Grand Canyon: Condor Patrol

We finally moved to the Grand Canyon in the first week of January, 2013. Anne began working as an educator and I began my position as the Indian Gardens Condor Hermit.

Unlike our overnight visit a week before, the weather at the Grand Canyon was back to normal with clear views from the South Rim. These first four pictures show different views to the north from the Bright Angel Lodge area looking down into Indian Gardens. Key features include the large, relatively flat formation to the west known as the Battleship; the cottonwood-shaded canyon front and center is Indian Gardens itself; the visible trial heads north over the Tonto and finally leads to Plateau Point when it terminates at the final cliff above the Colorado River; the enormous canyon that continues north from the river is Bright Angel.

To get some idea of scale, Plateau Point is about 5 km (3 mi) away from this vantage point, but requires 10 km (6 mi) of walking to get there. In addition, Plateau is also 1000 m (3000 ft) lower in elevation than the South Rim.

















The next series of images includes a Juniper Titmouse singing from the top of a Piñon Pine; a Gray-headed Junco (a southwestern subspecies of the Dark-eyed Junco); a Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis); a Mountain Chickadee with Piñon nut; a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay; an American Crow; Anne, excited to be at GRCA; South Rim views; Spotted Towhee.

















































On Monday, January 7, Anne and I began our jobs at Grand Canyon and I hiked down with my boss, Janice, to begin a 6-week “backpacking” trip.

Prior to 2013, we’d made a couple of attempts to see California Condors in Utah and California. In 2008, when I was involved in Bridgerland Audubon Society, Anne and I went to Zion with birder-poet Chris Cokinos for a meeting of the Utah Audubon Council. We took a field-trip to a high area where the condors were rumored to roost, but didn’t see them there. Knowing what I know now, we might have been 10 paces from a condor without knowing it…

Last year, while driving home to Fallbrook from Jordan McKible’s wedding, we got lucky north of Big Sur. The sighting was a total surprise, and Anne first spotted the giant bird soaring over a coastal ridge where we’d parked to get a view of sea and shorebirds from the coastal highway. The huge bird flew high over the ridge and then dropped out of our sight. Turkey Vultures were also soaring high that day, giving us a useful comparison.

With those experiences under my belt, Janice and I went for a hike from the Indian Village  to Plateau Point on Wednesday morning. Condor 634, a young female, had not yet learned to fear humans. Without developing a wilder attitude, her wild existence would be in serious danger. This was my opportunity to help this bird mature into a wild, free-flying condor rather than a glorified zoo attraction or worse. As I walked up onto Plateau Point for the very first time, 634 spread her three-meter wings toward the eastern sun from down on the cliffs below.





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