Well hey! It’s 2020 now 🙂
I spent the last 25 days on the #ColoradoRiver in #GrandCanyon but immediately before leaving on January 14th, I had a crazy schedule and still have so much to share with you all.
I volunteered with a friend at #ZionNationalPark for a week! As volunteers, wehazed the #CaliforniaCondors. A chick was born below the very popular Angel’s Landing hike and is getting too close to hikers.
This chick is also a very special one. In 1982, there were only 22 California Condors left in the world and this chick is the 1,000th born after recovery efforts started in the 80s. A total success story even though the California Condor is still considered critically endangered.
1k, as we affectionately refer to this new condor, was born in June and although it is full size, it’s still learning to fly and flaps around more than its parents who are well seasoned to flying and may travel as much as 150 miles in one day. 1k hangs around but doesn’t understand that the human population isn’t one that it should be too familiar with, so it is landing in trees at #ScoutsLanding and also #AngelsLanding.
1k still has a black head and looks a little different from its mature parents. We don’t know its sex yet and won’t until its captured and tagged, the way that all of the California Condors are.
I learned about the problems and difficulties training this big bird from park wildlife biologist, Janice. Janice was once a biologist at #GrandCanyon where we became friends but having not seen her and her husband Geoff for a few years, I thought this would be the perfect winter volunteer opportunity for me.
Like most Grand Canyon guides and seasonal professionals, I don’t work all that much in the winter. The wintertime is the best time for canyon adventures, hiking and otherwise, as well as #elopements as permits are easy to get and there are quiet lulls in visitation for #intimateweddings. This winter, I was particularly slow and jumped at the chance to explore around another #nationalpark.
I decided to invite my ranger friend and Grand Canyon lover , Haley. I knew she wasn’t working either and because the two of us live love and breath Grand Canyon, we already developed a love for the condor population as they are also living here at #GrandCanyon.
We spent our time hiking up to Scout’s Landing each day and met up with Condor Ray who is a regular volunteer that lives in the area. He used telemetry to see if the parents of 1k were in our area. 1k, isn’t tagged yet so we needed to check in with the parents in order to find it. Once the sun came out, the big birds gave us all a show and flew by many visitors, I could now see this issue for myself.
When we checked into our volunteer housing, we were issued radios and water guns, blow horns and tools to haze the condors from the area. We spent a lot of time answering questions from visitors who wondered why we had transported super soakers to the landing in January. It was a great opportunity to educate the public about how to behave around this endangered species. We told them to haze the birds if they landed too close with a toss of some sand or a snowball to the it’s feet.
On one of the very last days that I volunteered with Haley, we didn’t have much condor activity. I was perched at the saddle for a long time when I finally radioed in that I would start making my way back. Of course as soon as I arrived at Scout’s Lookout again, 1k took off and landed in a tree up on Angel’s Landing. Haley, Ray and I looked at eachother. We were tired from the day and not one of us made a swift move to hike up and haze the bird.
We watched as some visitors walked over to the tree that it was perched in. We had to do something and Ray was just about to put on the crampons and hike out when we heard other visitors on the landing yell out. They were yelling, scare it away. And then there was even more activity we could see the silhouettes moving around on the landing and people getting too close when we noticed someone preparing. I could see the arm windup, he threw a snowball and another and the bird took off. Everyone at Scout’s and Angel’s Landing rejoiced together. We were a team, people knew what to do because we were there to educate them. It was a moment of pure elation and satisfaction.
To top it all off, the person who hazed the condor for us was JUST #engaged at Scout’s Lookout. I told him we had to give him a prize and I recreated some #surpriseengagementphotos for him and his new fiance. It was amazing to be able to offer my best gift to him and I would love to shoot a #zionelopement or be a #zionnationalparkphotograher in the future <3
Though the next day, I volunteered alone and needed to haze the condor chick three times with a water gun, I knew my time was well spent and thought back to the day before and the success we felt. I immediately checked in with Janice when I was off the river and 1k seems to be behaving a little bit better now 🙂
There is so much more to say about these amazing prehistoric creatures – read on with the The Peregrine Fund.