California Condors

November 10, 2019 at 3:10 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) ()

California Condor – Orange 77

I have seen California Condors, mostly from a distance, though I did see some juveniles close enough to read their wing tags about five years ago at Pinnacles National Monument.

Purple 54 and Orange 20

But on Nov. 9, 2019 I was fortunate to go on our tour of the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California where I saw approximately 8 free-flying and 14 captive condors in the flight pen.

Orange 77

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife 2016 report on the California Condor Recovery Program, the total world population of condors is 446, with 166 wild in California, 76 in Arizona/Utah, and 34 in Baja, Mexico.

Blue 28

Of the California population, there are a total of 82 in Southern California (2017 report) and 86 in Central California.

Black 40

Many in the flight pen were captive-raised and were to be released after learning from the older mentor bird how to interact, feed and fly. Some were trapped for medical checkups.

Pink 64 juvenile and a raven at flight pen

The wild birds are often at the pen, either waiting for their mates to be released, or perhaps as support or out of curiosity.

We met a few miles from the refuge entrance and were escorted to the bunkhouse where we carpooled to two observation points. The first one (above) had a view of the flight pen.

Flight pen

We were told that the condors generally become active around mid-morning when the thermals are stronger. Since they are also curious, they flew close to us to check us out.

Unfortunately they were against the light, so their coloration isn’t as clear.

Orange 77
Orange 20

Soaring against the expansive hills was a majestic sight.

Blue 28

We had lunch and then visited a hillside opposite of the first one. The light was much better, but the birds kept their distance. I wish our first visit had been to this side instead when the birds were more curious.

Flight pen.

Juvenile condors have black/gray heads, and attain their full adult coloration of white-underside wings and red heads around age six.

I drove home through one of my favorite places – Carrizo Plain National Monument. After six or seven months without rain, it was barren, a sharp contrast to the lushness of the flower-covered landscape in late winter.

Carrizo Plain- Elkhorn Hills backdropped by Temblor Range

There were hundreds of antelope squirrel holes, and I looked for burrowing owls but without success. I did catch two of the San Joaquin antelope squirrels, a species considered threatened in California.

San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel
San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel

There were very few birds actively foraging. I saw some white-crowned and lark sparrows at the southern end at a spring in an old farm yard, a flock of sagebrush sparrows and horned larks, and a single red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawk

There were more birds at the northern end, but by then I was rushing to get home by dark.

It was an exceptional day, and an amazing condor experience. Thanks to our tour guides for giving us this opportunity. Check out the Bitter Creek NWR website to join a future tour.

For more information on the California Condor:

Defenders of Wildlife

California Dept of Fish & Wildlife

US Fish & Wildlife

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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Salton Sea Birds

March 16, 2019 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Burrowing Owl male

One of the great joys of living in California four years ago was discovering the burrowing owls at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge on the Salton Sea in Southern California’s Imperial Valley.

On my trip to view the wildflower bloom in the desert, I stopped by specifically to look for them. I was not disappointed.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

September 16, 2018 at 1:23 pm (Bird photography, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

May 2011

I have several GB of images I’ve never gotten around to editing. I found this folder while looking for another old file, and decided to edit it. Unfortunately these were taken with the Nikon D80 and the sharpness is not good. They look fine on the web, though. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bald Eagles

January 23, 2018 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography) ()

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Juvenile Bald Eagle

A family of bald eagles lives in Lockwood, California, not far from Fort Hunter Liggett.

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I saw this adult, and then a few minutes later saw two juveniles. One had caught a ground squirrel and landed in an oak tree to eat it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pretty Pintails

January 22, 2018 at 7:06 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Photography)

Northern pintail drake

Several northern pintail ducks at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge near Sacramento, California were at the pond at the beginning of the auto tour. The soft light brought out the subtle colors and designs in their plumage.

Between snoozing, preening, swimming and feeding, the pintails deserve a post of their own. Read the rest of this entry »

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Colusa NWR Birds

January 21, 2018 at 9:13 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography)

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Black-necked stilt

It was another foggy day at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, but it didn’t seem to bother the birds much at the Colusa NWR to the south. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morro Bay Birds

January 16, 2018 at 8:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

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Morro Rock

Morro Bay and the coastline to the north and south of it is my favorite part of the California Coast. It is also the most picturesque and interesting from my point of view. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sacramento NWR in the Fog – Day 2

January 15, 2018 at 7:06 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

Tundra Swans

Even though the thick fog kept me inside until noon and persisted all day, it lent a beautiful background with muted palette to the photographs. There were perhaps thousands of tundra swans in the wet fields enroute to the Llano Seco unit northwest of the main refuge, and the above image is by far my favorite of the day. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge – Day 1

January 14, 2018 at 11:16 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography)

Snow Goose

A lot has happened since my last post (moving to California for one), so I have some catching up to do. But first I’ll share the most recent images of my travels. Three-day weekends give an opportunity for mini-expeditions, and I chose the Sacramento NWR for its winter birdlife.

Northern Shrike

This is the first time I’ve seen a northern shrike up close, and it caught the waning light of the afternoon before the sun dipped behind the clouds on the horizon. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Touch of Nature in Maryland

October 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm (Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bugs, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography) ()

I’m visiting Maryland at the moment, and had a chance to visit the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center  during some down time. Several sweet whitetail does posed pretty for me. This gal has a floppy ear for some reason. Read the rest of this entry »

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