Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Joe Dickinson is back with some swell bird photos. His notes are indented.

Camping last month at Pinnacles National Park, we were struck by the density of the population of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) around the campground.  In the morning (when I took my d*g for a walk) they were clustered in a few trees.  I think there are five individuals in the first shot and ten in the second.

Here is a closer look at a mature adult with the characteristic red head (black in juveniles).

Jumping back a couple of years and up to Tomales Bay, here is an individual sunning itself.  The flight primaries are silvery and look almost white when catching the light.

Back to Pinnacles, here is one in flight.

In the late afternoon, soaring much higher (so a little blurry in the photo) is something much more exciting, a California condor (Gymnogyps califorianus), recognizable by the white patches under the wings (not to mention the numbered tag).

Altogether, we saw about a dozen condors, all at great distance.  To get closer, I take you back ten years and over the Grand Canyon, where I first saw “wild” (released) condors.

Here is some context.

Superficially, these are similar to the vultures, including the naked head that is red in mature adults.  But these birds are huge, with a wingspan over 160% of the vulture’s and a body mass about five time as great.

It is very cool to look down from above on condors soaring out over the canyon.  Here is one just launching.


  1. Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Fantastic birds

  2. Merilee
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    We’ve got a s**tload of turkey vultures at Rattlesnake Point, NW of Toronto. They nest in the crevices of the Niagara Escarpment and there is even a bronze plaque warning of the “fowl” ( I kid you not) odors emanating from the eggs sometimes broken by hawks.

  3. Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Very good. On our last visit to the Grand Canyon I also saw a condor. Jaw-droppingly big.

  4. Bruce Lyon
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Lovely shots. I wonder if the high numbers of vultures at the campground is because the campground is not far from where food is put out for the condors? When I camped at Pinnacles several years ago condors also roosted at night very close to the campground.

  5. Christopher
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    As a child who grew up reading kids nature magazines like Ranger Rick that talked about how close to extinction condors were, the idea that one could see them in the wild still sounds unbelievable. I am so envious!

    • Merilee
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      I used to love Ranger Rick!! Had forgotten all about it. I think my kids read it 30ish years ago.

  6. jeffery
    Posted May 5, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Years ago, a farmer wanted me to tear down an old barn for him and I went to take a look at it to see if their were enough materials in it to make it worth my while. It was an unusual structure, in that what would normally be an open “hayloft” was divided up into a series of rooms, apparently for storing grain. When I opened the door to the biggest one, there was a frantic, flapping “commotion” inside and, as I peeked in, I caught a glimpse of a Turkey Buzzard disappearing out of a large opening. On the bare wood floor in the middle of the room was a single large egg, surrounded by a thin ring of straw, barely meeting the definition of a “nest”. I didn’t bother it and left, and never got back to the project.

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