Thursday, November 02, 2006

Finally some good news: first condor in Los Angeles

This story has it all: endangered species, artistic children, kindergarten teachers, and biological mysteries. The story is here but you have to register. However, registration is free and it's the L.A. Times, which is a pretty good paper as far as they go these days.

And it's a great story. Here are the first few paragraphs:


Like any good bird-lover, Gabriel Gottfried knew what to do when he spied the huge creature perched on a tree branch outside his Topanga Canyon home.

He grabbed his camera to document what experts say may be the first California condor to fly the canyon's skies in more than 100 years.

His action photo of the elusive bird taking wing was remarkable enough.

But perhaps not as remarkable as the fact that Gabriel is 5 years old.

"I'm five-and-a-half!" corrects the pint-sized photographer whose sharp eye and quick shutter finger are being saluted by conservationists throughout the rustic residential canyon between Woodland Hills and Malibu.

Wildlife experts who are hailing Gabriel's photo say it's conceivable that a condor was taking temporary refuge from the Day fire, the huge wildfire that ravaged parts of the Los Padres National Forest in September and October.

The forest's Sespe Condor Sanctuary and adjoining Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge is where captive-bred condors have been released in an attempt to reintroduce them to the wilds. Topanga Canyon — which at one point was peppered by ash from the Day fire — is within easy soaring range of the condor preserves.

Federal wildlife officials say the condors dispersed when the Day fire approached their sanctuary areas. All have since returned, Denise Stockton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Wednesday.

Stockton and others have studied Gabriel's photo in hopes of identifying the bird. But the silhouetted image is too dark to show identifying features or the numbers attached to all condors in the breeding program, she said.

"It's amazing," Stockton said of the child's handiwork.

The photograph depicts the giant bird — its head hunkered down and its powerful wings flexing — as it launches itself from a pine tree across the street from Gabriel's house.

Gabriel photographed the prehistoric-looking creature about a month ago after coming home from kindergarten.

When his nanny, Mayra Flores, commented on the big bird in the tree, Gabriel dashed to a hallway shelf where he keeps the digital point-and-shoot camera that his mother had given him. Just as he aimed it through his bedroom window, the bird took off.

"I'd never seen that kind of bird before," says Gabriel, wearing a shirt bearing the colorful image of a parrot-like toucan, as he points out the window toward the tree.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The photo was very amateurish. Poor composition, awful contrast; it wasn't even fully in focus. It looked like it could have been taken by a five-year-old.