Thursday, February 17, 2011

Soaring with the Condors

While in Big Sur I was hoping for a spotting of the critically endangered California Condor, but I never imagined I would be so lucky as to see nine of them soaring through the sky.  The condor is the largest North American Land Bird and has the largest wingspan which can grow to over 9 feet long.  The bird population dripped drastically in the 20th Century due to poaching, lead poisoning and habitat destruction and were forced to the brink of extinction.  Luckily in 1987 the government created a plan to capture the 22 remaining wild birds and placed them in breeding programs in the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos.  Starting in 1991 the birds have been slowly reintroduced to the wild and as of November 2010 there are 381 known living condors, 192 of them are in the wild.  They are considered one of the world's rarest birds so it was very exciting to get to see them in their natural habitat.  I had called ahead and tried to plan an excursion with the Ventana Wildlife Society, but they were closed for the holiday.  Luckily I ran into a scientist from the society tracking condors at my hotel and we got to chat for a bit and she took me to a park where they like to hang out and by total chance as we drove up 9 of them were soaring around above us.  I hope to go back and get to spend more time with them (and with a more powerful lens).   All of the condors are tagged for tracking and if you get a clear picture of the tag you can go online and learn about the bird on VWS's website.  I watched #94 for a while and got some good shots while she flew low and learned from the website that she is almost 8 years old, was hatched in San Diego, and goes by the name Late Bloomer!   For more information on the condor and to learn how you can help this critically endangered species check out the VWS.
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