My Latest Excursion Down the Big Sur (Ventana Wilderness) Coast

Motherlode Chameleon

Chameleon Enthusiast
I have got business that requires me to have to travel to Southern California occasionally and I'm bestowed the honor of driving the Big Sur Coast on Highway 1 on my way. This highway is one of the most scenic roads in California and happens to be one of two best places in the USA in the wild to observe and spot one of the worlds most endangered and enormous birds in the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). There are about twenty of these birds along this 200 mile stretch of Big Sur Coast in the Ventana Wilderness and I spotted two in two separate locations on this my most recent excursion. This species has made a tremendous recovery from just twenty two individuals to over four hundred in two decades and I think similar things could happen for endangered or threatened chameleons species with appropriate conservation.

This is the first Condor I spotted just south of Carmel and Pebble Beach Golf Course. He was foraging over a California Sea Lion rookery looking for a Sea Lion lunch.

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Here is what the Condor was looking for Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina)

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Here is the scenic drive of of Highway 1 and the coastal mountain habitat that California Condors prefer.

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This is the second Condor I spotted. This bird was just north of San Luis Obispo and was cruising high in the mountains on thermals.

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Then lastly a shot of a colony of Northern Elephant Seals. Another species that has recovered from the brink of extinction. They were listed as Critically Endangered and now are listed as a species of Least Concern. The absolute lowest ranking of any conservation species classification list. Condor biologist are hoping that Condors will start to expand their range further south to forage on these immense aquatic mammals.

To start here's a couple of males fighting.

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d3s5

Avid Member
Thanks for the pictures! Brings back so many memories. I drove cross-country and then down the California coast twice (21 and 31 years ago). Never got to see a condor or elephant seal, though. I had forgotten how beautiful California is.

Deb
 

Motherlode Chameleon

Chameleon Enthusiast
Thanks for the pictures! Brings back so many memories. I drove cross-country and then down the California coast twice (21 and 31 years ago). Never got to see a condor or elephant seal, though. I had forgotten how beautiful California is.

Deb

Your welcome! The Elelphant Seals are entertaining the males battle in front of everybody while the female just lay out and sun bath. The Condors are spectacular and are not seen to often. However when you spot them they have got about a ten foot wing span and dwarf even eagles. Along with that compared to Turkey Vultures and Eagles who fly slow Condors are unbelievable fast flyers. That first Condor we only saw for about seven minutes to ten minutes then he was gone once he did not locate and dead seals to the next point.

Great pictures, makes me want to go on vacation!

Thanks! You should!
 

Motherlode Chameleon

Chameleon Enthusiast
I just drove down the Big Sur coast on Highway 1 on my way to Southern California and got my opportunity to attempt to spot California Condors. This time we pulled out at a good location and spotted a juvenile condor cruising the cliffs. He was an adopted wild fledged condor 501. Along with soon after two adult condors soaring high in the mountains much higher up than the are where the juvenile arrived. These two condors we were unable to spot the tags of these birds to identify them individually. This excursion, while observing these birds, a condor biologist showed up with telemetry equipment and I was able to have a good condor conservation conversation with for about an hour.

Cheers
 

absolutbill

Chameleon Enthusiast
Really great pics - thanks for sharing! I've only been to CA a couple of times but really enjoyed myself whenever I'm out there. That pic of the female elephant seals sunning themselves reminded me of our beaches during season, but those are different large mammals. :eek:
 

CNorton

Avid Member
The California Coast is so dynamic, there's just a widely varied experience out there! You can be on the dirty urban beaches of select Southern California beaches, to upscale...nearly private beaches for exclusive club members, surf beaches just outside nuclear reactor plants, to frigid pounding surf of Northern California. Some beaches shrouded by an ever-present fog who harbor happy banana slugs in vegetation just inches off the sand.

Love the thread Jeremy! Hopefully it's cool if I share some Big Sur pics of my wife and I last year...
pfge.jpg

Dear California, keep doing you and nevermind the stereotypes!
i72t.jpg
 

Motherlode Chameleon

Chameleon Enthusiast
The California Coast is so dynamic, there's just a widely varied experience out there! You can be on the dirty urban beaches of select Southern California beaches, to upscale...nearly private beaches for exclusive club members, surf beaches just outside nuclear reactor plants, to frigid pounding surf of Northern California. Some beaches shrouded by an ever-present fog who harbor happy banana slugs in vegetation just inches off the sand.

Love the thread Jeremy! Hopefully it's cool if I share some Big Sur pics of my wife and I last year...
pfge.jpg

Dear California, keep doing you and nevermind the stereotypes!
i72t.jpg

LOL its all good! At the end of this coastline on the Big Sur Highway there is even a population of Jacksons Chameleons (Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus):D.
 
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little leaf

Avid Member
wow- nice pics- I would so love to go there some day- my sis lives in Ca. she keeps inviting me to go there, I just may after seeing those pics :rolleyes: I love the little bits of info you provide with the pics :)
 

Motherlode Chameleon

Chameleon Enthusiast
Here's a couple of great vimeo video's of the wildlife along the Big Sur Coast. Go big screen.

[vimeo]65743707[/vimeo]

[vimeo]44473982[/vimeo]
 
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qdude46

Member
My family took a trip up to Monterey and then went back on highway one to Hearst castle and the. Back home. A lot of nice views. Where is this small Jackson population because I live in Orange County along the coast and I would love searching for some chameleons!
 

Motherlode Chameleon

Chameleon Enthusiast
My family took a trip up to Monterey and then went back on highway one to Hearst castle and the. Back home. A lot of nice views. Where is this small Jackson population because I live in Orange County along the coast and I would love searching for some chameleons!

Did you spot any California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus) on your drive? They are epic to watch. I have gone chameleon hunting twice in Moro Bay and have not found the colony yet. However I have only had about a half hour each time. If I had about a half a day I may have more opportunity to locate that population.
 

Motherlode Chameleon

Chameleon Enthusiast
Love the thread Jeremy! Hopefully it's cool if I share some Big Sur pics of my wife and I last year...
pfge.jpg

Dear California, keep doing you and nevermind the stereotypes!
i72t.jpg

Then here is some exceedingly rare wildlife that is occasionally found along the Big Sur Coast the Nortons :D LOL. You two picked some great vistas.
 
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