Saturday, July 17, 2010

Condor Quest

I didn't know what I was getting myself into. When I called my buddy Tim a couple days prior to our already spontaneous roadtrip, I was expecting that we'd just maraud around the southern Sierra Nevada as we did last time. Tim, however, had other ideas.

"Wanna go see condors?" he asked.

"Big Sur? Sure!" I replied, only vaguely aware that Big Sur is a five-hour drive from Weldon (which, in turn, is over three hours from my house.)

We did not, however, limit ourselves to condors. Instead, we roamed and rampaged central California, finding lots of other interesting creatures: Sooty Grouse, Flammulated Owl, Sea Otters, Spotted Owl, Humpback Whale, Burrowing Owl, Purple Martin, Elephant Seal, Snowy Plover, Black Swift...

You get the idea. It was a fabulous trip. The condors, however, were the pinnacle of the expedition (well, except maybe for that pizza.)

The road through Big Sur is treacherous. In addition to the numerous bikers, backpackers, and the occasional Segway you have to avoid, the highway is more twisted and bent than a yoga extraordinaire. Around one rather ordinary-looking curve we swung, and WHAM--a California Condor was circling a mere hundred feet over the road. My brain was too flabbergasted to fully analyze the situation, so I simply began bellowing to attract Tim's attention. I hastily (and perhaps just a wee bit recklessly) swerved off the road to a dirt pulloff, and we scuttled from the car faster than mice being pelted with hats.

Whooping with delight, we watched the gargantuan bird lazily soared just overhead. Those long wings, the splayed primaries, the pathetically short tail, the gray head (it was an immature)...we soaked in every detail. Eventually, the beast began drifting south, so we hopped into the Subaru (our starship of choice) and pursued it along the coastline.

This time it was Tim who started shouting. "MORE!" he screamed, wildly gesturing at a fog-shrouded hillside. The condor had been joined by four more. They spiraled in a captivating wheel, shimmering in and out of the fog until they were mere specters.

Tim described it as the best moment of his life. I'm not sure I agree...but it was pretty darn awesome.


Donna said...

How awesome! I always dream of seeing condors every time I go to CA. Have yet to see them though! Fantastic sighting!

ILBirder said...

Man, that's so awesome. Also, way to drive a Subaru. I had one that almost hit 300,000 but pooped out on me :( That's the first car I'm buying once I have the money again.

Jeff Schultz said...