Every time I see a California Condor soaring over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon I get chills down my spine. To think that these amazing birds came within 22 individuals of becoming extinct in the 1980's makes me both very sad and incredibly hopeful. It is almost laughably easy to spot any of over 200 condors now living around Grand Canyon National Park. On many days, hundreds (if not thousands) of visitors are awed by the enormous size of these birds as they soar overhead, often so close you feel as though you can touch them.
Today, Sonja and I had yet another encounter with these relics from the Pleistocene, this time with our nephew from New Hampshire, Sean, who was seeing them for the very first time. And as you can see, my digiscoping abilities seem to be improving. I can't believe the detail that came out in this picture, particularly since I took it through our binoculars. But then, #81 is always photogenic.
They put on quite a show for us this afternoon. Not only were they incredibly close, but they kept landing then launching themselves off the cliff to go harass each other as more and more began to appear in the sky over the rim lodges.
I think the most we counted at one time was eight. And when that many birds, each with a wingspan approaching 10 feet, continually buzz your heads as you stand near the rim, it's easy to forget that California Condors are still critically endangered. Even non-birders can't help but be amazed at the spectacle of watching these living fossils soar once again over the Grand Canyon.
I put together a little montage of footage I took this afternoon while watching the condors fly overhead. Click on the arrow in the box below to watch it (make sure the sound is turned up).
I could have stood there for hours watching them fly around, but Sean and Sonja wanted to see more than just condors.
I couldn't really complain that much. Spending a day doing nothing but gazing down into the Grand Canyon is always worthwhile.
Even the plague-ridden rock squirrels agree.