Saturday, October 8, 2011

California Condor

Val's photo of a California Condor in the Vermillion Cliffs, near Page, AZ; 12/22/2009.
Two winters ago, Val and I decided to spend a few days in Northern Arizona and check out the Lake Powell area near Page, AZ.  This was to be a trip all about  the scenery and trying to get a few pictures of the beautiful high desert and the Lake.  On our first morning there we were planning to make the 100+ mile drive out towards Monument Valley, when we were met with heavy fog (Below) and a fierce snow storm which forced us to turn back before we had gone even 30 miles.  Being in Arizona, I figured the snow would be temporary and we could drive through it, but it didn't stop or even lighten up; it became heavier with each mile. I never thought snow would accumulate so quickly in Northern Arizona, even in December, but both the snow and fog were thick, and with our little rent-a-car, we knew it wouldn't handle the conditions and reluctantly turned around and headed back to Page.

A lonely windmill peaking through the thick fog, Page, AZ; 12/22/2009.

Snow on a Prickly Pear Cactus, Page, AZ; 12/22/2009.
By the time we returned to Page, the snow stopped, but it was still foggy, and we needed an alternate plan. We decided to go in the opposite direction and head for the Vermillion Cliffs to try to get some photos showing the contrast of the snow on deep red rocks (Below) and desert vegetation (Above).
Snow on a "headless Sphynx-looking" rock formation in the Vermillion Cliffs; 12/22/2009.

Red cliffs showing through the lifting fog near Horse Shoe Bend, AZ; 12/22/2009.
Even though we didn't get to see the beautiful Vermillion Cliffs glowing in the sun, the fog and snow made for some cool dramatic photos (Above). While we were exploring the Vermillion Cliffs area we came across the Navajo Bridge spanning across the Colorado River. It was constructed in 1929, and is now a pedestrian bridge with a newer auto bridge constructed alongside it in 1995. We stopped to walk across the bridge in hopes of getting some cool Colorado River pics, so I just brought my 18-55mm and wide angle lenses with me. When we reached the other end of the bridge I spotted a huge black bird sitting on the cliff side and knew it wasn't a vulture and far too large for a crow or raven. It turned out to be a Condor (Top and Below) and I immediately regretted not bringing my 200mm lens with me.

A California Condor with a number tag (#4) on it, Vermillion Cliffs, AZ; 12/22/2009.
I managed a couple of long distance shots, hoping one might be worth keeping. The best I managed was a soft photo (Above) that I had to zoom in on the computer just to be able to see what it was.  Val had her Tamron 18-270mm lens and some nice photos of a Condor with a #17 tag on it (Top of page in which I cloned out the tag in Photoshop). We weren't sure what was up with the tags but upon returning to our hotel in Page and doing some research, it wasn't hard to figure out that the birds we saw were California Condors, which were reintroduced in Southern California and the Grand Canyon in 1992 after being on the brink of extinction with less than 100 left in the wild by 1970. California Condors are the largest flying bird in North America at almost 4 feet long and a wingspan of 9 feet.  For more information check out the link to a National Geographic article below...
These magnificent birds are mostly black in their juvenile stage, which are the Condors we saw and as they mature, their heads become a brilliant orange and grow white underwing coverts.  I would love to see an adult California Condor some day, but felt very fortunate to see a couple of them in the wild as a great treat to what I thought was just a sight seeing trip.
Snow melting off some desert vegetaion, Page, AZ; 12/22/2009.

1 comment:

John Longhenry said...

Wonderful commentary and photos Jon, looks like you were able to get rather close to the Condors. Thanks for sharing.