Monday, August 11, 2003

Sierra Madre Aug 8-10

Hi all,
As most of you know, last weekend was opening weekend for deer season
along the Sierra Madre Ridge. In years past, condors have keyed in on
the hunting activity and visited the area, often being fed by hunters
and/or destroying cars, tents, etc. I spent the weekend driving the
Ridge with Nick Todd, mobile tracking, posting signage asking hunters
not to feed the birds and to bury gutpiles, talking to folks about the
lead issue, and drinking in the magnificent scenery.
Our route took us up HWY 33 out of Ventura to Pine Mtn. From there we
dropped down into Cuyama Valley, up Santa Barbara Canyon to Sierra Madre
Ridge Rd, along the Ridge to Miranda Pines, back down to the 166, up
Bates Canyon, back to 166, up Santa Barbara Canyon again, then east out
Buckhorn Rd. all the way to Big Pine and West Big Pine. WOW! I’ve never
seen any of this country up close and I sure felt lucky to have Nick
Todd as a guide… an amazing orientation to this ancient land of the
Condor. It was great to finally see so many places I’ve read about and
heard Jan and Nick speak so fondly of. Places like Lion Canyon, Miranda
Pines, Hurricane Deck and Castle Rocks, Medulce, Pine Corral and
Salisbury Potrero, Big Pine drainage, McPherson Peak, and the list goes
on. All these historic sites as much a part of the California Condor as
the genes passed on by AC8 and AC9.
Along the way we stopped to chat with several hunters at Painted Rock,
McPherson Gate, and Bates Canyon. Most were eager to talk about the
birds, hunting practices, and the new DFG lead-info insert that comes
with a deer tag. For a detailed discussion about what we learned from
the Sierra Madre hunters, you can visit:
later on today. The feedback we got from hunters alone made this trip
Condor activity along the Ridge was very low last weekend, not to say
they won’t pay a visit(s) as the gutpiles pile up over the next few
weeks. This was one of those rare trips when we truly hoped NOT to see a
condor, and it looks like they stayed clear of the Sierra Madre all
weekend. Our only signals were on Friday (1259-1357) from Pine Mtn, when
we had a group of 3 Hopper birds off of Reyes and Pilato Pks., heading
south. Had decent cell phone communication throughout the weekend with
Lisa, Holly and Mike at the Lookout. Sounds like they only tracked one
Hopper bird to their distant east on Sunday afternoon. By Sunday
evening, all Hopper birds were present and accounted for at the Ranch.
I returned from this trip with a new found respect for all the tenacious
folks who worked to preserve the Condor and this wilderness through the
70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. It’s not easy terrain. Standing on the
cliffs at West Big Pine, I imagined Jan sitting at that very spot 2
decades ago, watching Condors soar on untagged wings above some of the
most rugged back country SoCal has to offer. Someday the birds will
return to these cliffs to nest, and I hope to be there to watch.
I posted some photos of the scenery from this trip at:
Best to all and thanks to USFWS Ventura for helping make this trip happen.