Posts Tagged ‘California condor’

“I think we consider too much of the early bird, and not enough of the bad luck of the early worm.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I hope you already have had breakfast when you view this photo of the first California condor born in captivity. — From my 1983 scrapbook memories.

A Historic First

I was regional editor at the Time-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1983, when the first California condor was hatched in captivity from an egg taken from the wild. It was a Saturday night, and the Associated Press sent out a news release of the birth, along with color separations for a photo that could be used with the story. This was before digital capabilities and when color in a newspaper, except for the comics, was not an everyday occurrence.

A bit less bloody photo of a young California condor and a parent. — Wikimedia photo

I was in charge of putting out the Sunday front page, and since it was a slow news night, I decided to use the condor wire piece as the lead story above the fold. It wasn’t hard to convince myself of the story’s significance, as it included the information that there were then less than 30 of the birds known to exist in the world.

California condors are North America’s largest bird, having a wing span of almost five feet, and weighing up to 25 pounds. The near extinction of these birds in the 20th century was caused by hunting, lead poisoning, loss of habitat, and the prolific use of DDT before it was banned.  The pesticide caused the condor’s eggs to have soft shells, which then didn’t survive to hatching.

And this is what they grow up to look like. — Wikimedia photo

Anyway, I assigned the story to the front page, wrote a headline, and informed the press room that I wanted the condor chick photo to be in color, a task they weren’t too happy to fulfill. I knew getting the color separations coordinated exactly right was tricky, but I had fallen in love with that tiny ball of ugly fluff that was the newborn condor. He was so ugly he was beautiful – at least in my mind.

I should have listened to the pressmen.

The image that greeted Sunday morning Times-News readers was anything but pretty. The color plates had dumped out an image that looked like it had been soaked in witch’s blood. Even I was appalled. And readers sent a barrage of letters to the paper complaining that the photo had spoiled their Sunday morning breakfasts.

I had barely stepped inside the newsroom on Monday morning when I was told to report to the managing editor’s office, where I found a displeased boss. I defended my choice of story as being historic – and my use of the color photo as a bad mistake.

Thankfully I kept my job. But it was too late to stop the damage to my soul – I had fallen in love with the carrion scavenging condors, and their good-news, survival story, which I have been following ever since. We humans, who almost destroyed the condors, helped made it up to these birds.

As of 2012, there were 405 known condors; in 1987, there were only 27.  Today, more than 200 of these condors are once again flying free, mostly over Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico.

I was privileged to see two of them flying wild and free near the east entrance to Zion National Park in the 1990s.

Bean Pat: The way forward https://thewhyaboutthis.com/2018/02/18/the-way-forward/#like-26548 Yes, yes and yes!

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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