Birding is more than just looking at birds. There are so many facets to this "hobby" or passion of ours. We sometimes will play the part of explorer or detective. Obviously observation plays a big role in all of this. The more we do it; the better we become. As time progresses, we grow individually and as a group collecting data for organizations like Audubon, AZFO, or Cornell University(aka Ebird). On the outing to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon last weekend, our focus was on nesting birds. However, as many of us discovered, there was a lot more happening than just nesting activity.
The first part of the journey began with our beautiful California Condors. They are still very much endangered due to lead poisoning. This, many times, happens when hunters use lead bullets instead of the copper ones. The lead spreads through the carcass that is left behind. At that point, scavengers will feast on those remains. Currently, the state of California has banned the use of lead, but Arizona and Utah have not. Therefore, Condors still face this threat. They are all tagged and checked each year. Often, several condors must undergo a detoxification process. Sadly, some will lose the battle. Hunters, for the most part, are responsible, but the lead poisoning continues which indicates that some may not be playing by the rules. One would think Arizona would move forward adopting a ban on lead similar to the one in California. My friend Ranger Gaelyn, the Geogypsy at the North Rim wrote in a comment, "In AZ, and now in UT, game & fish works on hunter education with 80-90% voluntary compliance. The lead problem may not be exclusively from hunters either.". Thanks Gaelyn for the info! If we can figure out the lead issue, these birds could make a strong comeback. Other issues that Condors face....Golden Eagles, coyotes and power lines.
On our outing, we tallied 5 CONDORS! As mentioned previously, all the condors are tagged. Each Condor was ID'd via the internet. There are places, like the Peregrine Fund, that helped me ID the backgrounds on each of these birds. The lettered Condors indicate that they were captive bred at the Portland Zoo. The websites also gave me the age, when they were released and how they were raised. For example, L3(above) was raised by a foster parent Condor while 53(below) was raised by a hand puppet:) It sounds funny, but it's true. Sometimes the Condors are raised by their biological parents in captivity or in a few cases.... the wild! This is great news for the Condors as their range is SLOWLY spreading into new areas. In fact, Utah has reported their first condor chick in the wild! Congrats!
Our main study revolved around nesting birds. There was quite a bit of bug collection going on everywhere we turned.
There were several stretches of burned trees along the North Rim. Now to the human eye, burned areas look like a stain on the landscape, but on closer inspection, we found that many woodpeckers and sapsuckers used these burned areas for nesting like this Williamson's Sapsucker below.
|Black-throated Gray Warbler|
The adventure continues......