Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Beautiful, aren’t they?
I have always been curious about the California Condors. We knew they frequented the Grand Canyon, and looked for them faithfully at our annual visits. Unfortunately, we always came away hoping for next time. They are the largest flying bird in North America, with a wingspan that can reach up to eleven feet. They soar and glide up to 50 miles per hour using thermal updrafts.
They live up to 60 years and mate for life, but sadly the female lays only one egg every two years.
They are one of the rarest birds, still on the endangered list, and they amaze everyone who has the privilege to observe their majestic flight.
The return from our trek to White Pocket introduced us to Ciera, at the Condor Viewing Site along House Rock Road. She is an Ornithologist with the Peregrine Fund and she monitors the condors at Vermillian Cliffs. We are forever grateful for her knowledge and her time. She told us of the Condor release in the Fall of 2020, and talked of her connection to the large vultures. She also showed us their most frequent hangouts.
The cliff she was looking at was three miles away. The scope shows us a white mass where six were gathering in a place known as the local bar. The team of ornithologists watches them at sunset to be sure they nest safely. They make easy prey for mountain lions and coyotes if they aren’t tucked in for the night. A simple scatter by her team member on top of the cliff encourages a safe ledge.
Ciera made us promise to go to Navajo Bridge, Marble Canyon before 9AM the next day. She knew it was exactly what we needed. She was right. We arrived as the birds were warming up with the morning sun. They sit along the canyon and the bridge until they are ready to take flight.
Sometimes sitting here for hours with their wings open.
They are a social group and clearly communicate with head nods, wing flaps and chest feathers.
They are all tagged and chipped.
They are monitored so closely that if rangers discover they are gathering, they go to the location of a possible carcass, to inspect it. Lead poisoning from spent ammunition is the number one cause of death among condors.
They eventually take flight. After all, there is work to do and things to see.
And it sure is a nice place to call home. Good morning from the Colorado River at Navajo Bridge, and Lee’s Ferry.
Wind Kisses, Donna