High School Biology Class Visits Condor Country

Crossroads school field trip 2013

A high school field biology class from Santa Monica’s Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences recently visited Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, to learn about California condor recovery efforts, as well as observe condors in the wild. In addition to the 18 tenth and eleventh grade students, the group consisted of Crossroads School and Wind Wolves Preserve staff.

As part of their field study, the class explores Wind Wolves Preserve, a critical landscape linkage and wildlife corridor between the Coastal Ranges and the Sierra Nevada, as well as Bitter Creek’s neighbor to the east. Crossroads offers this course every other year, and according to instructor Frank Baele, their trip to the refuge is always a highlight.
In addition to catching a glimpse of North America’s largest soaring bird, the trip to Bitter Creek NWR complements classroom studies, and gives students an idea of what a field biologist does. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Biological Science Technician Devon Lang Pryor took the group to a hilltop observation point on the refuge for a radio telemetry demonstration and look across the canyon to condor roost and nest sites. 
While at the observation point, Pryor answered questions about careers with the Service, and gaining biological field experience through internships and volunteer opportunities. The Crossroads students took turns snapping photographs of themselves with landscape views of the refuge behind them, and of the scattered California poppies blooming on the hillsides.
Pryor and wildlife biologist Geoff Grisdale also offered the group a rare opportunity to observe five California condors from the free-flying population up close while being handled to replace radio transmitters and check blood lead levels. While each condor was in hand, they explained why staff trapped the birds and the process for attaching radio transmitters and taking a blood sample. The students were eager to ask questions about condor biology and behavior, observe the trap site, and take photographs of the magnificent birds.
After attaching new radio transmitters and performing health examinations, Grisdale and Pryor re-released the condors. Following their half-day at Bitter Creek NWR, the Crossroads students returned to Wind Wolves Preserve for additional field studies. The team at Hopper Mountain NWRC looks forward to seeing the next cohort of Crossroads Field Biology students in two years and the opportunity to introduce them to condors within their southern California range.

Contact Info: Devon Pryor, 805-644-5185, Devon_Pryor@fws.gov