Thursday, July 20, 2006
At one time, every living California condor was in captivity. As the breeding stock expanded, they were slowly released back into the wild. One of the areas they have been released into is the Grand Canyon National Park. According to the National Park Service newsletter guide they hand out at the front gate, about 70 now live in the area.
I really didn’t have much hope of seeing any of these flying dinosaurs. I mentioned condors to my son who had been waiting for us outside the Hopi House gift shop and he said bored, “Yeah, there were two flying around just awhile ago.” He was more interested in eating lunch and taking a nap, not necessarily in that order.
His blasé reaction sent me into video and photo overdrive. We spent the next hour filming and photographing the various condors that were lazily soaring over the main tourist area. About four different condors made and appearance at one time or another, although they are hard to tell apart. I had no idea what they were up to except perhaps hoping one of us tourists would keel over for their lunch.
The National Park Ranger doing children’s programs in the area said that the condors appear at random times and often come in small groups. Her theory is they are as fascinated by us as we are of them. They definitely weren’t afraid of us.
Each condor has a large number painted on its wing and a GPS on its prehistoric claw. Number 72 decided to perch on a ledge just a few feet below the rim trail. He seems particularly photogenic since other people have taken his picture as well.
These massive birds are amazing in a brutally ugly way. A couple of years ago we went to the San Diego Zoo’s Animal Park and hiked all the way to the back to the exhibit areas to see a few sullen condors in captivity. Little did I know that to see these exotic soaring throwbacks in flight I just had to be on the south rim of the Grand Canyon at playtime.
Blatant Comment Whoring™: What is the ugliest/rarest/most exotic animal you have ever seen?