Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Weekly Update (August 2-3, 2017)

Hi Mountain Lookout 2017 Interns - Emily Hermann, Cecilia Huizar, and Massupha Upachit

This week, a thunderstorm that swept through SLO county Wednesday changed our usual day's work. The different weather certainly made for a unusual day as it was humid, hot and temperatures stayed between 80 to 83 degrees, which beats the typical blaring sun and dry 90 degree heat any day! We typically start our day surveying narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) along the stream bed, but due to a flash flood warning, we did not risk it. (Thanks for the heads up Dr. V!) Instead, we opportunistically surveyed woollypod milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa) along the roadside starting from the campground and moving our way up until we reached the lookout. We arrived at the campground around 9:45am and began our data collection. Similar to the A. fascicularis survey, we looked for evidence of monarch catepillars and butterflies' presence in the area. We were initially excited to see a monarch catepillars and two chrysalis but at the same time, were not so thrilled. Monarchs should not be here in our area at this time of the year, so hopefully these little critters survive the summer.

Not too long after we began our survey, it started to rain and we saw lightning. The rain was inconsisent. It would drizzle then pour out of nowhere and stop all together moments later. When it poured, we ran to the car so our data sheets would not get wet and we would wait in the car once the rain stopped. However, we only had to deal with the "rain" for the first hour or so. During the middle of our survey we heard first reports of the 2 fires that started on Highway 58/ Red Hill. Moments, most likely an hour, later we saw a smoke plume that was the Red Hill fire.

We returned to the lookout around 1pm and because we saw lightning earlier we decided to wait out until the late afternoon to do our condor radio telemetry.  We returned to the road to finish our A. eriocarpa survey, in which, we realized was not much left to be surveyed. We returned to the lookout once again, around 3pm. We decided it was safe enough to do radio telemetry, as we did not see lightning for a good couple of hours. Emily and I searched for signals until about 4:30 and had no luck. Unfortunately, we did not get any signals, this week. We ended our night reading up about the stars, animals and critters of California.

Thurday, we started our day, around 9am, back at the stream bed (Site: Tamarisk 1). It once again was humid hot and about 81 degrees. We resumed to our A. fascicularis data collection and saw a few more monarch caterpillars and butterflies. We had lunch between 12:30pm to 1pm and called it a day at 3pm. Was a tiring day but happy with our progress. Almost done with site two and will most likely begin Site 3 (after finishing Site 2) next week.

Other sightings:

Apart from our usual sightings of accorn woodpeckers, dark-eyed juncos, yellow-billed magpies, etc., I saw an Oak titmouse, which was my first time seeing one (but they are probably common around here). I didn't spot any Northern Harriers this time around (I usually see one every week).

We found a bone of a medium-sized mammal (that I believe may have been a coyote tibia). I didn't think about taking a picture, unfortunately. We also came upon a few large rib cage bones (probably from a cow?)