Posts Tagged ‘Endangered Species’

I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that it finally stopped raining!  The bad news is that this has happened just in time for us to go home.  Happily, our last day in Maine was spectacular, both weather-wise and fun-wise.

I know I’ve been a little vague about The Great Puffin Quest.  My reasons for doing so may seem odd to you, but, like that California Condor business, “See puffins” has long been a Bucket List item for me.  I was loath to jinx it by saying “we’re gonna go see puffins!  Neener neener!” just in case the whole thing went to hell like the whale-watching plan did.  I think I can speak for us all when I say that nobody likes to end up looking like one of those dorks who brags about all the stuff they’re gonna do and then end up with nothing but a handful of lamo excuses.

Anyhoo, the thing about puffins is that the little wheezers only come ashore for a very brief time each year to…er…well, y’know…beget puffinlets upon each other and whatnot.  When they do this stuff, they don’t really want us to watch, understandably, so they hide.  Most of this hiding goes on way out in the ocean on little rock-pile island-ettes.  As you might surmise, this makes the whole “See puffins” thing a tad dodgy as Bucket List items go.

For some reason, I had been under the erroneous illusion that one could simply arrive in Maine and say, “Yo, Where’re the puffins at?” someone would point, and we’d all live happily ever after.  Sadly, this was not the case.

The first roadblock came when we arrived in Maine initially (early last week) only to learn that the puffin tours weren’t scheduled to begin until June 13th, and that there would be only one tour per week (!!) for the course of the puffin mating season.  I feel we adapted rather well to this news:  I pouted pathetically and Bob rearranged our entire trip…once his query of “Do we really need to see the stupid puffins?” was met with…let’s just call it “hostility” and leave it at that, shall we?

So, already long story slightly less long, we headed over the border, as I mentioned in my last post, with the aim of being back in Boothbay Harbor (ha-bah) by Tuesday so that we’d be in plenty of time for the Wednesday morning puffin tour.

Unbelievably, it was STILL raining in Maine upon our return.  But, I was determined to see those pesky puffins so I checked and double-checked the weather.  No matter which website/TV channel I checked, the verdict was the same:

Precipitation:  Oh hell yeah!

Probability of it stopping:  In yer dreams, Skippy!

Boating conditions:  Sea – rough;  Waves – bring a barf bucket (it actually said that!) (I’m lying…again…)

Additional weatherisms:  FOG!  Visibility:  Nil to nada, with periods of zilch.

Perfect.

Now, I’ll have you know that I’m no weenie.  I’d have been willing to barf for the cause, but I sure as hell am NOT barfing if all I’m gonna see is fog.  My disappointment was complete.  Until…

I had begun to think that those puffins would just have to stay on the stupid Bucket List a while longer when Bob looked at me and said, “Well, there must be other puffin tours…”  You’re probably wondering why this had never crossed my mind.  I know I was…

La-la-long yadda-yadda-short, we found a tour going out last evening from a little harbor just up the road called, imaginatively enough, New Harbor.

You’ve been very patient (assuming you actually read your way to this point, and, if so, bless your heart!), so without further ado or inane babblage from yours truly, I give you….  PUFFINS!!

(Hiding among a pack of killer black guill…mumble-something-or-others)

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First, a quickie up-date and then I’ll tell you about the Bucket List thing.  We booted down to Phoenix yesterday to retrieve Bob’s other wife, Shari, from the airport.  From the time we left Flagstaff, to the time we reached Phoenix, the temperature went up 40 degrees, it poured rain, hailed, and then sunned upon us.  Weird day.  There was happy news, though.  The saguaro cacti were in bloom!!  It was amazing!  I’ve never seen that before on previous Phoenix excursions.

How cool is that??

Okay now let me tell you about the Bucket List.

In 1987 the California Condor was on the brink of extinction.  At that time, their numbers had dwindled to a mere 22 birds.  These remaining few Condors were rounded up and, in the most expensive rescue and repopulation program ever undertaken, bred in captivity, and then reintroduced into the wild.  Today they are still extremely endangered, but they number nearly 400.

Long before any of that had happened, I had read somewhere that the California Condor was the biggest bird in North America, with a wingspan of 9 feet or better, a body length up to 52 inches, and weighing, on average, 18 to 23 pounds.  I remember thinking how awesome it would be to see one someday.  So, way back before Bucket Lists were called Bucket Lists, I have had “see a California Condor” on mine.  I had all but given up on this quest in view of the aforementioned endangeredness.  Then!!!  I read online that if the gods were smiling and the stars appropriately aligned, there was a really really thin chance that one might get beyond lucky and spot one soaring over the Grand Canyon. I also read that that odds of that happening were negligible to the point of non-existent.  So I told Bob, “C’mon!  Let’s go find us a Condor!”  “A what?!” was his reply, but we all know that he is wise enough not to ask too many questions when things like this come bubbling forth, right?  Right!

Today, we went to the Grand Canyon!  This is what it looked like:

And this:

THEN!!!!  We saw this:

As you might imagine, I was going off my stick.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so fargin’ excited about anything!  It was absolutely mind-blowing!!

We learned that every one of the remaining Condors has a big number tag on each of its wings, as well as a transmitter for keeping track of all of them.

I am still just thrilled beyond words!

Later on, as we were leaving the Canyon Park area, I wanted to go back to the spot where these photogs were taken and see if we could see more condors.  This is what we encountered:

“Police line??”  What the heck??  Then we spotted this:

There was also a park ranger who was posted to guard the police line.  We asked her what was going on, and she told us (get this!!) that they were doing a body recovery!  I schitt you not!!  I said, “you mean a human body?”  She said that it was.  So, naturally, I wanted to know whether some poor unrequited lover had done a swan dive into the canyon, or had some moron like that tourist in Niagara Falls gotten carried away posing for an over-the-railing picture.  She said she didn’t know how he’d come to be dead and way down in the Canyon, but she said they figured he’d been there for about three days!  Well!  I suppose that explains why the Condors were hanging around just there, huh?  Nummy!