Monday, April 12, 2010

Hoots, Howls, and Hollers 04/12/2010

Successes are wonderful to celebrate at Liberty Wildlife and last Thursday we cheered the departure of Condor #133. She is one tough bird and put up a great effort not to be loaded in her carrier….but at last in she went. Dr. Orr and I were fortunate enough to be the deliverers of #133 to her old digs at the Vermilion Cliffs at the Grand Canyon. We left in time to make the five hour drive to The Peregrine Fund’s Arizona field offices just before sunset. The next morning we would complete the last hour and a half trek to the release enclosure on the cliffs where she was to be released into the pen with the other captive condors to be observed, gain her flight strength and be ready for release back into the wild

It was interesting to us that she drove fairly quietly for a little over four hours, but as we neared the cliffs she began to rattle around in the carrier. The scientist in me assumes she was just tired of being cooped up….the romantic in me knows that she felt the essence of the canyon and home….who am I to say what they can sense….? We arrived as the sun set on the red cliffs. Layered strata could almost be experienced as the sun cascaded over each layer moving down through the history of times, bespeaking eons and hinting at creatures and times that once were.

The next morning we re-loaded her in the carrier which we hope was a last time for her. We drove through the rugged lands that she knows so well and unloaded the crate in the crisp morning air that would soon tickle her wings and carry her for miles like a kite into familiar skies with kindred spirits.

She was released from her carrier into the enclosure and unlike many large birds we deal with she didn’t frantically dart to a safe high spot…rather she approached a perch lumbering along the ground, looking in all directions with a cocked head and piercing eyes….checking it all out, familiarizing herself with her surroundings, strategizing her next move to make sure it was the right one for her at that moment….you could almost….almost…see the wheels turning. Who were these new companions? A bunch of youngsters not experienced in the way of the condor….she could teach them a thing or two…..and they sensed it….backing up to give her space when she finally decided which perch worked best for her.

We watched her gain strength in the short time she flew back and forth across the enclosure questioning the young gent on the higher perch, challenging him to move over so that she could assume the dominant position. He did. And, she did.

Dr. Orr drew blood from two others in the holding pen letting them go back into the wild when their lead levels tested normal. A lump on the head of a third condor was examined and excised, cleaned out and stitched back up. As each bird was held they seemed to quietly give into the indignities of it all, but undoubtedly they took it all in, stored the information for later use and took off as soon as human hands let them go. They soared into the blue skies, joining a kettle of condors welcoming a brother back into the fold.

Our trip home was lighter in many ways….lighter minus Condor #133, lighter in spirit seeing her back home, lighter knowing that we had succeeded once more despite the relentless impact/danger of lead in the environment. How senseless that the threat still remains. We can only hope that there is time before the next hunting season to effect the changes needed to eliminate the use of lead shot to keep #133 and others out of harm’s way completely. We are grateful for the dedicated field crew and staff that spend difficult, long hours to assist in the success of this program. Applause to all of you….

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