Sunday, June 1, 2008

Santa Lucia Wilderness Area, 24 May ‘08

Hello all,

On Saturday, May 24th, I hiked down from Hi Mtn. Lookout to Hi Valley and Huff’s Hole, in the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area of Los Padres National Forest. I met up with Gary Guliazi in Hi Valley, who hiked in from Hi Mountain Rd after driving in from the Arroyo Grande side.

At 9:30 am, the south wind was blowing 25 mph at the lookout, with a windchill of 33*F. The temperature remained in the 40’s all day at the lookout, with a cold persistent wind, mostly overcast skies and dark threatening clouds, following light rainfall the day before (one week prior the temp. at Pozo was near 100*F!!). Down below on the wind-sheltered lower slopes and into Huff’s Hole a light wind and cool temperatures made for a very comfortable day.

The highlight of the day in Huff’s Hole yesterday was seeing a tiercel peregrine swoop down to the ‘eyrie’ cliffs, perch and preen about 45 minutes, and then later return from a hunt following an absence of an hour, followed by an apparent food exchange with the female. The female falcon flew to a ledge, walked across the ledge to the other side and seemed to be feeding young (not visible yet), then wiggled down into the scrape to apparently brood young chicks. Angry cak-ing vocalizations and
a peregrine up high in the sky later upon our departure announced that all is well and is as it should be with peregrine falcons nesting on the Huff’s Hole cliffs, after all these years (this is my 30-year Huff’s
Hole peregrine falcon nest watch anniversary, when John Schmitt and I were hired by the the U.S. Forest Service in 1978 as seasonal Biological Technicians, camping out in Huff’s Hole for more than 3 months as falcon nest guards).

Flowering (on Hi Mtn.slopes, Hi Valley to Huff’s Hole): chamise (profusely), woolly blue curls, soap plant, chaparral pea, black sage, spineflower, yerba santa, deerweed, mariposa lily, clarkia spp., golden
yarrow, milkweed, clematis, lupine spp., yellow-star thistle.

Bird sightings/vocalizations (Hi Mtn. to Huff’s Hole): band-tailed pigeon, California thrasher, wrentit, western wood peewee, bewick’s wren, house wren, canyon wren, black-headed grosbeak, spotted towhee, California towhee, mourning dove, white-breasted nuthatch, acorn woodpecker, Nuttal’s woodpecker, northern flicker, orange-crowned warbler, Anna’s hummingbird, western scrub jay, Stellar’s jay, oak titmouse, white-throated swift, ash-throated flycatcher, turkey vulture,
peregrine falcon.

Western grey squirrel and Merriam’s chipmunk also vocalized their presence from the oaks and brush-covered slopes. Bear scat was on the Huff’s Hole trail through the grassy protrero and likely bear tracks made large depressions in the soft oak duff from the old campsite down towards Huff’s Hole creek.

Note: conspicuously absent and/or not detected throughout the day, surprisingly missed but expected this time of the year in the chaparral and blue oak woodland, below Hi Mountain: lazuli bunting, black-chinned sparrow, sage sparrow, western bluebird, bullock’s oriole, red-tailed hawk (!), common raven, prairie falcon

Steve Schubert