday, May 28, 2007

Lookout visit 27-28 May 2007

Hi all,
Amy and I finally made it up to the Lookout for an overnight visit this weekend. The Lookout itself was in great shape, clean as a whistle and no leaks or insect infestations. We had great Hi Mt. weather- ranging from cool and windy to warm and hazy to calm and balmy in the eves. The campground was full and we had several walk-in visitors on both days. Had the pleasure of meeting Peter and Melissa from La Purisima Audubon yesterday, and they may be the newest additions to out volunteer staff. Welcome aboard Peter and Melissa!

Bird activity on the mountain was relatively low, just the usual suspects enjoying the feeders and bird bath, or soaring past the Lookout. At about 1900 on Sunday evening we were watching a grey fox walk up the road through the scope. I happened to scan past the Huff’s Hole rocks (we’d been checking Huff’s and Hi Valley all day and seen only TVs) and found an adult female peregrine falcon perched atop the Huff’s formation. We watched her there for the better part of an hour, preening up a storm, before she dove down onto the south side of the rock and disappeared.
We got signals for several condors throughout the weekend, as you would expect, a few Pinnacles and VWS birds to the N/NW and some weak signals for a few Hopper birds to the SE (Sunday only). Of note were: Sunday evening signals from Pinnacles bird 313 who’s signals remained strong until 1900 and seemed to be west of the Salinas Valley on or near the Santa Lucia; Monday afternoon signals on Pinnacles bird 336 who’s signals remained east/southeast of the Lookout between 1435 and 1616, gradually diminishing in strength, as if the bird were headed south; Monday afternoon “soaring type” signals from Ventana bird 194 in the general direction of Cone Peak (which was visible all weekend, even through the haze) between 1115 and 1530.
Thanks again to Mike Baird for hig generous donation of a Dell 7500 laptop to the Lookout Project. Its perfect!
I hope the first two months of summer are fun and productive on Hi Mt., and even though I won’t be around, my thoughts will often soar toward the Lookout. The apricot tree is setting fruit again this year, and as we enter into another season of condor tracking and outreach on the mountain, may the Lookout Project continue to ripen and feed us, just like that tough old tree!
Best to all

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Volunteer Workday May 12, 2007

Hello all, The event today at Hi Mountain Lookout was attended by 22 persons. Another 12 - who were attending the annual Pozo to Hi Mtn. wildflower field trip - arrived at noon to join the group for a picnic lunch. The lookout project planning session was attended by staff, interns, and volunteers represeting USFWS Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, Ventana Wildlife Society, U.S. Forest Service, Morro Coast Audubon Society, and the Santa Barbara Zoo.
A number of hard workers put in time trimming and reducing the height of the tall chaparral brush growing near the lookout, necessary to reduce the fire fuels. Thank-you to all who attended and helped out!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lookout Report

I just wanted to let everyone know that the wildflowers have begun!  The bush lupines and madrone are blossoming so the Lookout area is abuzz  with bees, & hummingbirds…
Last week, after a brief Condor talk around their campfire at Hi  Mtn. Campground, the Lookout was visited by a group of Boy Scouts from Paso Robles. (Along with mountain bikers, runners (this one pushing a baby in a jogging stroller from Rinconada Trailhead), off-roaders picnicing at our picnic table and a Cal Poly student who hadn’t been back since 1978!) Tracked several Pinnacle birds & a Ventana bird over at the
Pinnacles area - the Coast was socked in w/ fog but the view was still spectacular w/ several peaks sticking up from the white, soft blanket. Sincerely hoping that some of you will attend the VOLUNTEER TRAINING
(or send someone you know who will LOVE being in that magical place - we’re really SHORT on volunteers these days…)
*May 12th* - Contact Steve Schubert, Hi Mtn Volunteeer Coordinator.

Volunteer, Hi Mtn Lookout

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hi Mountain Report

Another BEAUTIFUL day at the Lookout!  67 degrees and the breezes were very comfortable…(t-shirt weather!)  The southern Sierra showed its snow-capped peaks and the beaches down to Oceano were sparkling. Dozens and dozens of turkey vultures enjoyed the updrafts today. 10 visitors to the Lookout between 10 AM & 4 PM (including Joel Weiss, Hi Mtn Volunteer w/ two friends). Tracked birds from “P” “V” and “H” today  (strongest from 206)
Regards to all,