Day 1 continued: Condors Revisited
So, when I went back to review the last blog post, I realized that while I referred to condors in the first line, I did not say anything else about them.
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the population of condors fell so low that the decision to capture all of the remaining condors in the wild was made and done. Captive breeding programs were established at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and a few other locations that had successfully bred endangered species, and the population slowly grew until the 1990’s when several breeding pairs were released in a few safe locations away from civilization and where there were areas where there would not be any interference from people or hunting using lead shot, which is poisonous to a lot of wildlife, but especially to condors who eat carrion including animals that have been shot but not retrieved by the hunters.
So, once again, there are condors flying over the Grand Canyon and every once in a while you would see one. They have a massive wingspan of almost 10 feet and to see one close up is really awe-inspiring. The scale of the canyon is pretty massive and sometimes it dwarfs these impressive birds. They hang out at the Navajo Bridge, which crosses the Colorado River at Marble Canyon, and a really fun place to see them is to walk out on the old bridge and look down to the support structure and sometimes you can see 2 or 3 of them sitting there. Their talons are as big as the bolt heads used to hold that bridge together. They sit about 3 feet tall. The breeding success rate for new fledglings is pretty good and Peggy, our ranger, told us there were 4 new fledglings hanging around the Marble Canyon bridge still being fed by their parents. These birds are long lived and they have detailed records of the parentage of all the birds . All the captive released birds hade shoulder tags to identify them and fledglings when they come into the original release site, which can be baited with food to bring them in are also tagged.
So there are 4 new condors this year and one was sitting on top of the cliff, about 400 feet east of the Navajo Bridge and it looked almost as big as our friends who were standing on the bridge watching us go under the bridge. We saw condors soaring over the canyon yesterday as well when we stopped to scout Badger Rapid, and they were soaring with a red-tailed hawk, which is a big bird but looked sparrow-sized when compared with the condors. They are always amazing to see and was a highpoint in a day filled with highpoints on Wednesday.