"....The truth is out there."
-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Saturday, November 06, 2010
-- "A Beautiful Moment," Indeed--
Gloom versus hope... (again, off-topic IBWO-wise):
After thinking about Passenger Pigeons for awhile I browsed various bird news websites looking for some POSITIVE news related to birds... difficult to find amidst the plethora of negative reports. But did finally settle on a short uplifting blurb regarding California Condors... some hope for these birds that are so magnificent and beautiful in their ugliness!:
(image via Wikimedia)
In turn, this reminded me of an old favorite article, that always gives me a chuckle, from earlier days of the Condor release program. I've actually run this before here in the distant past, but will do so once again:
"Cocksure Condors" By Bob Saberhagen Californian correspondent
"PINE MOUNTAIN — When former Sierra Club national chairman Les Reid helped pass the 1992 Condor Range and Rivers Act to provide habitat for the endangered California condor, he never thought he would have them in his bed. Monday, while working at the computer in the downstairs den of his rustic Pine Mountain home, the 84-year-old environmental activist heard noises coming from the top floor. There Reid was greeted by eight giant California Condors cavorting in his bedroom. They had ripped through the screen door leading from an outside deck of the hillside home nearly 6,000 feet above sea level.
One bird was carrying Reid's underwear around in his mouth, he said. "It was a beautiful moment," said Reid."They just stood there looking at me. They weren't afraid of this old white-haired gentleman." The group in Reid's bedroom was part of a gang of 15 young birds that invaded the mountain community a week ago and decided to stay. The 15 are among only 29 of the huge vultures flying free in California, part of a recovering population that totals only 167 after nearly becoming extinct in the 1980's.
Dubbed the "The Wrecking Crew" by biologists chasing them, the wandering birds have spent the past few days making their presence well-known to residents of the mountain community south of Bakersfield. But so far, to the dismay of some residents, a team of biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California Condor Recovery Program has been unable to chase the endangered birds back to the wild.
While many locals marvel at their graceful daily flights over the village, others are not so pleased. The giant vultures, averaging 20 pounds each with wingspans of 9 or more feet, have been soaring from home to home at the higher elevations, startling several occupants with destructive, noisy — and messy — visits to their decks and rooftops. Homeowners report the birds have destroyed patio furniture, potted plants and insulated wires. They've also torn up roofing shingles while leaving huge amounts of droppings in their destructive wake.
Recovery team members have been in hot pursuit, chucking pinecones at them when they land, but the birds just flee from house to house. Their apparent lack of fear toward humans has Fish and Wildlife biologists concerned for the safety of the group. The birds were born in captivity in San Diego and released over the past three years in Lion Canyon near New Cuyama in northern Santa Barbara County.
"If they keep this up they could end up back in captivity," said biologist Mike Barth who, with team partner Tom Williams, has spent the past several days trying to convince the birds to leave the area and shy away from contact with humans. Pine Mountain resident Patti Fields resorted to squirting them with a garden hose after they ignored her shouts, but they continue to return to her home each time biologists flush them from another. "I just scrubbed the deck the day before they first showed up," she said, her nose wrinkled at the mess on her roof and wooden deck. "They sound like an army marching across your roof."
The birds can drop a cup or more of excrement at a time, Williams said. While undesirable, the group's behavior is not all that unusual. Condors have in the past been known to frequent areas populated by humans.
"It's normal for juveniles to hang out together and they have a tendency to tear things up," Williams said.
This group recently spent some time in the Stallion Springs area of Tehachapi, where Fish and Wildlife workers are presently going door to door telling people not feed or encourage them. They have also visited homes near Lake Cachuma. Recovery program officials said they are being tolerant — for now.
"We're hoping that when they start breeding they'll stop this kind of behavior," said Deputy Project Coordinator Greg Austin. "We don't want to see these birds doing these things. Right now we're giving them some slack." Austin said the birds, ranging in age from 2 to 5 years old, will reach sexual maturity at age 6. Only 167 California condors are in existence today. They were near extinction in 1987 when the last of 22 remaining wild birds were captured and placed in a captive breeding program. So far, 49 condors have been released to the wild since 1992, when the first 13 were released. Twenty of those are presently in Arizona with the remaining 29 in California.
Ideally, biologists prefer the California-released birds remain within the 467,000 acres of habitat in the Los Padres National Forest provided for them in the Condor Range and Rivers Act. Outside the wilderness the birds face a host of urban dangers. Condors have died drinking anti-freeze, by electrocution after landing on power poles, and others have become ill eating carrion containing lead bullets. Many of the problems have been solved by using aversion training methods, including use of mock power poles that jolt them with a low voltage shock. But this group of juveniles seems to have forgotten lessons taught in the negative conditioning classes, especially the portion regarding fear of humans.
Among other perils they face here is the possibility they might collide with power lines during their low-level flights through the community. "They can spread their wings and electrocute themselves," Barth said. Austin said efforts to train the birds are being thwarted by well-meaning people who feed and encourage their presence.
Officials ask that residents stay at least 100 feet away from them. "If they approach, clap your hands and yell to scare them off," said Williams. Above all, don't feed them, he stressed.
Williams said condors normally feed up to twice weekly on the carcasses of deer, cattle and other large, dead animals found in the wilderness. Officers said they will continue attempts to persuade the birds to leave the area where their activities will be constantly monitored. "We're going to keep tabs on them, document where they go and what they're feeding on," Williams said. "We just want to keep them out of trouble," he added."