Thursday, July 20, 2006

Condor Canyon

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?


Elizabeth said...

When I lived in Nome we had Musk Ox all around the area. They are the strangest looking animals. In the spring they would shed and leave clumps of their coat on the willows. We would following behind and collect it. I never did anything with the fur, but I still have garbage bags full of it in my garage.

Anonymous said...

"What is the ugliest/rarest/most exotic animal you have ever seen?"

Probably head lice.

Keep the trip reports comin'!


Anonymous said...

I've been living in a rural village on the edgge of a national park in Germany for a little over a year now, so I see all kinds of not so common critters: Foxes, hedgehogs, a lot of different species of birds, roe deer. Probably the rarest and the coolest are the red kites (Milvus milvus) that are around from the early spring to the late fall. They're gorgeous birds and a real delight to watch flying around. (It doesn't take long to see why toy kites got that name.)

Mooselet said...

Living in Australia, I see lots of things that Americans (like myself) think are cool, like kookaburras and wallabies and the kangaroo that bounded in front of my car at dusk one night. I've also seen some cool lizards in the backyard, and I don't particularly like reptiles.

I've never seen a crocodile in the wild, and I hope I never do, but to see them at Australia Zoo (yes, Steve Irwin's place) is fascinating. They also have some cassowaries, which is a very odd looking flightless bird that looks like it belongs with the dinosaurs.

dykewife said...

a whooping crane. i saw one at a bird refuge in southern saskatchewan once.

liz, did you know you have a gold mine in your garage? musk ox wool is really quite expensive to buy and knits into marvelous sweaters.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous pictures! We saw bighorn sheep in Canada, at a rest stop on a major highway, somewhere around Jaspar National Park, I think. And what we thought was a bear, from very away, in Montana near Hungry Horse Dam.


Pixel said...

Three toed sloths trying to cross the road as quickly as possible (i.e., not very) while vultures hovered overhead, sensing, knowing, maybe even praying for a bad sloth/car outcome.

Rhino beetles (as big as your, uh, nose or something)

Cutter ants. So interesting, and beautiful to watch while they're working.

Howler monkeys: Ugly, loud, and utter bullies. But once you know that they aren't 18 ft. tall, they're slightly cuter, though still too loud.

Anonymous said...

There's a small alligator in a pond near my brother's house but in Florida that's not so exotic.

I once saw a Bald Eagle up close. I was in a wildlife preserve that had a nature path. The eagle had been injured by a hunter a few years earlier and couldn't fly, so they were caring for it and perched it on this tree branch in the middle of the path. They'd designed this "island" in the middle of the path and you couldn't get any closer than about six feet from it, but six feet from a Bald Eagle is a pretty cool view.

Derek said...

Here, I do not actually imagine it will have effect.
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