Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cruz del Condor

When a majestic condor soared directly above my head and my camera refused to take a photo of it, I almost burst into tears.

I could not believe my bad luck: when we stopped at the Cruz del Condor viewpoint three days earlier, we hardly could see the tip of our nose, let alone condors; now, when the weather was perfect and condors were there, my camera decided to stop working!

I quickly collected myself and started investigating the camera to see what might be a source of the problem. Soon enough I realized that the problem lay in my telephoto lens, not the camera. That made me feel somewhat better, as I could survive without good photos of condors, but not having the possibility of taking photos of Machu Picchu, and other ruins along the Inca Trek, would have been disastrous.

Anyway, just in time before the next condor flew close to me, I managed to make my telephoto lens start taking pictures again. Unfortunately, the lens would only work with a manual focus … Because of that, my condor photos are not as good as they could have been. Still, I’m quite proud of myself to manage to shoot a few good ones, despite all these obstacles.

The Andean Condor is a truly impressive bird. It has the largest wingspan (at 3.2 m or 10.5 ft.) of any land bird, but despite its large size it looks unbelievably graceful and majestic when it soars through the air in search of carrion (it’s a scavenger). It’s found only in the Andes and adjacent Pacific coasts of western South America, and it’s considered nearly threatened. Interestingly, California–home to the California Condor, the second largest bird in the world–has instituted a successful captive breeding program for the Andean Condor as well.

The Andean Condor is also one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 100 years in captivity. Despite its long lifespan, it mates for life and both parents are involved in the egg incubation. (Maybe the lesson we should learn here is that the monogamy and strong family ties are good for you?)

The condor flaps its wings on rising from the ground, but afterward it relies on thermals to stay aloft. It soars with its wings held horizontally and its feathers bent upwards at the tips.

The Andean Condor is mostly black in color, except for the head and neck, which are dull-red and nearly featherless. It also has a ruff of white feathers surrounding the base of its neck, and might have large white patches on the wings.