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Pinnacles National Monument

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  • Debbie Viess
    If you have never seen the grand spectacle of California Condors in flight, now would be a good time to venture down (or up, depending) to Pinnacles National
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2005
      If you have never seen the grand spectacle of California Condors in
      flight, now would be a good time to venture down (or up, depending) to
      Pinnacles National Monument, one of the condor release sites. Although I
      sadly missed the truly wild condors in their last days of freedom, these
      semi-tame birds do a pretty good imitation. Pinnacles Campground (just
      to the East of the park) is the hotspot for sightings. Our campsite
      (#25, if you must know) offered fine views of soaring birds on our first
      afternoon there.the perfect backdrop to cocktails. We saw three of these
      thunderbirds that day. The condor's incredibly long, straight wings
      (from 10-13 feet!!!) and dramatically extended "fingers", as well as
      their pale wing pattern at the leading edge (rather than trailing, as
      per T.V.s) created an unmistakable spectacle. Alas, no serendipitous
      sightings on the next day. As we did our final campground birding pass
      on our last morning there, we noticed a cluster of people gathered in
      the road. There, perched in a tall pine directly over someone's picnic
      table, was a juvenile condor, # 06. I was struck by the very flat
      profile of his (her?) head and beak, and the beautiful black, spiky,
      shiny ruff of a feather boa around his neck. Marring the view were the
      large patagial tags, on both wings, announcing his number to the world;
      dual transmitters were also attached (a lot of hardware for these
      micromanaged birds). After many long minutes of viewing, he unfurled his
      stupendous wings into a sunning position, the tips curled in. What a
      spectacle. Neither my husband nor I wanted to run back to our site for
      our camera, lest we miss the take-off. Finally, our campsite condor
      straightened his wings and soared off, passing over the road and another
      family standing in thrall. The little boy looked up in wonder, and
      exclaimed, "I will remember this for the rest of my life!" Me too.
      Debbie Viess
      Oakland, CA


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