Flock to the mountaintop: Hi Mountain Condor Lookout

Nestled into the Santa Lucia Mountains of the Los Padres National Forest sits the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout, a fully restored fire tower, research facility, and tracking station.  Sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Morro Coast Audubon Society, US Forest ServiceCal Poly San Luis Obispo, and the Ventana Wildlife Society, Hi Mountain is right in the middle of prime habitat for the endangered California condor and the peregrine falcon.  In addition to observing these magnificent birds, the organization offers internships for biology students and public outreach programs throughout the year.

It is no mystery why people flock to Hi Mountain.  Aside from the stunning views atop their 3198 foot perch, the Lookout offers the opportunity to glimpse the majestic California condor, a bird with an impressive 9.8 foot wingspan and weight of nearly 30 pounds.  With jet black feathers contrasted with white patches on the underside of its wings, and reddish-orange bald heads, these scavengers are certainly a noteworthy sight in the skies over Big Sur.  While these birds can live up to 60 years, their mere existence has been in peril over the last century.  Due to poaching, habitat destruction, and lead poisoning, their numbers dwindled to only 22 in 1987.  Facing extinction, the US Government captured the remaining wild individuals in order to create a critical captive breeding program led by the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos.  As of last year, there were 310 condors known to be living, with 210 of them having been reintroduced to their native ecosystems.

Join the Hi Mountain Lookout crew this Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19th, and Sunday, May 20th for a weekend remembering a remarkable man.  The Mike Tyner Memorial Event begins at 5:30 on Friday evening for a potluck and owl observation.  Continuing into Saturday, the gathering will feature opportunities to share memories of Mike, conduct repairs on the station, hiking tours, birding, and potluck. A condor biologist, naturalist, and Hi Mountain intern, Mike will be sorely missed by his friends and family.  To make a tax deductible donation to his Memorial Internship Fund, send contributions by mail to the Morro Coast Audubon Society, PO Box 1507, Morro Bay, CA 93443 or online.

For questions and details, contact Steve Schubert at (805) 628 6138, Francis Villablanca at (805) 748-1014, Marcelle at (806) 927-1017, or Joel Weiss at (805) 801-6236.

Have any condor sightings?  There has been a recent report of one over Diablo Canyon Power Plant, a spectacle that has not been glimpsed for over 40 years!

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